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Queen Anne’s County appoints acting schools chief, addressing leadership void

The school board of an Eastern Shore district whose superintendent went on leave three weeks ago has appointed an acting superintendent, clearing up at least for now widespread confusion over who is in charge of the system.

The board of education for the Queen Anne’s County Public Schools voted Wednesday night to appoint Janet Pauls, a retired longtime educator in the county, to fill in for Dr. Andrea M. Kane, who took a surprise leave from her regular duties as superintendent Oct. 9.

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Board president Tamera Harper said during the meeting that the board had asked Kaneto name someone to serve as her replacement until she returns, but Kane declined to do so.

A spokesman for Kane has said she has been in touch with school system staff during her leave to help them prepare for the district’s 15 schools to reopen for in-person learning Nov. 9.

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But at the meeting, board members said they felt they had to act immediately to name someone to run the school district until Kane’s leave is over.

Harper objected to a resolution that would have meant finding an acting superintendent by Friday because she said that wasn’t soon enough — “Time is of the essence; I think the school district deserves better," she said — and board member Beverly Kelley described the public pressure the five-member body has been under.

"The parents have been killing us with emails about how they want some guidance,” she said.

Kane is expected to return to the job Nov. 17, Harper said, and Pauls will fill in until then or longer, should Kane return later.

A controversy over Kane’s status has unfolded as the district, which includes about 7,500 students, prepares to reopen schools after months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kane, an award-winning educator who spent 22 years in Anne Arundel County schools, began her leave after an Oct. 7 board meeting at which the panel passed a resolution saying she must tell them in advance about any money she would spend from a state fund earmarked for coronavirus relief.

Kane, the county’s first Black female superintendent, told the all-white board that the move undermined her authority.

“If you want to vote to take away my authority, then you have the right to do that, I suspect,” she said. “But that sends a real clear message as to where I sit with this board.”

Since then, Kane has not been working in her office at district headquarters in Centreville, John White, a spokesman for the superintendent’s office, has said. For more than two weeks, school system staff, teachers and parents said they didn’t know what was happening or where Kane was.

The school board acknowledged for the first time on Oct. 27 that Kane had gone on leave. White said the next day that her absence was due to a sick leave. Kane has declined to comment on the situation.

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