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Eastern Shore school superintendent’s absence is due to ‘sick leave,’ a spokesman for her office says

The reason Queen Anne’s County schools superintendent Andrea M. Kane has been absent from her job since Oct. 9 is that she has been on sick leave, a spokesman for the county superintendent’s office said Tuesday.

“The Queen Anne’s County Board of Education has Dr. Kane’s doctor’s notes for sick leave,” the spokesman, John White, said in an email Tuesday to The Baltimore Sun.

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White’s statement came a day after the county school board president acknowledged for the first time that Kane has been on leave for more than two weeks.

Tamera Harper, the board president, said Monday that Kane would remain on leave for an indefinite period. Harper declined to describe the reason for the leave or answer other questions, saying only that Kane’s leave has been “longer than we expected.”

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Tuesday, Harper declined to respond to questions about the new statement from the superintendent’s office. Kane continued to decline to answer questions on the matter.

Kane’s absence — coming after a contentious school board meeting Oct. 7 — has left many residents wondering who’s running the county system as its 15 schools prepare to reopen for some in-person learning after closing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As the more than five-hour meeting wound down, one board member presented a surprise motion — that Kane should be required to seek board approval for any expenses she planned to cover out of a state fund earmarked for coronavirus relief.

Kane objected, arguing that such a measure would undermine her authority.

“You don’t get to see [the money] before it’s spent. That’s my job,” she said. “If you want to vote to take away my authority, then you have the right to do that, I suspect. But that sends a real clear message to me as to where I sit with this board.”

The five-member board nixed the proposal but approved another that requires the superintendent to share her COVID 19-related spending plans in advance.

Kane, the first Black female superintendent in the history of the Eastern Shore county, became part of a heated debate last summer when, in response to protests across the country after George Floyd’s death in Minnesota, she sent an email to parents calling for a conversation about racism in Queen Anne’s County.

Some critics objected to the email and other actions by Kane, arguing they constituted advancement of a political view, while others supported the superintendent.

Kane said at the time that her relationship with the board, all of whose members are white, had been strained since she was hired for the position in 2016, adding that she believed some members had worked to undermine her.

"I have not had good relations with my school board since I got there, " she said in an August interview with The Sun. “I have talked to them about marginalizing me.”

Kane said then that she would not seek to remain with the school system after her contract expires in June.

Kane’s career includes an award-winning 22-year stint with the Anne Arundel County schools.

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She remains superintendent in Queen Anne’s. According to White, despite being on sick leave, she has been working from home, responding to emails and supporting administrators “to ensure they are preparing for the return of students to classes.”

County schools are scheduled to reopen for a hybrid form of in-person learning Nov. 9.

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