Before tackling agenda items during last week's meeting, members of the Anne Arundel Board of Education bid farewell to Superintendent Kevin Maxwell, who is leaving this month to become CEO of Prince George's County public schools.
Within moments, members were scrambling for tissues.
The emotional adieu came at Maxwell's last public board meeting after seven years at the helm.
Maxwell announced his resignation June 27 and was introduced the next day by Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III as the new chief of the county's school system.
The Prince George's school board approved a four-year contract that will pay Maxwell $290,000 a year. He is scheduled to start Aug. 1. Maxwell's contract in Anne Arundel paid him $257,000 a year.
Anne Arundel County's school board will name an interim superintendent by the end of the month. The board's president, Andrew Pruski, said the school system has been contacted by several candidates about the position.
At Wednesday's meeting, board members spoke about not only Maxwell's accomplishments as superintendent, but his penchant for reaching beyond the job's requirements. Members acknowledged that they had disagreements at times with the superintendent but said he showed genuine passion for the county's schoolchildren.
When Maxwell's resignation was announced, some within the school community expressed surprise and disappointment. But Wednesday, board members focused mainly on what he meant to the school system.
"I'd like to thank you, as a mom, for bringing rigor and choice to the Anne Arundel County public schools," said board member Stacy Korbelak, who occasionally broke down during her comments. "You'll be greatly missed, but I'm proud that you're going to continue to serve our state."
"He cares about kids and teachers and staff, and when a tragedy strikes, no matter where you are in our system, Dr. Maxwell was there personally," added board member Patricia Nalley.
She recalled that when her husband, who is now deceased, endured a critical illness, Maxwell visited the hospital and "texted me every morning, at lunch and every night to see how I was doing."
Nalley said Maxwell's departure is "Prince George's gain and our loss."
Fighting tears, board member Deborah Ritchie told the superintendent, "To watch you walk the walk and talk the talk is very important. I had the opportunity to go with you on a lot of occasions to a lot of things and to see that you really do care. ... While it's disappointing to us and to me personally that you're leaving us, I know that the kids in Prince George's will be for the better."
Maxwell, too, became teary as he offered his farewell.
"I feel like together we accomplished a great deal," he said. "I hope the professional relationships and the friendships will continue as we go forward."
Maxwell said he and the Anne Arundel board have yet to decide on his departure date. "Right now, the target date is to be here until the end of this month and start there at the beginning of next month.
"There are the finishing pieces. We're still doing some staffing," he said. "There are still meetings on my calendar from before this announcement that are important to the work of this school district, and those meetings have to happen and the work engaged in those conversations has to be completed."
The superintendent said he will conduct his regular duties during his final days in Anne Arundel. He has scheduled several events in Prince George's County to meet residents there, but said they will be held during evening hours so as not to conflict with his Anne Arundel schedule.
Three Prince George's County school board members attended Maxwell's final Anne Arundel board meeting. Among them was vice chair Carolyn Boston, who said residents have been encouraged that Maxwell, who previously worked in Prince George's, is familiar with the school system.
She said the Prince George's board voted to approve Maxwell's new contract because "we felt it was in the realm of what is paid to superintendents in this area, and because of his experience."
Anne Arundel school board members also elected new officers. Former vice president Teresa Milio Birge was elected president, and Ritchie was named vice president.