In an unexpected move, Anne Arundel County's school superintendent announced to key aides and principals yesterday that he is stepping down when his contract expires at the end of the current school year.
Superintendent Larry L. Lorton scheduled a news conference for this morning to make public his decision not to seek a new four-year term as head of the 65,000-student system.
Deputy Superintendent C. Berry Carter II confirmed Dr. Lorton's announcement last night, but declined to elaborate on any reasons cited by the superintendent. "It's kind of stunning," he said of Dr. Lorton's decision.
However, a school system administrator who asked not to be identified said Dr. Lorton was discouraged by disagreements with the county Board of Education over issues that included his budget.
A month ago, the county board abruptly interrupted a public meeting when Dr. Lorton, faced with budget cutbacks, introduced a plan for employee furloughs that contradicted an agreement the board had reached with unions. The break lasted 40 minutes as the board members left for a private, executive session.
When the public meeting resumed, Dr. Lorton retracted his proposal.
Thomas J. Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said he was surprised yesterday afternoon on receiving reports of Dr. Lorton's meeting with administrators.
He expressed hope that the school board, in beginning the search for a new superintendent, would "have a more inclusive group in picking a successor, which the last time was done by a committee of the board."
"I have an immediate concern that we will be changing superintendents, and [Dr. Lorton] will be developing a budget for next year that will not be his budget," Mr. Paolino said. "I think the board is going to have to be much more careful in dealing with the budget."
Dr. Lorton, who is in his early 50s, is a graduate of the University of Miami, Ohio, and former teacher. He was the school superintendent in Aurora, Ohio, before moving to Southern Maryland in 1980 to become head of the rural St. Mary's County system.
He was named the superintendent in Anne Arundel in June 1988 following the resignation of Robert C. Rice, who was reportedly forced out after a disagreement with the board.
The current school board president, Jo Ann Tollenger, declined to comment last night on Dr. Lorton's plans. She said she had just returned from an out-of-town trip and found a letter from Dr. Lorton waiting for her. She would not divulge its contents.
"I haven't talked with him personally and would care to reserve comment until I have a face-to-face discussion with him," she said.
Dr. Lorton could not be reached for comment.