School & District Management

Maryland Superintendent Who Sued Her School Board Resigns

By Denisa R. Superville — May 03, 2017 3 min read
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Renee Foose, who was locked in a power struggle with the Howard County, Md., school board, has resigned her post.

Foose, whose “retirement,” was announced Tuesday and was effective immediately, will be replaced by Michael Martirano, who will serve as acting superintendent until June 30, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Martirano is a longtime Maryland educator. He also served as West Virginia’s state education chief until he announced last year that he planned to leave in June 2017 to be closer to his family in Maryland.

He told the Baltimore Sun that he had always wanted to be Howard County’s superintendent—where he previously served as director of elementary education—and that it was a dream come true to return to the county. He’d also served as superintendent of the St. Mary’s County school system.

The school board agreed to pay Foose $1.13 million in four installments until 2020, the Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday. When other benefits are added up—including lifetime health benefits—Foose departure package could reach a whopping $1.65 million, according the paper.

Foose’s annual salary was $273,000.

The power struggle between Foose and the school board dates to December, when three new members joined the board following the November elections. The new members were able to create a majority block on the seven-member panel, and the board subsequently passed eight resolutions that scaled back Foose’s authority, according to The Sun.

Foose sued the school board accusing its members of trying to “strip the superintendent of her lawful authority,” Education Week reporter Francisco Vara-Orta wrote in January. She also alleged that she faced discrimination as an out lesbian, Vara-Orta reported. Board president Cynthia Vaillancourt told Vara-Orta that Foose was attempting to take over the board’s ability to govern the district.

Foose, who was in the first year of a second four-year contract, told Vara-Orta at the time that she had no plans to leave her position.

The tension between the elected board and the superintendent spilled over into the district of 55,000 students.

In a joint statement issued by Foose and the board, Foose said she was proud of her time in Howard County and thanked the staff for their work.

“I want to thank the students in the Howard County Public School System and their families for your strong support of our public schools,” she said. “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.”

Vaillancourt’s statement also expressed gratitude to Foose.

“The Board of Education of Howard County wishes to express its appreciation to Dr. Renee Foose for her commitment and service to the Howard County Public School System. During her tenure, Howard County was consistently ranked the top school system in the state and one of the top systems in the country,” Vaillancourt said. “We are grateful for her leadership.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, the board is expected to meet on May 18 to consider several options related to Martirano’s future with the district, including a one-year contract as interim superintendent or a four-year contract to serve as the permanent, full-time schools chief. The board can also decide to hire another candidate.

Photo: Michael Martirano, the former state education chief in West Virginia, will serve as acting superintendent of Howard County, Md., schools until June 30.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.