Montgomery County School Superintendent Charles M. Bernardo, who announced suddenly in May that he would resign the position he had been battling for months to keep, will receive about $46,000 in severance pay, according to a contract released yesterday.
The formal agreement between Bernardo and the school board provides the 41-year-old administrator with $18,000 in lieu of retirement benefits and a lump sum payment of $28,396.26 covering salary he would have earned through Dec. 12. That date will be the first anniversary of the day the board notified Bernardo of its intentions to remove him.
The contract also allows Bernardo to invest $12,500 of the sum for a pension after retires.
In exchange for the severance package, Bernardo has agreed to resign Friday. He also agreed to drop the appeal he has filed seeking to overturn a Circuit Court judge's descision that invalidated Bernardo's second four-year contract.
The severance agreement formally ends a conflict of both philosophies and personalities that pitted Bernardo and what his supporters called his innovations against the four-member school board majority who championed a "back-to-basics" approach.
A board statement attached to the agreement, said that "the decision of the Board of Education not to reappoint Dr. Bernardo was not made on the basis of any alleged lack of qualifications or competence of Dr. Bernardo.
"Rather, the decision was made as a result of good faith differences in educational and managerial philosphy," the statement continued.
Bernardo's reappointment by last year's school board - a move that came about 18 months before his first four-year contract expired - was made a major campaign issue by the four new board members elected to the seven-member board last November. In December, the board's four-member majority filed suit to revoke the contract.
The negotiations that led to the agreement began April 1, one day after the court upheld the school board's suit. The board members said they wanted to avoid further legal costs that could have resulted from Bernardo's appeal. After six weeks of secret negotiations between the lawyers for Bernardo and the board, the general terms of yesterday's contract were agreed upon. It took nearly another month to work out the exact legal wording.
Bernardo - who denied until the day of the announcement May 10 that any negotiations were taking place, and who has not been available for comment on the agreement since - has not said what his future plans are, other than to indicate that he is considering a job offer in the Washington area.
Longtime county school administrator J. Edward Andrews will become interim superintendent on Friday. He has been acting superintendent since Bernardo went on leave the day he announced he would resign. Most teachers, administrators and principals have welcomed his appointment.
Harry Pitt, a 17-year veteran of the school system, will become acting deputy superintendent, replacing Floretta McKenzie, who is taking a U.S. job.
The Montgomery NAACP criticized the appointment of two white males to the top posts yesterday as a "clear indication of a return to a white male, old buddy system."
Members of both school board factions expressed optimism yesterday. "We're going to have a period of stability instead of insituting any innovations," said Joseph Barse of the majority. "The school system has been in an uproar ever since the election," said Daryl Shaw, a member of the minority. "Dr. Andrews is trying to get that washed out and (get) back to work." CAPTION: Picture, CHARLES M. BERNARDO . . . severance agreement cleared