Official returning to Howard schools

Brown left for position in Harford last year during O'Rourke tenure

New chief business officer

May 06, 2004|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

Four months after the Howard County school system's director of operations quit, he is coming back - this time as chief business officer, filling a position that has been vacant since September.

"It's a great opportunity," Raymond H. Brown, 55, said yesterday. He will assume his new post May 19, overseeing financial matters, as well as school planning and construction.

Brown left the Howard school system at the end of December to become chief administrative officer of Harford County schools. At the time, he called the move a "great opportunity to grow professionally," though it meant a $14,000 pay cut and a commute nearly 10 times as long as his Howard drive.

Some, however, speculated that Brown's resignation had more to do with friction with John R. O'Rourke, the former Howard County superintendent. During his tenure, more than a half-dozen top-level administrators quit, retired, were reassigned or dismissed. Brown would not discuss his relationship with O'Rourke yesterday, calling it "history."

Brown had applied for the chief business officer post twice during O'Rourke's tenure, first in 2001 when the position was created. He was passed over for Bruce Venter, an Alexandria, Va., school administrator. Brown tried again last year, after O'Rourke fired Venter - who is appealing the decision - but withdrew his application to take the Harford job.

Shortly thereafter, O'Rourke left the school system under pressure from the Board of Education. He was replaced in March by interim Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, who retired last year as deputy superintendent. When Cousin returned, Brown reapplied and was hired.

"To be honest, what changed was Sydney Cousin, " Brown said yesterday. "I have a very good working relationship with him."

Cousin recruited Brown in 2001 from the Montgomery County school system, where he was a comptroller. He began his 35-plus year career in administration and finance with the Pennsylvania community college system, working also at the University of Maryland in the 1980s and as an assistant superintendent of business services at the Maryland Department of Education.

"Ray was selected for several reasons, [including] the breadth of his experience," Cousin said yesterday. "He's dealt with school finances, school operations and school facilities over his career."

Brown's return to Howard will leave a gaping hole in Harford, which had been trying to fill the chief administrative officer position for two years before hiring Brown.

"He's been a tremendous asset to us over these four months, and we're extremely sorry to see him go," said Harford schools spokesman Don Morrison.

Brown's Harford salary was $101,654 - $14,000 less than the $115,739 he was making as Howard's director of operations. His new Howard salary is $135,000.

"There was also the financial incentive," said Brown, whose last day in Harford is May 14.

"He will be coming in at the tail end of the [Howard] budget-adoption process," which will be made final May 26, Cousin said. "But it's the implementation of the budget also that's important and critical to what we do."

Enacting the budget and perfecting a new financial management system will be Brown's primary tasks in Howard.

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