- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2002

The just-appointed Prince George's County school board offered a one-year contract yesterday to former Superintendent Iris T. Metts to serve in the new position of chief executive officer.
Members of the nine-member board, sworn in yesterday, held a closed-door meeting with Mrs. Metts, whose position of superintendent was eliminated along with the entire elected board by legislation that the Maryland General Assembly passed in April.
The board issued a statement late yesterday announcing it had unanimously voted to offer the school system's CEO position to Mrs. Metts "to continue the stability and the reform agenda set for the school system."
"She is right now the most qualified person to head the school system," board member Dean Sirjue said.
Mr. Sirjue, of Bowie, said the board's meeting with Mrs. Metts lasted a "couple hours," and he described the tone as "very serious" and "very professional." He also said he was impressed by how quickly the board reached consensus, despite members airing a variety of viewpoints.
The board, which met in an executive session after members were sworn in at noon, has been appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and County Executive Wayne Curry.
Members include four parents with children in the county public schools and one man who has a grandson in a county school. The appointees have management experience four in federal or local government agencies, two in the private sector, and one with church-affiliated programs that train and assist people with disabilities .
The panel will serve for four years before being replaced by an elected board in 2006.
Mrs. Metts was at odds with the former board for most of her nearly three-year stint as head of the state's second-largest school district. The two sides disagreed over a number of fiscal matters, including bonuses for her deputies.
The county's senators pushed for ousting Mrs. Metts, and she kept her job this winter only after state officials overturned a board vote to fire her.
The agreement reached yesterday between the board and Mrs. Metts also "offers assurances that all pending litigation will be withdrawn by all parties."
Mr. Sirjue said board members were not influenced by the battle between Mrs. Metts and the former board.
"The pressure I felt was that we needed a leader of the school system," Mr. Sirjue said. "We looked at what was in the best interest of the school system."
He said the board's decision to retain Mrs. Metts also wasn't influenced by Mr. Curry or Mr. Glendening.
"Definitely not," he said. "We didn't even communicate with those guys."
According to the statement issued by the board, conditions of Mrs. Metts' contract will be negotiated next week.
Mrs. Metts' annual base salary as superintendent of the 132,000-student district was $196,000, with $30,000 in performance bonuses. She received a negative evaluation from the school board last July and was denied a bonus.
The new board will proceed immediately with a nationwide search for a permanent CEO. Mrs. Metts is eligible to apply for the job, which was created along with several new oversight positions, such as chief financial officer, to tighten accountability in running the schools.
The board, appointed last Thursday, will convene for a budget work session tomorrow. It will hold its first public meeting Thursday.

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