- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2001

The Prince George's County, Md. school board gave Superintendent Iris T. Metts a poor evaluation yesterday, which means she won't get a $30,000 bonus this year, The Washington Times has learned.
A resolution by some board members to fire Mrs. Metts outright did not pass, several board members said. However the schools chief was warned to pay more attention to the board, especially when it comes to school budgets and the treatment of the county's principals.
Mrs. Metts, who this month completed two years as superintendent, received her evaluation from board members during a private weekend retreat at Baltimore's Radisson Plaza Hotel.
A school board member who did not want to be identified said the nine-member board voted not to award Mrs. Metts any part of her $30,000 bonus. Under her contract, Mrs. Metts is eligible for the bonus in addition to her $160,000 salary.
Under the terms of Mrs. Metts' four-year contract, she can be removed at any time with just two weeks' notice, according to the way some board members interpret the contract's fine print.
Among other things in a six-page review each member filled out, she was judged on her management abilities and her relations with the school board. The grading scale ranged from zero to four, with zero being the poorest grade possible and four being the highest. Her official combined scores in each category were not available yesterday. However, at least one board member rated her average or below average in all categories.
Mrs. Metts did not return calls yesterday, but in an interview with The Times earlier this month, she said she would continue to run the county's schools until her contract expired in 2003, despite the criticism from administrators and board members.
She said she was "committed to the children of this district" and knew she "can do the job that is before me. I know I can make a difference."
One member, who also asked not to be identified, said the board asked Mrs. Metts to work on her communication skills. "We need to make sure we understand" her plans, the member said.
While the board found Mrs. Metts wanting in some areas, "We also talked about her successes, " the member added.
Some board members had predicted she would receive a poor evaluation because they were not happy with Mrs. Metts' refusal to include the board in deciding major issues, and with her handling of county schools and school principals.
Recently, the board and the superintendent settled a long-running dispute over $45,000 in bonuses Mrs. Metts awarded to four of her deputies without board approval.
The board also recently pulled Mrs. Metts up short for not giving it adequate information about starting a military school in the county. Last year, she was criticized by the board for making big cuts to supplementary school funds.
County administrators and principals have also claimed dissatisfaction with Mrs. Metts' administration.
Last week, results of a principals' survey released by school board member Robert Callahan, District 5, showed a majority felt they were not free to do their jobs as they wanted and were likely to look for work outside the county.
The board, too, has come under increasing pressure from state lawmakers and education officials to temper their criticism of Mrs. Metts. State legislators had warned they would restructure the school board if it failed to settle the $45,000 bonus dispute.
Earlier this month, State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick wrote to school board Chairman Kenneth E. Johnson, warning the board that she would withhold funds for the county school system because of ongoing management disputes. The letter, some sources said, was intended as a warning to school board members not to be too harsh on Mrs. Metts in their evaluation.
The county's test scores in the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills rose this year under Mrs. Metts' administration. But Doris Reed, chief of the county administrators' union, said it was the principals and not Mrs. Metts who deserved credit for the increase.
"They were a result of things implemented five years ago, before she ever got here, " she said.
She said she hoped the board had given Mrs. Metts a "fair and objective evaluation, unlike what she had done to the principals she demoted" this year.
"The board should hold her accountable for people leaving the county, just as she holds principals accountable for teachers leaving," Ms. Reed said.

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