- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Maryland lawmakers and Prince George's County activists are concerned that Superintendent Iris T. Metts' decision to appeal her evaluation to the state Department of Education will further sour her relationship with the school board.
"She is following the protocol available to her she has to protect her own reputation the same way principals and teachers do. But this just creates another island between the two of them," said Sen. Leo Green, Prince George's Democrat.
Several state lawmakers have supported Mrs. Metts in her past disputes with the school board, including the clash over awarding bonuses to her deputies without board approval. And while they agree that she is entitled to an appeal, they also point out that dragging out the disagreement will not help.
"It will create tension. And no one wants additional tension," said Sen. Paul Pinsky, Prince George's Democrat. He said residents of the county see Mrs. Metts' action as "petty" and believe "this is not something she should be spending time on, given more pressing issues in the county."
The latest dispute between the board and the superintendent arose after Mrs. Metts' evaluation was leaked to the media during a weekend board/superintendent retreat in Baltimore. Sources said the superintendent received a below-average grade and did not get any of a possible $30,000 bonus.
Mrs. Metts filed an appeal to the state board last week, seeking to reverse the evaluation. She also is reported to have told board Chairman Kenneth E. Johnson she would accept a buyout for the last year of her four-year contract if the evaluation were overturned.
However, Stuart Grozbean, Mrs. Metts' lawyer, said, "There is no buyout offer on the table." Mrs. Metts declined to comment yesterday.
A county activist said the buyout offer could be tempting to Mrs. Metts, as a final and quick solution to her problems with the school board. Mr. Pinsky, however, said he would "prefer not to see a buyout."
"It is so disillusioning — the talk of buyouts and the efforts to fire her. She came here highly recommended, and I would like to see her stay to the end of her term," he said.
Whether the superintendent stays or goes, it is the board that seems to be most likely to see a change when January rolls around.
The Prince George's County delegation has talked about restructuring the school board or redistricting the county to create at-large board members. The Washington Times has learned that the state delegation from Prince George's County is considering introducing a measure to restructure the board in the state Senate this year, rather than in the House, to make its passage more likely.
Similar bills in the past two years have passed the House but died in the Senate, but the legislators say they see more support in the Senate this year for such a bill.
Mr. Pinsky said no matter where a restructuring bill starts in the legislature, "it will move."
"From all indications, there will be some change in status quo," he said, adding that senators had not yet reached a consensus on what that change would be.
One of the possibilities under such a bill would be to set up an appointed board instead of an elected one. Another possibility being considered is creating several at-large member districts instead of having elected board members.
Lawmakers met last week to discuss some of the possible changes to the board structure, and they plan to meet again next month. Meanwhile, a second retreat for the board and Mrs. Metts has been scheduled during the weekend of Sept. 28-30. Both parties hope to iron out differences at the retreat.
"We have got a long way to go between now and January," Mr. Green said. "But the general consensus is, there will be a change."

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