The Harford County school system started rebuilding morale within its unhappy ranks yesterday as Jackie Haas, a respected, veteran educator, took on the role of becoming the interim school superintendent.
She officially begins Monday but already is trying to absorb as much as she can from her former boss, Jeffery N. Grotsky, whose tumultuous tenure as Harford school chief ends Friday.
The Harford County school board announced Monday that it had reached an agreement with Grotsky to end his four-year contract after 20 months of service, citing irreconcilable differences in management styles.
Grotsky, 54, will stay on as a consultant until June 8 to ease the transition, the board said.
"There's no way in the next three days he can give me the history," said Haas, 49, a former special education teacher and ,, principal who was named interim chief on Monday. "The board and Dr. Grotsky deserve credit for making sure that I have what I need."
School board member Robert B. Thomas Jr. said Haas, who became assistant superintendent for educational services in July, was the logical choice for the interim position because she often filled in for Grotsky.
He said the board would decide by June 30 whether to name Haas the permanent superintendent, to extend her interim term for a year or to search for other candidates to oversee the 38,000-student school system.
"We have the upmost faith and confidence in her. She's a very down-to-earth person," Thomas said. "We want to get back to a level of stability and a level of calm."
Yesterday, Haas found herself juggling new and old responsibilities.
"I'm meeting with different groups of people to talk about projects, needs and priorities," said Haas, sitting in a tiny Bel Air office where congratulatory balloons floated above her desk. "We're going to pull together and deal with this difficult 'u situation."
While many board members, government officials and school administrators laud Grotsky's business skills, several have faulted his brusque approach.
But Haas praised Grotsky for his "poise, professionalism and class."
For now, Haas, who is the first woman to serve as school superintendent in Harford County, said she will continue projects initiated by the board and Grotsky, such as leadership training for staff and faculty members and academic equity in schools.
"She'll try to bring people together," Emily D. Stewart, supervisor of gifted and talented education, said of Haas. "She was a marvelous principal. She'll continue to learn and grow herself."
But students at Edgewood Elementary School, where she was principal for five years until last summer, probably best remember Haas for kissing a snake. Just the memory of it makes her shutter.
"It was an ugly one. I'm like Indiana Jones -- snakes, ugh," she said, laughing about the fund-raising event for which she agreed to pucker up for playground equipment.
Haas taught in Newark, Del., for seven years before coming to Harford County as a special education teacher in 1978 at John Archer School in Churchville, where she met her husband, Jim, a sixth-grade teacher at Southampton Middle School.
The Haases, who live in Aberdeen, have two children -- Rob, 16, an 11th-grade student at Aberdeen High School, and Steven, 12, a seventh-grader at Aberdeen Middle School.
Pub Date: 3/18/98