SEVERNA PARK – Coming out of retirement to become Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ interim superintendent wasn’t a hard decision for Nancy M. Mann. But she is already looking forward to her last day.
Mann, 58, said loyalty brought her back to work after retiring in June as assistant superintendent for instruction.
“I felt this was a way I could give back,” Mann said. “This school system was so wonderful. At my retirement party people asked me to come back, and I knew I would come back if asked.”
Mann is taking over the schools chief position from Eric J. Smith, who has been the system’s superintendent since 2002.
Mann said she was surprised at her former boss’ resignation, which he announced in September. Smith will take an unpaid job at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Since Smith was hired three years ago, a rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum program was introduced in the county, the number of Advanced Placement classes offered has gone up and county standardized test scores have risen.
“He did the job we asked him to do,” said Debbie T. Ritchie, president of the County Council of Parent Teacher Associations. “Our scores are up, and they continue to grow. It didn’t just happen the first year. It’s continued each year” Smith has been here.
But Smith’s relationship with the Board of Education soured following a critical human resources audit last summer. The Teachers’ Association of Anne Arundel County voted no-confidence in Smith in October after he resigned.
The PTA council had fewer problems with Smith, and at an October board meeting presented him with honorary lifetime membership in the state PTA.
“Overall we’re moving in the right direction,” Ritchie said. “Nancy’s job is to just make sure we continue on the course and that we don’t make any major changes.”
Ritchie said Mann’s administrative style, which is very different from Smith’s, will make her a successful superintendent.
“She has the ability to maybe smooth over some of the rough times we’ve been going through,” Ritchie said. “Mrs. Mann’s style is … more calming and quieter. She’s less frenetic.”
Janice Haberlein, principal at Glen Burnie Elementary School, said, “She will be a wonderful transition superintendent. She doesn’t need that learning curve. She’s ready to roll.”
The first item on Mann’s agenda is next year’s budget. She will work with the Board of Education before the budget is presented to the county executive and council. The budget process will take up much of her time until May.
But she said she will not implement any changes in the system.
“As interim, I’m really preparing for the new superintendent,” she said. “My role is to really stabilize the system. It’s different from the superintendent’s role, but I will be very busy.”
The packed schedule was what Mann liked least about her assistant superintendent position because she wanted to spend more time in schools with children and teachers.
But she knows as the schools leader, her schedule will likely be even more hectic.
Mann plans to meet with her new staff, as well as elementary, middle school and high school principals in the next few weeks. She will also speak at regional community meetings, including the PTA council and the board’s countywide Citizen Advisory Committee.
Sam Georgiou, chairman of the committee, said he is looking forward to working with Mann, whom he has known for six or seven years.
“I’ve always found her to have children at the forefront of all her decisions,” Georgiou said. “What’s best for kids always seems to play into her decisions.”
Mann’s decision to return from retirement was made the same way she made the decision to retire: with her family’s input.
After working for 35 years in the county as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, Mann said her daughter-in-law, Catherine, started asking when she would retire.
Catherine reminded her that grandson William Milton Mann would soon be entering kindergarten. William is 2, but the idea of missing quality time with him spurred Mann to retire. “That meant more to me than one more year of work,” she said.
Growing up in West Virginia, Mann always knew she was going to be a teacher.
“Ask my two younger sisters,” Mann said. “I would sit them on the sofa or swing on the porch and teach them.”
Mann said her first grade teacher was her inspiration to teach. “Miss Rains was a fabulous teacher, and I knew from a young age I wanted to be like her,” Mann said. “She valued each child, and each child felt loved by her.”
Mann earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Fairmont State College in West Virginia.
Mann moved to Maryland with her husband, a Presbyterian minister. She earned her master’s degree in administration from Johns Hopkins University.
Nancy and John Mann have been married 37 years, and they will celebrate their next anniversary April 10. They live in Severn, and their son, John Wesley Mann, and his family live 15 minutes away in Severna Park.
Mann began her career teaching third grade at Harman Elementary School in Hanover in 1970. She said within her first two years her principal told her she was being prepared for administration.
From there she moved up quickly, as assistant principal for that and other schools and later an elementary school principal. By 1985 she was director of the county’s elementary schools.
Mann became assistant superintendent for instruction in 1993 and remained in that position until she retired.
Mann said she has been blessed by her mentors. “I’ve never applied for a job on my own,” she said. “I was always asked to apply.” That was true even with the interim superintendent position. The Board of Education approached her about taking the job.