Amprey's Pay, Benefits To Continue Until June '98

No Lump-sum Payment In Store For Outgoing Schools Chief, Officials Say

April 29, 1997|By Eric Siegel and Stephen Henderson | Eric Siegel and Stephen Henderson,SUN STAFF

Outgoing Baltimore Schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey will continue to receive his $140,000 salary and health, pension and other benefits through June 1998, but will not get an additional lump-sum payment for the termination of his city employment, according to documents and interviews.

Amprey also retains the right to cash in any unused sick leave and vacation time he has accumulated during his six-year tenure at the helm of city schools, a sum that could amount to 40 percent of his annual salary under the terms of a severance agreement made public yesterday.

The calculation has not yet been made and attorneys for Amprey and the city would not put a figure on the total value of Amprey's package, but it is probably about $250,000 -- a smaller amount than some had speculated he would receive.

Amprey announced Sunday that he will be leaving the city school system he has run since 1991 to become an executive with an educational subsidiary of cable giant Tele-Communications Inc.

His position was abolished as part of a restructuring of city schools that will give greater management control to the state in exchange for an increase in funding. Instead, a chief executive officer will be chosen by a new school board that will be named by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Because the new school board will not be seated until June 1, it was assumed that Assistant Superintendent Patricia Newby would serve as interim superintendent. But she is a finalist for a superintendent's post in another district, and Baltimore's other two top deputies have either resigned or announced their retirement.

Since Amprey's position is being abolished, the city agreed that if Amprey should resign to take another job, he would be entitled to the same severance pay and benefits he would have received under his four-year 1994 contract if he had been fired.

That package includes his $140,000-a-year salary, which he will continue to receive in biweekly installments; his $15,000-a-year expense account; medical and pension benefits worth an estimated $35,000; and an annual physical.

Like all city professional employees, he may cash in a third of any unused sick leave, accumulated at the rate of 12 days per year, or unused vacation time, which could be worth as much as $60,000.

The agreement -- dated Jan. 20 but kept secret until now by both parties -- does not contain the kind of large, lump-sum payment that often accompanies the termination of contracts of high-ranking public and private sector officials.

"There is no additional money," said Deputy City Solicitor Frank C. Derr. He said the agreement, signed by Schmoke, does not require any further action.

"It provides to Dr. Amprey what he was entitled to under his original agreement," said the superintendent's lawyer, George A. Nilson.

That is in contrast to the severance package Nilson obtained for former Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Stuart Berger, who had 11 months left on a four-year contract paying him $121,000 a year when he was bought out in July 1995. County officials said at the time that half the cost of the buyout of their unpopular school chief was for money Berger was entitled to under his contract and the other half was for "the cost of making the change."

Two weeks ago, Schmoke named Newby as Amprey's temporary replacement. But Newby is a finalist for the superintendent's position in Grand Rapids, Mich., and has reportedly been approached by other districts. Chief Financial Officer Henry Raymond is leaving to work for the city's budget office. And Mary Nicholsonne, associate superintendent for instruction, has announced her retirement. Together those officials oversee the three main areas of operation in the district.

Amprey said his departure didn't mean he will be totally disconnected from the district's schools. "I won't get in the way of the new board, but I will make sure that I'm available and helpful to them," he said.

Despite the apparent exodus at the top, there will be little disruption in the district's day-to-day operations, school officials said. "Contrary to what some people might believe, we are very organized here," said chief of staff Jeanette Evans, who added that she plans to stay through the transition and to serve under the new school board. "All of the worker bees are still here, so we anticipate ending the year smoothly and beginning the year nicely in September. We'll do it because we don't have any choice but to keep working the way we have."

At schools around the district, principals also insisted that the impending lack of district leadership would not create chaos among the rank and file.

"Down here in the trenches, we're prepared and we keep right on moving," said Rosetta Stith, director of the Laurence G. Paquin school for pregnant teens.

Marilyn Rondeau, principal at Walbrook High, said she can't afford to be distracted by the impending shake-up at the central office.

"We're always watching what goes on downtown, but it's really business as usual out here," she said. "We're focusing on the kids."

Pub Date: 4/29/97

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