- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002

The Prince George's County elected school board held its last public meeting this week, amid a saga of discord and drama over the past several months that resulted in the state legislature replacing it with an appointed panel.

The nine-member board is slated to be dissolved at the end of the month, when Gov. Parris N. Glendening and County Executive Wayne K. Curry, both Democrats, will pick a replacement board from a candidate list of 23 county residents.

One by one, board members touted their achievements and thanked their supporters at the start of the meeting on Thursday night. Board member James Henderson even apologized to Superintendent Iris T. Metts for any hard feelings from the board's often bitter disputes with her.

But Chairman Kenneth Johnson lashed out at the General Assembly one last time for replacing an elected body, saying he was "unelected" by lawmakers working in "back rooms."

"I end my tenure having been victimized by people who have not an understanding of the complexities of the position we hold," Mr. Johnson said.

Mrs. Metts, who has been at odds with the elected board for most of her nearly three years at the head of the state's second-largest school district, also will be replaced.

She can apply for the new position of chief executive, but she said Thursday that she has not yet decided to seek the post. She, however, made it clear she's pleased with the candidates for the new board.

"I am looking forward to the new board and getting to know them and seeing if I'm acceptable to them," she said.

Throughout her tenure, school board members said Mrs. Metts often tried to make decisions without consulting them. They also blamed her for the county's low test scores. The scores are consistently the second-lowest in the state, above only Baltimore's. However, scores in some standardized tests have risen lately.

Mrs. Metts says the board constantly tried to undercut her authority. The board challenged a decision she made to pay bonuses to her top assistants and forced her to change her seat at meetings so that she didn't sit at the board table.

The dispute exploded in February, when the board voted 6-3 to fire her. That decision was quickly reversed by a county judge, prompting county lawmakers to propose legislation that replaced the elected board.


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