City school board approves Epps as chief operating officer

Special assistant gets job viewed as key to improving business operations

October 15, 2003|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

A former Green Beret who has worked in government and private business became chief operating officer of the Baltimore school system when his appointment was approved last night by the school board.

Carlton G. Epps Sr., 56, who was a special assistant to the former chief operating officer, will take over a job that's viewed as key to improving the business operations of the district.

Mark Smolarz, the former chief operating officer, is now the system's chief financial officer.

A former state and city employee who has worked in accounting, data control and operations, Epps will oversee bus transportation for students, maintenance and renovation of school buildings, cafeteria operations and other functions.

"He brings a wealth of expertise," said school board Chairwoman Patricia L. Welch. "We believe he has the deep commitment to help us address those issues that are of greatest concern to us."

Epps, who earned the Bronze Star for Valor and the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service in Vietnam, joined the school system in February, arriving just before the health department forced the school system to shut down its drinking fountains because of possible lead contamination.

He has worked on that issue as well as the logistics of setting up new high schools in the eight months he has been with the system.

He walks into the job in the midst of dispute. With a $52 million cumulative deficit, the system faces a year of belt-tightening and increased scrutiny by legislators and the public.

The interim chief executive officer, Bonnie Copeland, has pledged to straighten out the finances and many of the other operational problems.

"It is a wonderful opportunity to make a contribution to a school system that has tremendous potential," Epps said.

Born in Philadelphia, Epps joined the Army in 1967 and served with the Army Special Forces in Vietnam. After leaving active duty, he was an Army reservist and a civilian employee in the Department of Defense.

Through much of the 1980s, he owned a transportation company in Philadelphia, then sold the firm and moved to Baltimore.

He received his bachelor's degree at Loyola College in 1991 and earned a master's degree in business administration from Loyola in 2000.

During the 1990s, he worked for the Maryland Mass Transit Administration, the Baltimore City Office of Child Support Enforcement and the State Retirement Agency as the acting director of the data control division.

In 2001, he joined a Loyola classmate in a start-up company based in Columbia. Economic conditions forced the company to scale back and Epps said he left in June last year.

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