The morning after he retires as superintendent of Prince George's County schools, Jerome Clark will report for work as chief of staff and vice president at Bowie State University, it was announced yesterday. For Clark, 56, the new job will take him back to his alma mater on July 1.
"I couldn't have asked for any better situation for myself or my family. . . . It's a golden opportunity," Clark said. "It's very satisfying because it gives me a new focus . . . and there's enough latitude in the job to satisfy my need for independence."
Clark has received a six-month contract that would result in a $98,000 annual salary if extended to cover the full year. He will handle a variety of tasks, including fund-raising, helping to develop new programs and serving as the university's public representative at events that interim President Wendell M. Holloway is unable to attend.
Since the mid-1990s, Bowie State has made a transition from a historically black, teacher-training college to a technology-oriented institution with more than 5,000 graduate and undergraduate students.
The change has not been without controversy: Former president Nathanael Pollard Jr. resigned last year after disclosures of deficits in the budget of the university's fund-raising foundation from the purchase of Washington Redskins season tickets and other expenditures. The college, which has an annual budget of $49 million, also ran up a small operating deficit.
Since his appointment, Holloway has sought to improve the public image of the school. He said the arrangement that brought Clark back to the university was reached in less than three weeks because "the chemistry was just right."
"I started asking questions: 'Are you interested in staying in the area? Would you be interested in Bowie?' " Holloway said. "When he said, 'That would be exciting,' I grabbed the reins and ran."
Clark's staying in Prince George's County was of primary importance.
"I wanted to stay home," said Clark, who lives in Mitchellville with his wife and a young son. "The fact that I didn't have to relocate influenced my decision."
Clark received a master's degree from Bowie State in early childhood education in 1974. He said he has "kept an eye" on the college since then because he studied there and because of partnerships the school has with the county public school system.
Clark said he would spend the next week acquainting himself with the school's most pressing issues--and learning his way around.
"This place has changed a lot since I was here," he said. "It didn't look like this."
Henry J. Raymond, interim dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies and a former professor of Clark's, said he suggested that Holloway contact Clark about a position at the university.
"Our relationship goes back a long ways," Raymond said. "[Clark] will be a tremendous asset to the college in terms of image, credibility and the kind of leadership this university needs in time of transition."
Raymond said Clark would be a "linchpin" in helping Bowie to "work more closely with the county, as far as certifying teachers. . . . What better person to bring to Bowie?"
Clark, an ordained Baptist deacon, has an open disdain for politics. He decided to retire as pressure mounted from state legislators and school board members who wanted faster reform in the county school system. Iris T. Metts, Delaware's education secretary, will replace Clark on July 6.
CAPTION: When he retires July 1 as school superintendent in Prince George's County, Jerome Clark will become chief of staff and vice president at Bowie State University, his alma mater. He has a six-month contract.