By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun
5:49 PM EST, December 13, 2012
Howard County schools' Deputy Superintendent Ray Brown says he contemplated retiring in the spring after a 41-year career but opted to stay on with the district at the request of new Superintendent Renee Foose.
But last week, Brown decided to retire, effective Jan. 1, and in an interview on Tuesday he said that he wants to devote more time to interests and passions outside the Howard school system — including his positions as assistant women's basketball coach at Stevenson University and as a member of the board of directors at the Maryland School for the Blind.
"Dr. Foose asked me to stay on and I agreed, but the more I thought about it, given that I've been working for 41 years, I came to the decision that one of the things you can't get back is time," he said. "I want to spend more time doing things that I enjoy. If I work again, it would be in a job that's less demanding and it would give me the opportunity to do that."
Brown turns 64 on Christmas Day and said that in retiring, "I've given myself a Christmas present and a birthday present."
Brown joined the Howard school system as director of operations in 2001. He left the system for a few months in 2004, when he went to serve as deputy superintendent for Harford County schools. He returned to Howard County to become chief operating officer under then-Superintendent Sydney Cousin.
Foose promoted him to deputy superintendent less than two months after she took over July 1.
"Ray Brown has been an instrumental leader within the school system," Foose said in an email. "I am so appreciative of all that he has done to ensure the smooth operations of our schools. While we are sad to see him go, we certainly wish him the best in his retirement."
Brown said that because of the commitments required by his job with the school system, he had to miss some practices and games of the Stevenson basketball team.
"I want to be a part of building that program," he said. "By retiring, it gives me the time to do that. Dr. Foose has been generous in giving me flexibility, but still there are some meetings and commitments that I can't miss in order to go to a basketball practice or game."
Brown said that stepping down will also free up more time to serve on the board of the Maryland School for the Blind.
"Also, my wife retired from the Howard public school system about five or six years ago. It will give us time to do some things together and travel, and I want to spend more time with my two grandchildren," he said.
Howard school board Chairman Frank Aquino said that Brown was "a troubleshooter" for the school system.
"Ray is a go-to type of guy who has the ability to get to the root of the issue and provide a solution," said Aquino. "He had a variety of responsibilities over the years at the system and his talents will be missed."
"Ray is an approachable, decent person who always treated his employees with respect," said Howard County Education Association President Paul Lemle.
He noted that Brown's departure comes months after Deputy Superintendent Mamie Perkins retired in August and in-house counsel Mark Blom's position was eliminated.
"If you take [Brown's] departure along with that of Mamie Perkins and Mark Blom, it means the loss of decades of institutional knowledge and three good people who knew how to work hand-in-hand with the association," Lemle said.
Brown said that among the accomplishments he's proudest of while working for the school system was calming tensions between the school board and the Mount Hebron High School community over a major renovation plan four years ago.
Cindy Ardinger, head of the parent group Help Mount Hebron, which helped lead the school community's effort, said Brown entered the process after discussions had become adversarial and the community had "lost a sense of trust" in school officials.
"His loss will be huge for the school system. Ray has the ability to interact with parents and bring a sense of calmness and trust to various levels of discussion that occur between the community and the school system," Ardinger said. "I'm very concerned that, with this loss, who will take his place?"
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