The good life is abundant in Howard County, which ranks second in the nation in median household income, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Howard's median household income of $88,555 puts it below Somerset County, N.J. ($89,289), but ahead of the other top-ranked Washington area counties of Prince William ($82,926) and Fairfax ($80,753) in Virginia and neighboring Montgomery ($76,439).

Richard W. Story, chief executive officer of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, said the income figures aren't surprising, given Howard's longtime reputation for a highly educated workforce and top-notch schools. Story had some numbers of his own. About 93,000 Howard residents work outside the county, and 57,800 live and work here.

About 77,000 people commute into the county to work. They are, he said, "the people who can't afford to live here."

Looking for an Early Out

The Howard County school board is considering asking the county's delegation to the Maryland legislature to sponsor a measure that would allow the board to remove a superintendent after members decide not to renew his contract.

Under current law, the board has the power to hire a superintendent but is locked into a four-year contract, unless the state superintendent agrees to remove the local schools chief. After four years, the board must give notification by March 1 if it does not plan to renew the superintendent's contact. However, the superintendents may stay through the end of the contract's term, to June 30.

The new legislation would allow the board to remove a superintendent in the fourth year between March 1 and June 30 and buy out the remainder of the educator's contract to prevent lame-duck situations. School board Chairman Courtney Watson asked for the change during the board's meeting last week.

In January, the board told then-Superintendent John O'Rourke that it did not plan to renew his contract and asked him to leave by the end of that month. O'Rourke initially vowed to stay through the end of his term but accepted a buyout and left at the end of February.