Lorton Resignation Stops Opponents On Board Short

Panel May Reconsider Reported Plan To Force Him Out

January 21, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

The county's school board had hoped to force out Superintendent Larry L. Lorton by Feb. 28, four months before his contract runs out, butthe superintendent's announcement Friday that he will stay until June 30 might scuttle the plan, a board member said yesterday.

The eight-member board might have had to pay Lorton for the remaining four months of his contract -- about $31,000 of the superintendent's $94,815 salary -- if he had been forced to leave the job.

But his unexpected announcement may change the minds of some members, said the board member, who asked not to be identified.

"There's some sentimental people on the board," the member said, adding that they might allow Lorton to finish out his contract now that he has stated his intentions publicly.

The board had planned to appoint Deputy Superintendent C. Berry Carter II as acting superintendent while a search is conducted for a new superintendent, the board member said. A national search for a new superintendent could take six months or more.

Lorton, 53, announced Friday he would leave his post June30 in part due to "philosophical differences" with the board over the direction of the 66,000-student system. He would not elaborate.

Lorton also said he wanted to seek a job in a smaller school system, where it would be easier for him to interact with students and teachers.

The Anne Arundel system is so large, he said after a 30-minutepress conference, that it is difficult to maintain classroom contact.

As of yesterday, Lorton said he had received no information fromthe board about terminating his four-year contract early, or, for that matter, whether the board had planned to renew his contract.

Lorton insisted that his resignation was not prompted by any decision by the board.

"Any board member who would tell you this is displaying the lowest level of ethical behavior . . . it violates any decency. It's outrageous," Lorton said.

Lorton would not comment about whether he would leave early in exchange for a contract buyout, if it were offered.

But the board member said Lorton's decision to announce his resignation Friday was probably a face-saving move.

The relationship between the eight-member board and Lorton has deteriorated to such an unworkable level, the board member said, that it would be in the best interest of the school system for the superintendent to leave as soon as possible.

"The man's a lame duck," the source saidof Lorton.

Relations between the board and Lorton got particularly tense after a December meeting during which Lorton and the board disagreed on how to handle employee furloughs.

Lorton, faced with budget cutbacks, proposed at the meeting a furlough plan that contradicted an agreement the board had reached with unions.

The board abruptly went into executive session, and when the public meeting resumed, Lorton retracted his proposal.

"Everyone started saying he was in trouble after that," said Thomas J. Paolino, president of the Teacher's Association of Anne Arundel County.

Most board members have had problems working with Lorton for at least a year, the board membersaid, adding that the furlough incident was only one of many.

Themember said that, by last week, Lorton did not have enough support on the board to win a new contract. Five of the eight board members' votes would be needed for approval.

Although no vote was taken to determine Lorton's future with the school system, various discussions made it clear where board members stood, the member said.

Lorton, who began his teaching career in 1962, was superintendent of the muchsmaller St. Mary's County school system for eight years before taking the Anne Arundel County job in 1988.

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