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Renee Foose is out. Now what?
(No Source)

Now that the faltering administration of the county's school superintendent has come to a costly close, the Howard County school board has some explaining to do.

In a rapid series of events that unfolded Tuesday, Renee Foose announced her retirement after five years on the job, effective immediately. Following a closed-door meeting, the school board announced it has hired an interim replacement. Former Howard County educator Michael Martirano, recently the state schools chief in West Virginia, was named acting superintendent.

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The face-saving pablum in afternoon statements belies the undercurrents of mistrust that had built between the superintendent and a school board with several new members that could barely hide their disdain for Foose, the first woman to lead county schools.

It turns out that, behind the scenes, the battling parties had been talking for four months about a divorce, with County Executive Allan Kittleman as a mediator.

At this early stage, questions far outnumber answers, including how much the debacle will cost taxpayers and what trendsetting programs and policies championed by Foose will remain in place.

After a promising start in her early years, Foose's leadership became rife with controversy over her management.

Online petitions called for her ouster. Last November's election brought new anti-Foose members to the board and it maneuvered to gain more authority over the superintendent, prompting Foose to sue, claiming her power was being usurped.

All of this became an untenable distraction that was eroding confidence in the school district, one of the top in the nation, and a parting of the ways was inevitable.

What's next? A frank assessment of the lessons learned — and what caused this collapse — is imperative. It's time for honesty, not prepackaged statements.

More needs to be learned about the hiring of Martirano, who has been regarded as a leader capable of healing wounds. Will he be a candidate for the job, with the advantage of incumbency?

Was there a buyout of the remaining three years on Foose's contract, which pays her $273,000 this year?

For a school board that has criticized Foose for a lack of transparency, the secret talks over separation and lining up an interim appear contradictory. Was there a better way to handle this?

What are the plans for a nationwide search and what are the skill sets desired from a leader for a district that is going to face major pressures — from changing demographics, to shifts in start times, to aging buildings.

The business of running one of the state's largest school systems, using a budget blueprint bearing Foose's imprint, has to continue with as little distraction as possible as the facts emerge.

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