- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Former Prince George's County School Board members, who were fired in favor of an appointed board after a contentious falling-out with Superintendent Iris T. Metts, are now saying, "we told you so," to the council and the new board.
"When the new board was appointed, I said to them, 'I'll give you six months and you'll be right where we were with Iris Metts,' and now it looks like they are there," said Robert Calahan, one of the nine board members ousted last year.
He was on the board that hired Mrs. Metts as superintendent over Jacqueline Brown, Howard County's director of academic support services.
When the new board took over in July, Mrs. Metts was named chief executive officer for the schools. "The first mistake they made was rehiring her," said Mr. Calahan, who says he has moved out of the county primarily because of its failing schools.
During the interview process for a superintendent, he said, Mrs. Metts had seemed "nonconfrontational, professional and very laid-back."
"But she turned out to be much more than that, if not the opposite, and [the new board members] are getting what they deserve," Mr. Calahan said.
The Washington Times reported yesterday that the appointed school board members are unlikely to reappoint Mrs. Metts as chief executive officer when her term expires in July.
School sources told The Times that seven of the nine board members would not back Mrs. Metts again. She has led the county's public school system for almost four years and has expressed interest in continuing in the job.
"The average superintendent these days only has the job for two years," said Ron Peiffer, assistant state superintendent for the Maryland Department of Education.
An appointed school board replaced the elected board in June after the state delegation led by former Delegate Rushern L. Baker III dissolved the body and Mrs. Metts' position as superintendent.
The new board, which is scheduled to dissolve in 2006 and move back to an elected body, rehired her as the school district's top administrator and gave her a one-year contract and an 8 percent raise, bringing her annual salary to $212,000.
Former elected board member Angie Como said last year's confrontation between the board and Mrs. Metts was used only to oust the elected board by lawmakers whose agenda was to have an appointed board, but had no plan for correcting the real problems.
"This new board has seen that there are problems with this administration and the elected board was on target in trying to make changes, and we were prevented from doing that," Mrs. Como said.
A lot of the problems the current board is having with Mrs. Metts are the same complaints that the elected board had.
"She is unwilling to accept failures and move to correct them," Mr. Calahan said. "Every time a problem was found or complaints came up, they were either covered up or misrepresented."
Sources close to the situation said the relationship between the school board and Mrs. Metts has soured during the past six months because board members feel she is withholding information.
The Maryland High School Assessments ranked Prince George's County high school students second to last among their state public school peers.
Critics scoffed at Mrs. Metts' $1.36 billion budget proposal because it included a request for a 23 percent funding increase. The typical raise around the region is less than 10 percent.
The matter only speaks to the growing political nature of superintendent positions around the country, Mr. Peiffer said.
"The superintendent and the board have to be on the same page on a variety of issues, and what they need to do now is meet and discuss where they are," he said.

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