Montgomery County school superintendent Edward Andrews will announce today that he is resigning next June as chief steward of the county's embattled school system, according to reliable sources.
Andrews, who emerged unscathed from a year of school-closing battles that alienated much of the community from the seven-member school board, reportedly is giving up his $70,000-a-year job because he is tired of the controversy that has surrounded the board for most of the two years he has served as superintendent.
"He just hates the headache, he doesn't like the infighting," said one source. "It's fair to say that he is just tired of the hassle."
Another factor in Andrews' decision, according to several sources close to him, was the overwhelming work load he assumed as a result of the board's handling of school closings in the past 18 months. Some sources said Andrews always had disliked the job of superintendent, which he had been pressured to accept after the board forced out liberal superintendent Charles M. Bernardo. When he was appointed in 1980, Andrews said he would consider retiring early to spend more time with his family.
His departure a year before his term expires is the latest in a series of changes in school superintendents throughout the region.
Earlier this year, the Fairfax County school board forced superintendent Lynton Deck to resign because of personality clashes with board members and differences over his style of leadership. In 1980, D.C. schools chief Vincent E. Reed quit his job because of disagreements with the school board's policies. Larry Cuban, a progressive superintendent in Arlington, resigned under pressure last year after a conservative majority took control of the city's board.
As superintendent of the 92,000-student system, Andrews masterfully has avoided the bitter conflicts swirling in his midst, seldom revealing his personal opinions of the school board's actions. His ability to survive the divisive encounters between the school board and the community -- particularly the minority and liberal community that, for the most part, viewed him as an ally -- kept his reputation virtually untarnished and earned him points for political savvy. He often was referred to as "a country slicker" who was "dumb like a fox."
It is clear from discussions with Andrews' closest associates that fundamental philosophical differences with the conservative bloc on the board were part of his decision to resign. As one of the county's original architects of school integration, Andrews became increasingly fed up with the direction charted by the board's conservative majority, according to several sources.
Last year the board turned aside Andrews' recommendations in several key school-closing cases where racial integration was the chief issue. The state Board of Education later overruled the actions of the county board -- and in so doing upheld Andrews' proposals -- on grounds that it had ignored its own commitment to school integration.
The board's handling of the school closings, which resulted in appeals to the state board of education, lengthy preparation for lawsuits, and frequent rearranging of pupil assignments, consumed most of Andrews' time during the past nine months.
Andrews' resignation, although not entirely a surprise, is sure to become a factor in the school board elections this fall, and could add momentum to the campaign led by EDPAC, a liberal political action committee formed last year to oust the current board majority.
The 48-year-old superintendent has been careful to isolate himself from the campaign, and delayed announcing his resignation until after the primary election earlier this month. Despite his public efforts to avoid influencing the election, Andrews reportedly has said in private conversations that he hopes the current conservative majority is defeated.
He was a close ally and friend of Elizabeth W. Spencer, a moderate-to-liberal board member who resigned last July to challenge current conservative board member Marian L. Greenblatt in the 8th Congressional District primary, which Spencer won. Andrews, according to sources, tried to persuade Spencer to stay on the board because he believed that she was able to moderate the tendencies of the conservative majority.
"I think Ed feels he has done what he could do," said David Naimon, a former student member of the board and a friend of Andrews. "This is just speculation, but it seems to me that there was no room for him to make real progress with this board. It was just a question of avoiding regression."
Four of the board's seats are at stake in the Nov. 2 general election. EDPAC candidates won the top four spots in the primary. Two conservative incumbents up for reelection, Joseph Barse and Carol Wallace, came in fifth and sixth.
Although some EDPAC members were disappointed that Andrews never openly criticized the board majority, the liberal candidates had assured him that, if elected, they would like him to serve out his term.
The selection of a new superintendent will be left to the incoming board, so the philosophy and direction of its new members becomes even more important with Andrews' decision to resign.
By retiring after three years as superintendent and 26 years in the system, Andrews will be eligible for handsome retirement benefits. He has not accepted another job yet, according to sources.