Anne Arundel School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton, at a news conference today, made public his decision not to seek a new four-year term as head of the 65,000-student system.
In an unexpected move, Lorton announced that he is stepping down when his contract expires at the end of the current school year.
Deputy Superintendent C. Berry Carter II had confirmed Lorton's decision last night. "It's kind of stunning," he said.
However, a school system administrator who asked not to be identified said Lorton was discouraged by disagreements with the county Board of Education.
A month ago, the county board abruptly interrupted a public meeting when 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 board members left for a private, executive session.
When the public meeting resumed, 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 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 [Lorton] will be developing a budget for next year that will not be his budget," Paolino said. "I think the board is going to have to be much more careful in dealing with the budget."
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 becoming head of the St. Mary's County system in 1980.
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 Lorton's plans.