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Foose to receive more than $1.6M to leave Howard Co. schools

Dr. Renee Foose will receive more than $1.6 million to leave her position as superintendent of the Howard County Public Schools System under an agreement reached Tuesday with the county’s Board of Education.

Details of the final compensation agreement between Foose and the board come on the same day that a Howard County school board member announced her resignation.

Dr. Renee Foose (File photo)

Dr. Renee Foose (File photo)

The final compensation appears to be substantially more than the amount Foose would have made had she completed the final three years of her contract. Foose, who was being paid $273,000 annually, would have earned a total of $819,000 in salary over the balance of the contract.

Under the agreement, obtained Wednesday through a Maryland Public Information Act request, the bulk of Foose’s compensation — nearly $1.2 million — will come in the form of post-termination payments over the next four years. The first payment of $225,000 is due on May 31.

Additionally, Foose will receive $65,240 in unpaid leave and $171,000 in deferred compensation payments made to a 403B account.

As part of the agreement, Foose also received a check on Tuesday, hours before a final vote by the Board of Education, of nearly $280,000 that is made payable to the state retirement and pension system.

Not included in the final figure is an expected payment for “all work performed through the termination date, to the extent not previously paid” and a lifetime health care benefit.

Timothy Maloney,  Foose’s attorney and a partner at at Greenbelt-based Joseph Greenwald & Laake, declined to comment on the settlement and referred a reporter to a joint statement issued by the board and his client.

“I want to express my gratitude to the teachers, administrators and staff of the Howard County Public School System for their incredibly dedicated work during my five years as Superintendent,” Foose said in that joint statement. “Howard County is the #1 school system in the state of Maryland and one of the top school systems in the country, because of your leadership and commitment.

“I want to thank the students in the Howard County Public School System and their families for your strong support of our public schools.  I also want to thank the public officials in Howard County who supported my tenure as superintendent and supported continued excellence in the Howard County Public School System.  I am proud of my service to the Howard County Public School System and have every expectation that the commitment to excellence in our public schools will continue in the future.”

A spokesman for the school system referred all questions about the agreement to Cynthia Vaillancourt, chair of the board of education.

Vaillancourt was not immediately available for comment.

Andy Barth, a spokesman for Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman, who helped mediate the settlement, referred questions about it to the board.

“This was an action that was taken entirely by the board,” Barth said. “How they arrived at the settlement and what they did has to come from the board. It was not (Kittleman’s) agreement. His role was to mediate and get the two parties in a room together.”
Barth said it not clear how the settlement will impact the school system budget, which is funded by the county and state.
“We will review the settlement and we will work with the school system to determine what the impacts are,” Barth said.

Replacing Foose for the immediate future is Michael J. Martirano, who will serve as acting superintendent at least until June 30.

Martirano, who raised three children in Howard County, was most recently the state schools superintendent in West Virginia, a position he has held since 2014. He announced in March that he would step down from the job at the end of the school year.

Foose, hired in 2012, presided over the 55,000-student school system at a time when it was widely acknowledged to be one of the best in the nation. Her admirers  praised her commitment to addressing racial disparities in the district and to improving and broadening the curriculum.

Critics, however, said she was inaccessible and combative. Parents who were attempting to get information about the extent of a mold problem at district schools and about other issues said the district, under her leadership, stonewalled their efforts to get answers.

The legislature took the almost unprecedented step in 2016 of directing the state’s new public access ombudswoman to investigate how public records requests were handled by the district. Her report said the district delayed, denied and otherwise made it difficult for some residents to obtain documents and data under the Maryland Public Information Act.

Following the 2016 election, the newly elected school board set out to reverse course on many of Foose’s policies in response to parent concerns, Vaillancourt said in an interview Tuesday.

Rumors of Foose’s departure picked up steam last week after the Maryland State Board of Education ordered Foose to recuse herself from a vote to approve a contract with Saul Ewing LLP to represent the board in a lawsuit filed against it by the superintendent.

Foose filed suit in January accusing the newly sworn-in school board of undermining her authority. She claimed in her lawsuit that board members unlawfully directed the superintendent to not communicate with legal counsel, directed the counsel to illegally begin inspecting school records and unlawfully substituted the superintendent’s designee on the Howard County Budget Review Committee. She amended her complaint to include breach of contract and anticipatory breach of contract claims.

The agreement between Foose and the board requires the outgoing superintendent to withdraw that lawsuit.

Also announced Wednesday was the departure of Christine O’Connor, a school board member since 2014 who also served as chair of the board of education.

“I have done my best for the children of Howard County,” O’Connor said in a statement on the school system website. “I feel that it is now an appropriate time for me to conclude my work on behalf of our families, students and community.”

Kittleman is responsible for selecting a replacement, who will complete O’Connor’s term. That term expires in 2018.

 

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