Schools select finance director

Former analyst at M&T picked to replace Smolarz on an interim basis

October 29, 2003|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

A former financial analyst for M&T Bank was named the new interim chief financial officer for Baltimore's public school system last night, replacing Mark Smolarz, who resigned, saying he was "worn out" by the demands of the job.

Rose Piedmont -- who oversaw the budgeting, strategic planning and other financial matters of 260 M&T branches in the Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and District of Columbia region -- will begin her new job today.

Piedmont's salary will be between $125,000 and $130,000, officials said.

The six-figure salary pays for what many would call an invaluable job -- managing the finances of the cash-strapped, 92,000-student school district.

The often-criticized Smolarz, who held the position for three years, resigned this month under growing pressure over a budget deficit. He cited "stress" as one reason for leaving.

Officials recently reported a $52 million carryover deficit and have had to lay off teachers and cut back on programs as a result.

Smolarz is the third CFO to quit the position since 1997.

Piedmont said she is ready to tackle the deficit and other financial problems, despite the record of past CFOs.

"It's a huge challenge," she said. "But I like challenges."

Unlike past CFOs, Piedmont will have the help of a local financial leader.

After Smolarz's resignation, interim Chief Executive Officer Bonnie S. Copeland asked Robert R. Neall, a former state legislator and Anne Arundel County executive, to help the school district with its financial matters.

Neall -- a director of finance for Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health Systems and known for his financial acumen -- will continue to be an unpaid consultant to the school system, officials said.

Piedmont said last night she is grateful for the help.

"Dr. Copeland is putting together a wonderful team of people and I'm glad to be a part of it," she said. "I think the team ... is going to make all the difference."

Piedmont has lived in the Glendale section of Baltimore County with her husband and two children for 15 years.

She earned her undergraduate degree in accounting from Fordham University, and her master's from Boston University.

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