- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The St. Mary’s public school superintendent is on his way out, and the school board faces the first step in filling the void — finding an interim superintendent.
Brad Clements, deputy superintendent of schools and operations, said this week he has withdrawn his name from consideration. He was considered a top candidate for the temporary position.
Superintendent Michael Martirano announced June 26 that he would be leaving St. Mary’s public schools and take a job leading public schools in West Virginia as the state school superintendent. He is expected to stay on in St. Mary’s until near the end of September.
After that, an interim superintendent will be in charge until a new superintendent is in place; that is expected to be in July 2015.
Sal Raspa, board chair, said this week he asked Clements if he was interested in the job. Clements said yes, and later gave Raspa information about how the transition could occur if Clements were selected, including his proposed salary and benefits for taking the job, Raspa said.
However, this week Clements said he no longer wants to be considered for the interim job.
“Your consideration of me as the interim superintendent has caused considerable controversy within the Board of Education, the community, and the employees associations,” Clements wrote to the school board members in an email Wednesday morning. “I am not sure why this is the case in that I have provided 21 years of impeccable service to St. Mary’s County Public Schools under three different superintendents, and one interim superintendent. I considered taking on this role because I felt that my leadership style would support the Board of Education, the school system staff, and the community as we transitioned to a new superintendent. However, it is my understanding that it may be better for the school system if I withdraw my name for consideration as the interim superintendent. I wish you the best of luck in your search for an interim superintendent and the permanent superintendent.”
Raspa said he informed school board members about his discussions with Clements and the transition plan Clements submitted. He said the information was leaked to the public, causing controversy before the school board had a chance to discuss the matter.
Both Raspa and Clements said the information should have been considered confidential, especially early on in the process of choosing an interim superintendent, as it had to do with a personnel matter.
“The board had asked me for my interest,” Clements said. “I had considered it.”
Clements said he was concerned whether he could continue doing his current duties, which over the next year include overseeing the final construction of and redistricting for a new elementary school in Leonardtown. Clements reiterated in interviews this week that he has now asked the school board not to consider him for the interim job.
“We’ve got to get this started, obviously,” Raspa said. “The board wants a smooth transition. That’s what I’m working for. And several other school board members want it that way, too.”
He said the interim superintendent should “be a neutral person” who does not have an interest in pursuing the superintendent’s job permanently. The search for a new superintendent is expected to start this fall, with the expectation that a new superintendent would start July 1, 2015.
“The natural process is to look at our own people,” currently in administrative roles with St. Mary’s public schools,” Raspa said. “The question is, are any of these people going to be interested?”
The school employee unions have said they supported Clements for the temporary job.
“We supported Mr. Clements for interim superintendent,” Anna Laughlin, the teachers union president, said, adding that he is “a fair and honest man,” and “very employee friendly.”
Clements for several years has been on the school board’s negotiating team, which hammers out details for the school union contracts.
“It’s all up in the air now” that Clements is out of the running, Laughlin said.
Raspa said that the school board could approach others to determine interest levels in the interim job. At some point, he said, the school board will offer someone the job, along with a contract that would likely last through June 30, 2015, or until a new superintendent came on board.
“I want everybody on the board to have an opportunity to speak their mind,” Raspa said. He said the school board will likely discuss the interim superintendent position during a closed session of its July 15 meeting, citing personnel. It is “not likely” that they would be able to come to a decision that day, and they may have to have an emergency meeting later this month to finish the work.
Once a decision is made, Raspa said, the choice will be approved in a public portion of a school board meeting.
“The [current] superintendent doesn’t have input, no voting input,” Raspa said. Martirano “might have some ideas and make some recommendations. I would expect him to make some recommendations,” based on working closely with other school administrators during the last nine years, Raspa said.
The school board hasn’t chosen a new superintendent in almost a decade, when Martirano was hired.
“I think the process we used then worked quite well,” board member Cathy Allen said. She said she hopes to have input from the public on what qualities to look for in the new school leader.
Pat Richardson retired as St. Mary’s public schools superintendent in 2004. After she left, Lorraine Fulton, then-deputy superintendent, was appointed as interim superintendent and Ed Weiland moved from director of human resources to interim deputy superintendent. Martirano was hired as superintendent in 2005.
Weiland, who retired from St. Mary’s public schools in 2011 and now works as an administrator at St. Mary’s Ryken High School, said this week that applying for the interim job “may be something I would consider.”
He said he is leaving his options open, including possibly applying for the permanent superintendent job.
“I never close a door,” Weiland said.