- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

A Maryland lawmaker says legislators are hoping to find a quicker solution to the bonuses dispute in Prince Georges County than will be offered by the intervention of the Maryland State Board of Education.
Last week, three top administration officials who are being asked to return $35,000 in bonuses said they would file an appeal asking the state board to review a county school board decision that they should return their bonuses or risk being sued.
The three administration officials include deputy superintendents of instruction Franklin Rishel and Suellen Harris, and Associate Superintendent for Budget Kenneth Brown.
The decision to appeal raised concerns in some quarters that the issue would continue to drag indefinitely, at the cost of priority issues like the budget reconciliation, on which the board is scheduled to vote tomorrow. The school system got $100 million less than it asked for this year.
State legislators already met once last week to discuss the bonuses dispute in the county, and sources said they may meet again this week.
State Sen. Paul Pinsky, who is currently mediating between the board and the superintendent, said yesterday that he would like to see a rapid resolution to the dispute.
The state board of education "may or may not" resolve the issue rapidly, he said. "We are hoping to encourage the parties to come together … I believe there is flexibility in their positions," he said.
The dispute was "just another chapter in the book we hope we can close soon," said Sen. Leo Green, Prince Georges Democrat.
At a press conference called by Superintendent Iris T. Metts last week, state delegates said they were tired of the boards politics and were seriously considering reconstruction of the board as an option. An appointed board was one of the options they would consider, said Del. Rushern L. Baker, Prince Georges Democrat and head of the Prince Georges House delegation.
Bills for the reconstruction of the board, introduced over the past several years, have passed the House but failed in the Senate.
Asked if there were better chances of such a bill passing in the Senate this year, Sen. Pinsky replied: "The Senate delegation will look at all options." However, he added, there were mixed feelings in the Senate delegation about such a bill. "We are trying to put weight and support behind stakeholders coming to an agreement," he said.
Meanwhile, one school board member said the board is waiting to hear from legislators before deciding on whether to go ahead with the lawsuit against the deputies.
Margie Hyslop contributed to this report.

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