- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Prince George's County schools Superintendent Iris T. Metts yesterday went to the General Assembly to ask lawmakers for more funds for school construction but that aim was overshadowed by speculation about her future.
Mrs. Metts, who has led the county school system for 21/2 years, has said she is looking at other job offers. Yesterday, she said she would consider staying until the end of her four-year term if she gets more support from the school board, but some board members said she needs to step aside.
"My commitment is always to fulfill my contract and beyond," Mrs. Metts said, declining to provide details about the job offers she is fielding.
She said she needs to do so "with the situation being as unsettled as it is" with the board. "I would certainly feel more comfortable if I had more support," she said.
Some board members ruled out that option.
"I am not so sure what kind of support she is looking for. She has continuously tried to disrupt the school system, and has always kept everything a secret from the school board. We cannot support someone who is deceiving," said Robert J. Callahan, member from District 5.
Board member Angie Como said it is time that Mrs. Metts step aside so the board can return to working to meet students' academic needs. Mrs. Metts' resignation "will be the best thing for the system," she said.
"If she wants to leave, I will accept her resignation," said board member Felicia Lasley.
Board members said Mrs. Metts' revelation that she is looking at job offers could be a well-timed ploy to deflect attention from the county's poor performance in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) tests, whose results were released this week.
"It is a sideshow created to divert attention from the main issue of the low MSPAP scores," said one board member. "This has been a pattern in the past with Dr. Metts. But it is time for us to say, 'Enough is enough.'"
The board and Mrs. Metts had a public falling out last week after it stripped her of the power to sign any contracts costing more than $5,000.
The board and the superintendent have engaged in several power struggles over the past year, including a dispute over bonuses Mrs. Metts gave her deputies without board approval and the building of a military school at Forestville Academy.
Last July, the board gave Mrs. Metts a negative evaluation halfway through her term. A resolution to fire her outright fell short by two votes.
Board members said they were disappointed over the superintendent's inability to improve test scores in the county. Board Chairman Kenneth E. Johnson said scores had dropped for the third consecutive year under Mrs. Metts' administration and it was time the board held her accountable. "There ought to have been some improvement in three years," he said.
He added that employees were complaining "in record numbers" about the way they were being treated, and there were concerns about the spending of money. "There are a myriad of problems and we have to hold the person responsible for fixing them accountable," Mr. Johnson said.

Republican delegates harshly criticized Gov. Parris N. Glendening's state budget yesterday, saying they will try for an early vote to "kill it and send it back so they can try again."
The Republicans plan to file a motion to bring Mr. Glendening's $22 billion fiscal 2003 budget out of committee and out for debate by the House, said Delegate Robert Flanagan, Howard County Republican.
"That will send a message, hopefully when he comes back from vacation, that he needs to rework this budget and refile," Mr. Flanagan said.
Mr. Glendening was married Friday and is on a brief honeymoon at an undisclosed location.
The governor used a variety of methods to close a $1 billion gap between revenues and expenditures. Republicans say they oppose Mr. Glendening's proposals to dip into state reserve funds and delay a 2 percent income-tax cut that was to go into effect this year.
The income-tax cut was the final piece in a measure to cut taxes by 10 percent over five years. Republicans call deferring the final 2 percent cut, in effect, a tax increase.
Vaishali Honawar contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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