3 school officials facing job shift

Changes planned before arrival of superintendent

June 21, 2006|By ANICA BUTLER | ANICA BUTLER,SUN REPORTER

Three top Anne Arundel County school officials have been told that they will be replaced when Kevin Maxwell becomes the new superintendent July 1.

Administrators Robert C. Leib, Dennis Hirsch and Sherry Yaniga aren't being fired but could be reassigned, said Ken Nichols, acting deputy superintendent. The moves are being made to accommodate Maxwell, who plans to hire his own budget director and chief of staff.

"We've given them notice that when he comes on board that he will likely be bringing some people in," Nichols said.

It's not unusual for a new superintendent to make staffing changes, but what's different about this situation is that Maxwell, most recently a community superintendent in Montgomery County, hasn't started yet. The Anne Arundel County Board of Education is scheduled to vote on Maxwell's contract and make an official appointment today.

The previous superintendent, Eric J. Smith, stepped down last fall amid strained relations with the board. Leib was promoted to chief of staff by Smith, but later demoted by interim Superintendent Nancy Mann.

"When Dr. Smith came, he brought people with him. But he made decisions when he came on board," Nichols said. "The new gentleman is trying to get a step ahead of the curve. That may have tipped the balance a little bit."

An attorney representing the three employees said they initially were told, by Nichols, that "their services would no longer be required," and the threat of firing is at the heart of the problem.

"They have been threatened with termination with no cause at all," said Richard Kovelant, the Annapolis attorney representing Leib, Hirsch and Yaniga.

Kovelant said that after the meeting with Nichols, the three, who are speaking on the matter only through their attorney, received a letter that rescinded the threat but still told them that they would not have their current positions once Maxwell takes over.

Leib is the director of business and government services, Hirsch is the director of budget and finance, and Yaniga is the school system's specialist in business partnerships.

Kovelant said the three are asking to retain their jobs and their current positions.

According to state law and county school system policy, if any of the three are reassigned, they are to be paid a salary equal to their current jobs, he said. Reassignments would be acceptable, he added, "as long as the reassignment makes sense."

"You're not going take a guy on the executive level and turn him into a custodian at $100,000 a year," Kovelant said.anica.butler@baltsun.com

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