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Education

Queen Anne’s County public schools hires new superintendent

After being accused of racial discrimination by the district’s first Black superintendent, the Queen Anne’s County school board chose Wednesday night to replace her with a white superintendent from Caroline County.

The Queen Anne’s County school board voted unanimously to appoint Patricia Saelens, a longtime Eastern Shore educator, to be the next superintendent.

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Saelens was one of three current Maryland school administrators who were finalists for the job.

Saelens started her career in Dorchester County as a social studies teacher. In 2006, she joined the Caroline County school system then rose through the ranks, serving as an assistant superintendent for instruction before being chosen as the interim superintendent in 2016 and as the superintendent in 2017.

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The Caroline County school system has 10 schools and about 5,000 students. On Feb. 23, the Caroline County school board announced that it had decided not to renew Saelens contract for another four years, but signaled its intent to continue working with Saelens to the end of the fiscal year. On March 31, Saelens left and the board issued a statement saying she was departing ”to focus on the next chapter” in her career.

In Maryland, school boards must decide by March 1 whether to renew a superintendent’s contract, although in large suburban systems the decision is usually made in the fall to leave enough time to do a search.

Saelens moves to a school system in Queen Anne’s with 15 schools and 7,700 students.

“She brings a deep knowledge base and a wealth of experience in Maryland, specifically on the Eastern Shore, that will be vital in the years to come,” Richard Smith, board president, said in a statement.

“I am honored to have the privilege of serving Queen Anne’s County Public Schools,” Saelens said. “I look forward to working with and getting to know staff, students, and the community to continue advancing opportunities for student success.”

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The current superintendent, Andrea M. Kane, will end her often-contentious term on June 30. She did not respond to a request for an interview.

Kane filed a federal complaint in January against the school board, accusing the five-member body of racial discrimination and opening the door for a federal lawsuit.

The board denied the charges in the complaint, which was dismissed without action by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May. Despite the complaint, Kane remained superintendent.

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Tensions with the board emerged early in her term, according to a Baltimore Sun interview with Kane earlier this year.

Among the earliest alleged incidents took place in August 2018, when Kane said she requested a meeting with the then-board president and got a profane text message in return.

Weeks later, the complaint says, she learned that two members of the school board had used a pen to draw horns, a mustache and a goatee on a photo of Janet Pauls, a veteran African American teacher whose resume includes a Teacher of the Year award.

“Multiple employees” reported the incident at the district’s headquarters in Centreville as “an act of racial hostility,” according to Kane, but the board ignored her request that it address the matter.

For the record

This story has been updated to correct that Caroline County has 10 schools.


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