The Prince George's County Board of Education granted Superintendent John A. Murphy a $10,000 raise for the 1990-91 school year under an otherwise lean spending plan that officials say leaves little room for improvements and new programs.

Murphy's raise, which is double the 5 percent awarded to most of the system's employees, falls far short of the $40,000 raise the school board offered the superintendent in February in an effort to keep him from pursuing the top post in the Miami schools. Murphy pulled out of the February agreement after it caused an uproar.

Murphy's new salary package, which was approved 8 to 2 in executive session during Thursday's board meeting, will raise his salary to $120,000 in July and increase his yearly annuity from $10,000 to $15,000. Murphy is entering the third year of a four-year contract that also provides annual housing and car allowances of $6,000 each.

Although Murphy has said he plans to remain in the county, at least for the near future, several board members said they fear that he will leave. Board Chairman Doris A. Eugene said those concerns weighed heavily in the board's decision to give him the $10,000 raise.

"I just think that he has done so much for the school system," she said. "The course he has put us on and the outcomes we have seen . . . it's not as much as we would like to give him, but, well, it's just worth it."

Murphy, whose salary was $76,000 when he was hired six years ago, was not available for comment yesterday.

The new package makes Murphy the region's highest-paid superintendent. Fairfax County's Robert R. Spillane is second, with a contract that includes a $116,550 annual salary and a $10,000 yearly annuity.

Murphy's raise rankles some school employees and community activists, who say the salary package is unjustified during a year in which a tight budget has led the board to make staff cuts and trim classroom resources. The $552.8 million spending plan approved Thursday night outlines several significant reductions in programs recommended in the original budget, including modest staff decreases at certain elementary and high schools and reductions in a proposed expansion of the pool of substitute teachers.

Marjorie Spirer, president of the Prince George's County Educators Association, objected to the size of Murphy's pay raise. "In a time when everyone is being asked to suck it in and give a little bit more, it is difficult to ask teachers to give more and more and then give the superintendent a pay raise that is double that given to other employees," she said.

In February, at the urging of County Executive Parris Glendening, who said Murphy is crucial to continued improvements in the system, the board offered the superintendent a contract that would have guaranteed a $150,000 salary until the year 2000, under the condition that he not seek work elsewhere.

Parents, teachers and school employees quickly denounced the cost and length of the contract. Criticism was particularly strong among black people who thought Murphy had not done enough to improve minority achievement. Murphy, citing "racial politics and political gamesmanship," pulled out of the agreement and vowed to search for another job.

Paul R. Shelby and Brenda B. Hughes, who voted against the raise, said Murphy's pay is so high that it comes at the expense of instructional programs.

"We stayed there until 2:30 the other night looking for ways to cut this and cut that out of the budget," Shelby said. "When you have to cut the way we did . . . then I think it sends a terrible message to the community to give the superintendent a lavish raise."

Shelby, who voted in favor of the $150,000 offer in February, said he has since changed his mind about hefty salaries. "You have to make choices," Shelby said. "And the choices should have the greatest benefit for the children."