WHEN IRIS METTS took over as superintendent of Prince George's County schools in July, she promised positive change in a hurry. Within weeks she instituted top-to-bottom revisions, addressed a drastic shortage of teachers and eliminated 130 positions in the central administration. This week the superintendent's efforts won new recognition -- along with state aid that had been withheld since last spring because of concerns in Annapolis about inefficiency, wasteful spending and outdated technology.

Lawmakers who had been highly critical of the school system attribute the progress to Ms. Metts, citing quick responses to recommendations made in a state-ordered audit. State Sen. Barbara Hoffman of Baltimore, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, cited the new superintendent's ability to act rather than talk and to rally previously warring county and state legislators behind her programs. Del. Pete Rawlings of Baltimore, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and a major critic, also is pleased.

The immediate reward: $8 million in withheld funds, hardly a bonanza but symbolically important to parents and others in Prince George's who have been desperate for some signs of a turnaround. In fact, Ms. Metts already has saved $8 million with elimination of those administrative positions. State school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick says changes made by the system played a role in her decision to approve its master plan and release millions in grants for various programs. "The collaboration has never been better," Ms. Grasmick reports.

If the "new day" promised by Superintendent Metts for Prince George's is to realize greater achievement in the classrooms, the collaboration of elected leaders must continue. At stake is the retention of those public school families who have been on the verge of moving or sending their children to other schools. Says Del. Rushern L. Baker III, chairman of the Prince George's legislative delegation: "We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we're on the right road."