Ending a turbulent chapter for Prince George's County schools, Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced nine appointees yesterday to a new Board of Education that will replace the elected board marred by infighting and squabbles with Superintendent Iris T. Metts.
The new board members, named jointly by Glendening and County Executive Wayne K. Curry, will be sworn in at noon tomorrow to take over the 135,000-student district and its struggling schools.
The new members include Beatrice P. Tignor, who will be chairwoman of the panel. Tignor, 61, is a former member of the state Senate and House of Delegates, and is director of procurement for Montgomery County. Howard Stone Jr., Curry's former chief of staff, will serve as vice chairman.
In an interview yesterday, Tignor said the new board will decide what to do with Metts in a meeting after tomorrow's swearing-in.
Metts could be fired or retained as the school system's chief - in an interim capacity or long term. "The board has invited Dr. Metts to come to the meeting and talk to us and tell us about why she should stay on or why she should go, and we will make a decision," Tignor said.
Metts has not announced whether she intends to reapply for the job, which is now called "chief executive officer." However, she had told associates that her decision would be based in part on whether or not she was happy with the new appointees.
Yesterday, she told Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Prince George's County Democrat, that "she was pleased with the composition of the board," the congressman said in an interview. "I would like to see her reapply. She's made some mistakes, but I think on balance she's done a very good job," Wynn said.
When Metts was hired in 1999 to lead Maryland's second-largest school system, her appointment was proclaimed the solution to mismanagement so alarming that state legislators were withholding millions of dollars in education money from the county and threatening to take over its schools.
But problems quickly arose between Metts, the former Delaware education secretary, and school board members. They battled over such issues as seating arrangements during board meetings and bonuses Metts has given to top deputies. Some accused Metts of not involving them enough in decisions, while her defenders said the board was trying to micromanage the superintendent's decisions.
While Metts had her detractors on the old board, "there's a tsunami of people who say she ought to be given an opportunity," said Alicia Byrd, education organizer for the Interfaith Action Communities, a coalition of community and religious groups. "We need stability of vision and direction, and we can make alterations as we go along," Byrd said.
The wrangling between Metts and the board was among the reasons why state lawmakers voted to disband the elected board in favor of appointees. "They will be able to tackle the critically important work that awaits them without being crippled by the rancor and rivalries that adversely affected their predecessors," Curry said yesterday in a prepared statement.
A bill signed by the governor May 6 abolished the elected board and mandated an appointed panel to include representatives of the business and education community. The new board members were on hand for the announcement with Glendening and Curry yesterday at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville.
A principal difference between the old and new boards is that the elected members may have felt the need to look after political constituencies, Tignor said.
Other board members spoke of a new start.
"I'm excited about this opportunity for us to serve our children and our county," said John Bailer, a retired telephone company manager from Camp Springs who has served on various education groups.
The other appointees are Abby L.W. Crowley, director of professional development for the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute of Washington; Charlene M. Dukes, vice president for student services at Prince George's Community College; Robert O. Duncan, chief of the Baltimore City Bureau of Accounting and Payroll Services; Judy Mickens-Murray, staff member of finance and facilities management for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Jose Morales, an elevator industry manager; and Dean Sirjue, associate dean for administration at the Howard University School of Business.