CENTREVILLE — January’s Queen Anne’s County Board of Education meeting began fraught with tension as Superintendent Andrea Kane thanked those who wished her well and sent words of encouragement during her recent extended leave of absence.

It was the most challenging time of her professional career, she said.

Reading from a prepared statement, Kane said, “Despite the discrimination and retaliation that I’ve experienced by the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education my resolve to fight racism in Queen Anne’s County Public Schools is stronger than ever.”

Kane said during her absence efforts were made to dissolve partnerships with contractors who supported equity efforts. Since her return she has renewed those partnerships and schools will once again engage in practices centered on diversity, equity and anti-racism.

Giving praise to other school systems for their progress on diversity and inclusion, Kane cited a student board from Anne Arundel County for encouraging a conversation and advocating change against overt and covert racism and whose efforts further amended language in that school system to include Black Lives Matter.

Kane was interrupted by board Vice President Marc Schifanelli, who said an employee of the board may not legally endorse a political agenda.

Kane responded saying she has freedom of speech and was not breaking any law.

Another attempt by Schifanelli to interrupt Kane’s statement was quieted first by member Tammy Harper and then by board President Dick Smith.

Kane said she refused to let hateful and racist rhetoric cast aspersions over the accomplishments of the system under her leadership, which include building a diverse work force and the adoption of the first course on African American studies.

“This is a reminder that I will not stop speaking out the issues of racism, injustice and inequity in Queen Anne’s County ... call it out for what it is,” Kane said. “I continue to pray that this community will find a path to awareness, understanding and reconciliation for the benefit of everyone.”

After Kane had finished, Smith said he took offense to some of her comments.

“I am hurt that you feel this way,” he said, adding there had been good leadership prior to Kane that he did not wish diminished. “(I do) take offense that some of your beliefs and statements do not represent Queen Anne’s County.”

Schifanelli said Kane mentioned during her speech the board had not approved an equity policy. He asked if there was a reason the equity policy that had been on the agenda for second reading was removed from the night’s agenda.

Smith deferred to Harper, who sits on the policy committee.

Harper said the committee would reconvene at the end of the month to determine whether it would be an equity policy or plan before being submitted for a second reading.

To Schifanelli’s point, he said, there is an equity policy in “the works” by leadership and has been for some time.

The Queen Anne’s County Board of Education has begun its search for a Superintendent of Schools with the assistance from Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE).

While Kane has resumed her duties as superintendent she will be leaving the school system in June, at the end of her term.

During the Jan. 4 meeting, William Middleton, the lead MABE consultant, provided an update to the board outlining the process for this search.

Middleton spoke about starting the process by gathering stakeholder input regarding desired characteristics in the superintendent as well as identify current and future challenges in the system.

The vacancy will be advertised starting on Feb. 1. Applications will be reviewed in March, with first-round interviews starting late March to early April.

All interviews will be conducted virtually.

The chosen candidate for the position will be announced by June for the new superintendent to officially begin on July 1.

The survey can be taken at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/qacpssupersurvey and must be submitted to MABE no later than 5 p.m. Monday, January 18.

Any questions regarding the superintendent search process or procedures should be directed to Middleton, wmiddleton@mabe.org, or Harper, tamera.harper@qacps.org.

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