- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2002

A move to create a control board that could overturn personnel and financial decisions of the Prince George's County Board of Education, including the firing of Superintendent Iris T. Metts, will go to the full House of Delegates next week after a committee approved it 16-6 yesterday.
Supporters of the emergency measure passed by the House Ways and Means Committee, including Delegate Anne Healey, Prince George's County Democrat and vice chairman, told lawmakers, "These are extraordinary circumstances. We have to do something."
The Prince George's County school board denounced the legislation as "unconstitutional" and authorized Chairman Kenneth E. Johnson of Mitchellville to hire a "high-profile" constitutional lawyer to fight that and other bills that seek to take away school board authority.
Legislators who opposed the bill say it is not a solution. "This bill infringes on the duties and responsibilities of an elected body," said Delegate Obie Patterson, Prince George's Democrat.
Delegate Carolyn J.B. Howard, a Prince George's Democrat, said delegation leaders added a provision that says the authority of the control board is to be directed and controlled by the state superintendent of schools until June 1.
"The process as you describe it is shameful and says something terrible about the leadership of the Prince George's delegation," said Delegate Clarence Davis, Baltimore Democrat.
Mr. Davis said he voted for the measure because delegates representing Prince George's County support it, but said he hoped the county's voters think about the representatives and decide if those delegates have acted in their best interests.
"We would love to have taken our time, but we have just a 90-day session and our kids don't have the time," said Delegate Dereck E. Davis, Prince George's Democrat.
Four of the six Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee opposed the measure. And the votes split 2-2 between the Prince George's delegates on the committee.
County school board members plan to rally in front of the Statehouse in Annapolis on Monday to gather support for their position.
"That legislation will literally strip this elected board of the authority vested in it by the state Constitution and by the voters who elected us for four-year terms. It just seems so undemocratic," Robert J. Callahan of Bowie wrote in a letter to state lawmakers.
The letter cited declining scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests, unresolved employee grievances and insubordination to the board during Mrs. Metts' administration.
The state Board of Education in Baltimore will hear from both sides Monday afternoon.

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