Renee Foose says she declined post at Maryland Department of Education

Renee Foose, whose tumultuous tenure as Howard County school superintendent ended in May, said Wednesday she has declined to take a position with the Maryland State Department of Education that had been approved by the state school board Tuesday.

“Our education system is being undercut by toxic politics,” Foose said in an email Wednesday evening. “The only way to change this toxic environment is to demonstrate civility and lead by example. I have a great deal of knowledge and skills to contribute, but not at the expense of having my family, friends and colleagues attacked and harassed.”

Foose was formally offered the job Tuesday evening, she said, after the school board voted to accept state Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon’s recommendation to give her a job as an assistant superintendent for assessment, accountability and information technology.

Foose would have earned between $92,000 and $123,000, according to a description of the position. The salary would have come on top of nearly $1.65 million in salary and benefits the Howard County school board agreed to pay Foose to persuade her to retire. The payments represented more than what it would have cost the board to keep her for the remaining three years left on her contract.

Criticism of the state school board’s vote to hire Foose followed quickly after the decision was announced.

On Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan released a letter in which he said he had urged Salmon to reconsider hiring Foose. Writing to a constituent, Hogan said he shared the concerns of school board members, educators and parents in Howard County and added that Foose’s hiring “is not a decision I would have made.”

Hogan does not have authority over appointments to the Maryland State Department of Education.

Foose’s job was listed among other hires Salmon presented to the board. State and local school board’s usually don’t interfere with the hiring of staff, and approve hires without comment or discussion.

A spokesman for the governor’s office confirmed that the letter was sent to constituents who had contacted his office.

In addition, nine members of the Howard County delegation to Annapolis sent a long, detailed letter to the state school board Wednesday expressing their concern over the Foose hiring.

“The State Board or the Superintendent could easily fall victim to Dr. Foose’s next lawsuit when something happens not to her liking,” the legislators wrote.

A power struggle between Foose and the Howard County school board erupted after three new school board members were elected last fall on a platform opposing her, and she no longer had the support of the majority of the panel. She had been criticized by parents, who said she ignored their concerns about mold in schools and refused to turn over documents they had sought via Maryland Public Information Act requests.

Foose eventually sued the Howard school board, contending that, among other things, they were trying to usurp her authority. Under a settlement reached with the Howard County school board and signed May 2, Foose agreed to drop her lawsuit and each side agreed to cease making disparaging comments about each other.

The terms of the settlement were criticized by legislators and parents at the time as being excessive and a waste of taxpayer money.

The hiring of Foose, the Howard lawmakers said in their letter Wednesday to the state school board, sends “a clear message to Howard County residents that you disregarded the history of Howard County’s relationship with Dr. Foose.” They added that they had “already heard from numerous constituents who question whether you care about them or the children of Maryland.”

Foose said Wednesday that Salmon had called her Tuesday evening to congratulate her and discuss salary, but that she declined the position at that time.

“I have spoken with Dr. Salmon and after receiving her official offer yesterday, I thanked her for considering me and I declined the position,” she said in the email sent Wednesday evening.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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