A divided and upset school board came together at the last moment and unanimously appointed C. Berry Carter II as the school system's new superintendent yesterday.
"I'm a little bit overwhelmed, but I certainly accept your offer," Carter told board members after receiving a standing ovation from staff members and parents seated in the board room yesterday. "I will continue to try and do what I perceive is best for the enhancement and the advancement of the children of Anne Arundel County."
Carter, who has spent 38 years with the county school system, including the last 18 as deputy superintendent, was the clear choice of those attending two public hearings held during the spring. He was named acting superintendent for a third time in his 18 years as deputy following the February resignation of Larry L. Lorton.
The selection was believed to have come down to a choice between Carter and Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Wilhoyte. Board members refused to confirm or deny if they were split between the two.
"If there's two things that upset me about my [school board] presidency, it would have to be the Lorton situation and the alleged leak to the press about the superintendent's search," said Jo Ann Tollenger, whose tenure as board president ended with yesterday's meeting. "We had to do this in secrecy."
The board, which had until today to appoint a new superintendent, began a tension-filled meeting yesterday still undecided as to who would be superintendent for the next four years.
Tollenger began the meeting by challenging outgoing student board member Miecha Werwie's right to continue as a board member.
Werwie, who was not present at the beginning of the meeting, had said her goodbyes to board members at the board's last meeting in June. But new student board member Jay Witcher has yet to receive his appointment from Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
The laws concerning student board members differs from county to county, Tollenger told board members. However, she said her interpretation of the law, which states that the student board member must be a senior in good standing, made Werwie ineligible, since she had graduated.
"I rule Miecha is no longer eligible," Tollenger said.
Board attorney P. Tyson Bennett, however, said there had been numerous instances in the past where a county student had continued to serve on the board past graduation and into June. He did add that no student had served into July, since the governor generally has made his appointments by July 1.
"I'd really have to question whether the board can vote to say [Werwie] is no longer a valid member of the board," Bennett said.
Board member Nancy Gist also questioned the right of the board to exclude Werwie.
"I can recall several instances in the past where students have served past July 1," an agitated Gist said. "I really don't understand this discussion, its purpose or its direction."
Newly elected board Vice President Dorothy Chaney challenged Tollenger's right to declare Werwie ineligible. Tollenger's motion -- which took a majority vote for passage -- was defeated on a 3-3 vote. Tollenger, Maureen Carr-York and Thomas Twombly voted to support it. Gist, Chaney and Paul Greksa opposed it. Newly elected board President Vincent O. Leggett abstaining.
The board spent much of the morning split on several votes. They initially split on a motion to go into executive session -- causing the motion to be denied -- and several personnel matters, including the appointment of a new president and vice president, to be delayed.
After the arrival of Werwie, the board voted again on whether to go into executive session. The motion passed unanimously.
When board members returned, the wrangling began again as Carr-York made a motion that the board defer voting on a new president and vice president. She argued the vote should not be made until two new members, still to be named by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, and the new student member are officially seated on the board.
Carr-York's motion was not passed, and Leggett and Chaney were named president and vice president, respectively, by a 5-1 vote, with Twombly voting no and Tollenger and Carr-York abstaining.