Associate schools chief to step down

`Redistricting czar' Kalin, 60, will retire at school year's end

`Toughest job in the system'

Growth projections, open-enrollment role also have drawn fire

Howard County

April 24, 2001|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

After 27 years in the Howard County school system - the last 16 in what might be called the district's toughest position - Associate Superintendent Maurice F. Kalin will retire at the end of the school year.

Kalin, 60, announced Friday his intention to retire.

Kalin said yesterday that he was unprepared to talk in-depth about his reasons for leaving or what his future plans may be, but said he would go into more detail later in the week.

Although he has held several jobs since joining the school system in 1974, Kalin has perhaps become best known as the "redistricting czar" - in charge of drawing district boundaries, sending neighborhoods of children to new or different schools and making hundreds of families angry every year.

The task, though vastly important to the system, made Kalin unpopular. His involvement other hot-button issues such as open enrollment has earned him the unofficial nickname "Dr. Death" from some parents.

"He's taken a lot of heat over the years for what is probably the toughest job in the system," said school district spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "But I think he's always handled redistricting in a fair and objective way."

Superintendent John R. O'Rourke said Kalin had been hinting that he might retire ever since O'Rourke started work in July.

"So I'm not shocked. The man's 60 years old, and he's had a very full career," O'Rourke said. "But it will be a challenge. I haven't even begun to think what we're going to do about his replacement. He's been a part of a lot of things in this district that won't become really apparent until after he's gone."

Associate Superintendent for Finance and Operations Sydney L. Cousin agreed. "He dealt with issues where emotion played a role. Redistricting was just one of them," Cousin said. "He will be missed."

"When we get into these types of challenges without him, I think we're going to realize just how much his contribution was worth," O'Rourke agreed.

In addition to the annual redistricting, Kalin also was responsible for overseeing the district's open enrollment policy, which allows parents to move children to a new school if they provide transportation. That program - and Kalin's involvement in it - has come under fire in recent months.

He also kept track of the school system's projected growth - a topic that caused great consternation this year, when it was discovered that Kalin's enrollment projections were off by several hundred students in River Hill and possibly other areas. Many in the community attacked Kalin's system, saying it was outdated and caused schools to be crowded.

The Board of Education has selected a consultant to review the way the school system predicts enrollment growth.

No one interviewed yesterday knew Kalin's plans, but Cousin speculated that whatever it was would be much less an issue.

"Probably fish a lot," he said.

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