Hickey to remain as schools chief

January 30, 1995|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Howard County schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey has taken himself out of the running for the top school post in the system that serves Raleigh, N.C., and says he wants to stay in Howard for at least two more four-year terms.

Dr. Hickey said in an interview last night that he decided to remain in Howard because the 77,000-student Wake County school system would have had to give him an expensive retirement package.

"[My wife] and I were looking at what is the best thing for our financial future," he said. "It would have been a very, very expensive package for them down there to pick up."

The 56-year-old educator also spoke of the "deep roots" he and his wife, a professional artist, have established during their 11 years in Howard. He said hundreds of people encouraged him to remain in Howard during the past several weeks.

"Both Nichole and I do really appreciate the personal support we got from many, many people," he said. "The more she and I discussed it, the more reasons we had to decide to stay."

Dr. Hickey said he informed Wake school officials Friday that he didn't want the job, but agreed not to make his decision public until yesterday because of a scheduled weekend visit to that school system by the other finalist, Jim Surratt of Plano, Texas.

Wake school board Chairwoman Judy Hoffman would not say whether Dr. Surratt had been offered the job and said she would be making a formal statement today.

"Dr. Hickey has been a very strong candidate, and we liked him very, very much," she said. "Columbia is most fortunate."

Last June, Dr. Hickey asked the board to renew his contract, which expires in June 1996. After his announcement, two school board candidates called for a superintendent search during their campaigns. Both were elected.

Even before Dr. Hickey's reappointment became an issue in June, he asked board members for reappointment to a fourth, four-year term as head of Howard's 33,000-student school system. Now he says he wants to stay for at least two more terms, or until his retirement. "I think I would definitely try to do that," Dr. Hickey said. "I'll keep working. Retiring and doing nothing was never in my mind."

Two school board members said they were happy when Dr. Hickey called to tell them he was accepting their offer of another term. The other members couldn't be reached for comment.

"Absolutely wonderful," said board member Linda Johnston. "I was so pleased when he called. We were fortunate to have him for the number of years we had. We're fortunate another school system like Wake County was interested in him. That only demonstrates how effective and efficient he's been managing the school system."

Board member Karen Campbell said she had a gut feeling Dr. Hickey would stay.

"I just felt like he had a real commitment to our school system," she said. "Staying here and pursuing goals already defined with a machine in place to achieve it was a lot easier road to take."

Dr. Hickey said he hasn't discussed financial terms of his reappointment with the five-member school board.

"I didn't ask the board for anything other than a contract," he said. "And that's what they gave me."

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