Anne Arundel County school officials expressed surprise and disappointment at the sudden resignation of Superintendent Kevin Maxwell, this week and said they'll meet Saturday in a closed session to start the process of finding his replacement.
Maxwell formally resigned from Anne Arundel County's public schools Thursday and is expected to be introduced today by Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III as the new chief executive officer of that county's troubled school system.
Andrew Pruski, president of the Anne Arundel school board, thanked Maxwell and said in a statement, "We wish him the best."
He pledged to move quickly to name an interim superintendent and "establish a clear process to select a new permanent superintendent." But school officials said they won't name that interim head this weekend. Any appointment of an interim superintendent would occur in an open session. The school board's next regularly scheduled meeting is July 10.
Maxwell, 61, took over the Anne Arundel school system — the state's fifth largest, with about 78,000 students — in July 2006. He was unanimously reappointed in 2010, and made $257,000 annually.
Details of his deal with Prince George's County, a system with about 125,000 students, were not available Thursday. Officials there said state legislation requires the school system's CEO to be appointed by the school board after a contract is negotiated by the board chair. Prince George's officials said the previous superintendent, William R. Hite Jr., earned $250,000, while the current interim superintendent, Alvin Crawley, earns $215,000.
Maxwell could not be reached for comment Thursday. As he made his exit from Anne Arundel, some colleagues and associates expressed surprise at his decision.
"I didn't see this coming down the horizon," said Bill Jones, executive director of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, the union representing teachers in the school system.
"I'm not sure it's a good thing or a bad thing," Jones said. "We've had our ups and downs with him. For the time being, we've been getting along with him. ... I would hate to take a step back with someone who comes in and doesn't work to have the same relationship we've been building."
Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the Anne Arundel NAACP, said Maxwell's departure comes amid work on "many issues of concern" between the school system and her organization. She said just this week the NAACP had submitted a resolution calling for a faster pace in working to close achievement gaps between African-Americans and other students.
In 2005, the school system and the U.S. Justice Department signed a memorandum of agreement to address disparities in achievement after local civil rights groups and parents filed a complaint to the Office for Civil Rights. The county school board agreed to close the gap by 2012, and Allsup said there's still work that needs to be done.
Teresa Milio Birge, school board vice president, said Maxwell's departure was "unexpected, but certainly not unprecedented."
"It's always disappointing when you have to say goodbye to a superintendent, and there is time and effort and expense involved in a search for a new superintendent," she said. "But he stayed much longer than the national average, and we got a lot accomplished in the last seven years."
Birge noted that the current school board in Anne Arundel has never conducted a superintendent search, but he said, "We're moving forward.
"What makes a school system great is not its leader. It's the staff and the teachers and the kids," Birge said, "so we're looking forward to continuing to be a great school system."
Maxwell was named Educator of the Year for 2007 by the Maryland Parent Teacher Association, and is credited with launching the county's magnet programs as part of initiatives to offer more educational choices for students. The program includes a performing and visual arts magnet and arts integration curricula in five elementary schools.
Maxwell worked in Prince George's for 22 years previously as a teacher, principal and administrator. He lives in Bowie and will take over a system that has been under the scrutiny of Baker since the General Assembly approved legislation this year giving him more oversight over its leadership. Baker has the power to appoint the CEO, formerly called superintendent. He can also name the school board chair and vice chair, and appoint three new board members.
While Maxwell's departure was a constant concern on Thursday for school officials, the subject was scarcely mentioned on Thursday night when board members Pruski, Birge, Deborah Ritchie and Stacy Korbelak hosted an outreach event at West County Area Library in Odenton.
Residents came to talk about school issues, but the superintendent position wasn't among the hot topics.
"He just resigned, so I don't believe many people know," said Dawn Hite, Crofton.
Carrie Rock of Crownsville said other issues facing the school system are more pressing for parents.
"There's so much changing with implementation of common core," said Rock. "There's so much that is unknown right now across the board. It's just another change for us."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun