Schools' operations director quits

Brown to join Harford Co. as second in command to its superintendent

December 11, 2003|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

The director of operations for the Howard County school system announced his resignation yesterday, saying he will join the Harford County school system next month as its chief administrative officer.

"It's a significant promotion for me in terms of responsibility," said Raymond Brown, who gave notice Tuesday in Howard to take the Harford position, which pays $14,000 less than his salary of $115,739.

"There are some trade-offs, but it's still a promotion," said Brown, who lives in Columbia. "It's a great opportunity for me to grow professionally, and that will take care of itself in the long run."

In Howard, Brown oversaw the school system's capital budget process and represented the board's views on legislative matters in Annapolis. He had also taken on the duties of chief business officer Bruce M. Venter after Superintendent John R. O'Rourke fired Venter Sept. 5.

Venter has since been trying to negotiate a severance settlement with the school system through his attorney, Allen Dyer.

"It's been somewhat difficult to navigate the procedural minefield because of the unusualness of the situation," Dyer said. "The abrupt dismissal of Dr. Venter just doesn't seem to comport with the process outlined in the education [laws]."

On Dec. 1, the Howard school board agreed to hear an appeal concerning Venter's dismissal, which Dyer said he hopes will result in members reversing the termination. A date for the hearing has not been set.

Venter and Brown join a growing list of high-profile staff members leaving Howard in the past year. Former Deputy Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin retired in June and was succeeded by Kimberly Statham, who is under investigation, along with Assistant Superintendent Roger L. Plunkett. Statham and Plunkett are accused of using their positions to change the grade of a Statham relative.

Carey Wright, the former director of special education and student services, left Howard for Montgomery County recently. And Alice Haskins, administrative director for secondary school administration, retired at the end of last school year.

Jay Fridkis, brought in as chief technology officer, was fired by O'Rourke during the summer.

"We have had an unusually high number of people leaving," said school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "It's just been for so many different reasons. A lot of people are eligible to retire."

Brown had applied to fill Venter's position but withdrew before he was interviewed to take the job in Harford County, which has about 40,000 students and 50 schools.

As chief administrative officer, Brown will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the school system, while Superintendent Jacqueline Haas concentrates on academics, said Harford school spokesman Don Morrison.

The position was created last year to combine two jobs: deputy superintendent, which had been vacant for two years, and assistant superintendent for educational services, which was vacant for one year, he said.

"Being second in command is basically what it amounts to," Morrison said, adding that Brown, who spent three years in Howard after leaving the Montgomery County school system, where he was in charge of finance, was chosen because of his experience.

"He's held in very high regard by not only school people but by legislators and all the people that deal with school systems," Morrison said. "We just see him as being ideal in terms of his background."

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