Prince George's schools chief to leave in June

Buffeted by disputes, Metts will join national company

February 11, 2003|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Prince George's County schools chief Iris T. Metts, hounded by disputes from her first day on the job, will step down at the end of the school year to join a national education company.

Metts, 60, informed the school board Saturday of her decision to leave when her four-year contract expires in June. Her lawyer, Stuart Grozbean, said she had been planning to apply for a second term when she was approached to join a national firm.

"The bottom line is she thinks she made inroads into helping the children of Prince George's County, and now she has the opportunity to help other children," Grozbean said. He declined to name the company she will join.

Metts could not be reached for comment yesterday. But the county's school board president, Beatrice P. Tignor, said 3 1/2 years of upheaval had taken a toll on Metts. "There was a lot of stress, and there was a lot of turmoil," Tignor said.

Metts' most public skirmish came a year ago when the school board voted 6-3 to fire her because of low test scores and teacher morale. The board also quarreled with her over issues such as where she sat during meetings. The termination was later overturned by the state school board, and the General Assembly replaced the county's elected school board with an appointed one.

Metts came to the 135,000- student system in 1999 after serving as Delaware's secretary of education. She brought in top advisers from outside the state and created a rift with many principals by demoting those she deemed ineffective.

"We lost a number of quality principals," said state Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, chairman of the county's Senate delegation. "She worked hard, but I'm not sure the county gained the successes we were hoping for." Test scores in most areas have fallen or remained flat during Metts' tenure, leaving the system with the second-worst record in the state, after Baltimore.

Pinsky and others praised Metts, however, for several initiatives. She began all-day kindergarten countywide and brought attention - and money - to the poor condition of county schools.

While many observers were surprised by Metts' decision, some said it was healthy for the school system to begin anew after the tumult of the past four years. Metts' combative style, they said, never quite fit.

"Bringing somebody else on ought to, if nothing else, clear the air and create a better learning environment in that system," said Prince George's Del. James W. Hubbard.

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