Arundel board cuts ties with firm

School panel says hiring deal is unnecessary

August 03, 2006|By ANICA BUTLER | ANICA BUTLER,SUN REPORTER

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education voted yesterday against renewing a $1.4 million contract with a Crofton employment firm after some school board members balked at using the company to rehire retired administrators.

Board members, some of whom said they were unaware of the 13-year-old arrangement with Human Recources Inc., criticized it - even without the inclusion of the administrators - as too expensive and possibly unnecessary.

Eugene Peterson, board vice president, said he did not understand why permanent employees could not be hired through the traditional mode of advertising the jobs.

"How specialized could these positions be?" he asked school system staff.

Kevin M. Maxwell, who took the helm of county schools July 1, told the board yesterday that he still intends to hire former Interim Superintendent Nancy Mann, former Deputy Superintendent Ken Nichols and former director of student services Leslie Mobray on a short-term basis. He's researching other ways to do it - without a third-party contractor.

Since 1993, Human Resources Inc. has hired people for specialized positions in the school system, while charging a commission equal to 26.5 percent of the salary for administrative jobs or 30.5 percent for skilled workers, according to the company's proposal.

While Baltimore-area schools often rely on temp-agency-type firms to fill spots for hard-to-fill positions - such as in special education - the four people currently employed though Human Resources Inc. in Anne Arundel schools include an accountant and a human resources specialist. The four are earning salaries ranging from nearly $40,000 to more than $80,000.

According to Gregory V. Nourse, assistant superintendent of business and management, the company has brought in 37 employees.

No one answered the telephone late yesterday at the company's office.

The proposal to add the three retired administrators to the contract, which was first introduced at a board meeting last month, would have allowed the three to collect a salary and their state pensions, skirting state restrictions about how much retirees can earn from their former employers.

Mann earned $60,000 - the maximum she is allowed by state law this calendar year - through the end of June, when she stepped down as interim superintendent.

Lawson also left June 30, and Mobray retired a few years ago.

Last month, board members were reviewing Human Resources' two-year contract for the first time because of a school system policy change. The proposed addition of the three administrators - as well as the school system's relationship with the company - was a surprise to several board members. They hadn't been told how many people would be hired under the contract, for what jobs, and at what salaries.

"I had no idea they were being hired by a third party and not directly by the school system," board member Konrad Wayson said last month.

Maxwell doesn't need the board's approval to rehire the three administrators, but he still has to figure out how to do it.

Nourse said one option is for the three retirees to incorporate themselves - a process that would cost about $150, he said - so that they would, in effect, be businesses and could be paid a consulting fee. Nourse said that any agreement involving Mann, Nichols, Mobray and the school system would be for a term not to exceed 90 days and would pay the three around $400 to $500 a day. The three would not necessarily work consecutive days, Nourse said.

Victor E. Bernson, the newest member of the school board, said while he respected Maxwell's discretion in hiring the three, he opposed paying them.

"Should we need assistance and advice, I'd be hoping they'd be willing to do it on a volunteer basis," he said. "We would save taxpayers' resources in this instance."

In other business, the school board adopted a policy that will make it easier for parents to keep their children's information from military recruiters.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that school systems give the names, phone numbers and addresses of students to military recruiters who request the information, unless the parent chooses to "opt out" or keep their children off the list.

The Anne Arundel County schools' Web site will offer information for parents on opting out and will have a link to a form.

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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