- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2002

Iris T. Metts could lose her job as superintendent of Prince George's County schools as early as today, school sources said, while state lawmakers were seeking an opinion last night on whether the county school board has the authority to fire her.
Mrs. Metts, 59, and her attorney are scheduled to meet with board Chairman Kenneth Johnson this morning to discuss the terms of her resignation, a year and a half before the end of her four-year contract.
If talks for a contract buy-out do not go smoothly, the board will consider firing her, sources said. Board members say they have collected six votes against her ensuring a majority in the nine-member panel.
Late yesterday, Prince George's legislators were seeking an attorney general's opinion about whether the board can fire the superintendent without a review first by the Management Oversight Panel, said state Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, chairman of the county's Senate delegation. The state appointed the panel to oversee the board's actions.
Knowledgeable sources said that, under state law, only the state superintendent can fire a county superintendent. But sources said there is a clause in Mrs. Metts' contract that allows the school board to fire her if it can prove a majority.
Even those who say they are glad Mrs. Metts is leaving hoped that today would not be her last day, citing the tough times facing the school system.
Standardized test scores fell for the third consecutive year, the system is in the midst of difficult budget negotiations, and state lawmakers are threatening to replace the school board's elected members with appointed ones.
"I hope the board will consider a transition period," parent activist Donna Beck said.
Mrs. Beck added that it is important for Mrs. Metts to leave, citing the latter's inability to work with the board. "She has constantly undermined them. She has made them look worse than they already did," she said.
Howard Tutman, vice president of the county PTA, said the county will end up with a completely new leadership a new superintendent and a new board if restructuring attempts in the state legislature succeed. "We will be like a rudderless ship in the night," he said.
Among the names suggested as candidates for interim superintendent are Jacqueline Brown, a school administrator in Howard County; Patricia Green, acting superintendent for instruction; and Howard Burnett, associate superintendent for human resources.
Mrs. Brown, who is director of academic support services in Howard County schools, was in the race for the superintendent's job alongside Mrs. Metts in 1999. She received only three votes from the board at the time.
One board member said Mrs. Brown appeared to have the right disposition for the job. "She is very professional and businesslike," the member said.
Both Mrs. Green and Mr. Burnett have been longtime employees of the Prince George's county school system. Mrs. Green was appointed acting superintendent for instruction after Suellen Harris left the job to join Trinity College in the District.
Some sources said Jim Dyke, former Virginia secretary of education and a consultant for the Prince George's County's Management Oversight Panel, could be in the running for interim superintendent.


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