Schools chief to seek reappointment

June 24, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey announced yesterday that he would seek appointment to a fourth term as head of the Howard County school system, reversing a decision he made two years ago to leave when his current contract expires in June 1996.

"Over these two years, my wife, Nichole, and I have had numerous conversations about what we want to do with our lives," he told the five school board members. "This past six months in particular have helped us focus on what we want."

From the time he began his third four-year contract as superintendent two years ago, Dr. Hickey had said it would be his last term.

He has been head of the school system since 1984, when he replaced M. Thomas Goedeke, who retired after serving as superintendent for 16 years.

Yesterday, however, Dr. Hickey said that he had only wanted to take time to make sure his decision to remain as superintendent was by choice and not by "taking the easiest route."

"What I really wanted to do is put myself in a frame of mind to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," Dr. Hickey said. "I'd feel kind of funny working on the goals 'Toward the Year 2000' and saying, 'So long, folks.' "

Dr. Hickey said that he wants to remain in the $112,000-a-year job to help the school system deal with such challenges as explosive growth and the school system's changing demographics.

Although the system has some of the best-funded and best-performing schools in the state, it also is expected to see its enrollment grow to more than 45,000 students by the year 2000, roughly 10,000 more than this past school year.

"I don't want to leave a job that has the challenges that this one has," he said.

The announcement took County Executive Charles I. Ecker by surprise.

"I was unaware that he had reconsidered," Mr. Ecker said yesterday. "I have enjoyed the years working with him and I'm glad he's reconsidered."

Others in the educational community said that they had a feeling that Dr. Hickey would stay an additional term.

"He's started a number of initiatives," said James Swab, head of the Howard County Education Association. "He's been philosophizing it for some time. I'm not surprised he views [Howard County] as a place where he can retire from."

Mr. Swab praised Dr. Hickey for making "some major contributions to a school system that has been growing rapidly. . . . At the same time, he has shown that when he's made some bad decisions or incorrect decisions, he's been there to listen to our point of view and taken steps [to fix the errors]."

The teachers' union and Dr. Hickey clashed in 1991 when he refused to give the teachers the salary increases specified in the union's contract, citing budget problems. And in 1993, he transferred more than 60 teachers and administrators involuntarily, causing an uproar.

Mr. Swab said Dr. Hickey has managed a growing school system by opening one to two schools a year, while "being able to lobby the fiscal authorities for the necessary funds to operate the school system."

Lynn Benton, head of the Howard County PTA Council, said, "I think it's certainly going to be helpful to have continuity during this period, given the growth and all the changes that are going to be happening -- all the new schools we're going to be building."

The school system is building or renovating more than 10 schools in the next 10 years.

In his announcement yesterday, Dr. Hickey spoke highly of what he called a "caring and courageous Board of Education" and a "community that challenges and chides, but never fails to put education first and foremost."

"After giving it a lot of consideration, I don't think there is a better superintendent [job] anywhere," he said.

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