Anne Arundel County teachers took an overwhelming vote of no confidence late Wednesday against Superintendent Eric J. Smith, a final gesture of defiance against an administrator who has less than a month to work in the county.
The governing council of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County voted 109 to 2 against Smith, who lost the support of many classroom teachers early in his three-year tenure through a series of controversial changes in scheduling and curriculum. The confidence vote grew out of a summer survey by the union that revealed Smith's support among teachers to be in the single digits on matters of cooperation and trust.
The vote came just hours after the county school board voted to give Smith an 8 percent performance bonus, signifying that he has largely met the academic goals he set after arriving in the county in 2002. Even Smith's harshest critics on the board approved the $16,887 bonus, echoing the near-unanimous opinion that he made the schools more rigorous.
"The quantitative goals, which are measurable, he has met," said Michael G. Leahy, one of two board members who have consistently opposed Smith's departure.
Some on Smith's senior staff regarded the no-confidence vote as an act of spite, considering that union leaders have known since September that the superintendent was leaving for a job at Harvard. Smith had a falling out with the school board over a summer audit that exposed excessive pay to top administrators.
The vote "does not send a constructive or positive message to our community, or anybody," said Konrad M. Wayson, the school board president. He noted that the group is about to embark on a national search for Smith's permanent replacement.
Union president Sheila Finlayson said teachers felt they had to proceed with the confidence vote, which had been discussed since spring. Teachers wished to telegraph their displeasure with Smith to any prospective future employer, she said. The vote also serves as a warning to his short-term replacement, veteran Anne Arundel educator Nancy Mann, who was named interim superintendent the same day as the confidence ballot.
Finlayson said she and Smith have not spoken more than a few words to each other since May. "And he's still here, and he's still making decisions that impact teachers," she said.
Mann is scheduled to start work as interim schools chief Nov. 24, the day after Smith departs.