Harford's secret school board Superintendent: Judging from recent action, county panel learned nothing from Grotsky debacle.

June 19, 1998

SEVERAL county executives in the Baltimore region have characterized their boards of education as groups of well-meaning individuals who haven't a clue about how to run a multimillion-dollar school system.

Those who believe it's an unfair swipe might be advised not to hold up the Harford County Board of Education to make their case.

This is the board that paid $271,000 to buy out Superintendent Jeffery N. Grotsky midway through his contract after having ignored warnings about his tumultuous break with his previous employer in Michigan.

The board never specified the reasons for its dissatisfaction beyond vague musings that Dr. Grotsky wasn't a "team player."

This month, the board voted to keep Jacqueline C. Haas as acting superintendent through next school year. She was appointed to fill in for Dr. Grotsky last spring. She was an elementary principal a year ago, then promoted to oversee K-12 education. The board did not reveal its long-term intentions, saying only that it does not plan a search for a superintendent.

To recap: The board that ignored cautions in hiring Dr. Grotsky, then paid a huge ransom to remove him, now isn't hunting for new leadership because it suffers from cold feet from its previous plunge in the job pool.

This is not a knock on Ms. Haas, who is admired by colleagues and has impressed political leaders during budget deliberations. That she hasn't completed her doctorate, a degree held by most superintendents, or led a school system before means little compared with her performance in the job.

We wish Harford's board would quit acting like a secret society that presumes it need not clue taxpayers and parents in to its intentions. A panel that would aggressively seek out a known change-agent and follow up by choosing a conciliator with limited experience lacks a game plan.

If the board has decided that the best talent lies right at home, fine. But this time, board members need to explain their actions to the public.

Pub Date: 6/19/98

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