I braved the weather and attended the community meeting seeking input on the search for the new Harford County Superintendent of Schools on Tuesday night at Fallston High School. I was one of four participants. Reports from Wednesday night’s meeting in Havre de Grace indicate that turnout was also in the single digits.
Was it the weather?
Or does access to the Internet change people’s calculations about schlepping to meetings when there are plenty of other places to be? After all, you can email a comment but as far as I know you can’t email your kid to basketball practice (oh, if only…)
Or, is there a lack of confidence that community input plays a role, aside from window dressing, in decisions made by the Harford County Board of Education?
Maybe it’s all of the above. The folks from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) who were hired to conduct the search correctly made it clear that hiring a new superintendent is a school board’s responsibility alone. But the Harford County Board of Education is gathering input from a variety of stakeholders, including parents, teachers, administrators, elected officials and other community leaders. The plan is to use that input to advertise the position nation-wide and have MABE do some initial screening to narrow the list of finalists down to a handful. Then, a series of day-long interviews will take place sometime in May, between each candidate and the various stakeholder groups. But the final decision, expected on or before July 1st, belongs to the seven members of the school board.
Still, I have to say that what our little Tuesday night group lacked in numbers, we made up for in productivity. We filled the entire hour with answers to all 3 questions and then answered some questions that weren’t even asked, just for good measure. Themes emerged such as the need to involve parents, teachers and hard data in decision-making, improve communication from the ground up, support special ed and gifted students, review all aspects of CSSRP and to seek a qualified person who will be able to work well with our diverse population, from the rural areas, to the towns, to the newcomers from BRAC.
All were parents as far as I could tell and none was shy about speaking her mind. Yes, all were women. All except for one attendee, a high school principal who took notes but never uttered a word. Was he there out of curiosity? Does he want the job for himself? Or was he reporting back to someone who does? Just because a search goes national, doesn’t mean an insider is out of the running.
Hopefully, the school board will get more input by email than they did in person. As promised, I told MABE’s Bea Gordon, who is in charge of the search, that I would forward her our comments here on The Dagger. Please feel free to add to them by emailing Bea Gordon directly at firstname.lastname@example.org Just be careful you don’t email her your star basketball player by mistake.
I had a conflict or I would have been there. I have to admit, it wasn’t much of a priority for me. My main concern for a new superintendent is someone who will oversee the administration, who will manage their reports, and will be honest with the public about those reports. I want someone who isn’t willing to experiment on our children, someone who will make reading and math a piority over clusters and LICW, someone who feels teachers are more important and will cut down on administrators. Our appointed BOE would never hire someone like that.
I get worried when we are supposed to just email our thoughts to HCPS because who know where that e-mail goes. I fear that all of it goes to the trash section automatically, I truly do because HCPS and the BOE have repeatedly shown that they will do what they want to.
I want an Superintendent that truly values the opinions of the parents and the teachers. It is these groups that know the kids as they spend the time in and out of school with the kids. Those that did experiment with our kids through the HS Reform are out of the classroom, some for many years, and lack the real life affect their changes and plans have on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
So, I want a Superintendent that has enough guts to truly look at the State of HC Public Schools, CSSRP report and the recommendations and what is currently being done at our schools. After an honest evaluation, I want the Superintendent to have enough guts to ask. “What is in the best interest of the students?” I think if that is done, then he/she would have to make some changes. I do not want someone that is scared to make changes and just stay the course.
I mentioned a little about this earlier but a new Superintendent should also show that he/she values the teachers of Harford County. A key part is communication but beyond the shear ability to get information out, is the fact that a Superintendent should listen to teacher input as to the type of schedule, creation of classes (LICW) and other things because the teachers have the pulse of the schools and the pulse of the true education process. The teachers in Harford County know that it doesn’t matter what they say on a survery, interview or e-mail because those in their nice new administration building will do what they want. They will then say they got input from the teachers and parents but ultimately do what they want to, which is why there was so much frustration and apathy with the past administration. The teaher’s voice didn’t count for anything. Ex: the block schedule was decided well in advance no matter how the parent and teacher meetings went.
These are some things that I feel are important.
HCPS Taxpayer says
I think the best possible candidate for Superintendant would be the current principal of Aberdeen High School. Tom Szerensits.
If you look at what he has done for that school in the last 5 years it’s unbelievable. They are now the only rt. 40 “corridor” school passing the HSA (meeting annual expectations).
He has also won an award for best staff development programs.
He gets students to pass and teachers to teach their best. He turned that school around 180 degrees. What more do you want from a Superintendant?
What effect has the Science and Math Academy had on test scores in Aberdeen? If you took those kids out of the test score equation, what would the difference be? Not saying there isn’t improvement but those students must have helped.
I think there is a lot more to being a superintendent than turning around one school. What kind of staff development programs did he implement? What is he doing differently than other principals? I do think a principal can have a profound positive and/or negative effect on a school and the staff so I am curious as to what specifically he has done. If it is so effective, why aren’t other schools doing it too? In my opinion, a good superintendent would look at what is working and why and see if it could work in other schools. One of the classes that is such a problem in the school system (Living in a Contemporary World) was being taught at Aberdeen without a curriculum and then brought into every school in the county so that is an example of the opposite occurring.
Looking forward to hearing what is going on in Aberdeen because I don’t hear too much about that school…
Another parent says
I made the trek to Fallston High School on Tuesday night, primarily because I wanted to see first hand how sincere this effort really is. I have to say the folks from MABE appeared to be focused and presented themselves and this meeting as an earnest effort ( to them it is not window dressing). (Remember they had to come out in the “inclement weather” also.)-but that is just my two cents.
Please note any comments were to be emailed directly to MABE so hopefully folks did not hesitate to send them in. (I understand what Ren is saying, but in this case it’s not going to the black hole on Hickory Ave!)
As the article indicates the MABE folks made it quite clear this is ultimately the board’s decision-so I would hate to think the BOE is wasting this kind of money if they aren’t sincere about listening to this group and their recommendations.
What I find most ironic is that basically Gov O’Malley is selecting HCPS’ next superintendent. If you stop and think that he made the most recent 2 appointments ignoring the recommendations of the independent Board of Ed recommendation group last July. Ultimately his selection for the 2 vacant seats is now playing a pivotal role in selecting our new superintendent. Go figure! I would have appreciated Nancy Reynolds’ vote on this matter- who was a respected educator and administrator in HCPS. But once again this is futher evidence that having an appointed board demonstrates how political this current process really is.
I hope that regardless of the quantity of comments MABE receives whether via the community meetings or emails, that they value the quality of the comments. I think parents and teachers are frustrated and feel like their opinions are not listened to, or wanted for that matter.
Maybe a new superintendent can change the perceived climate currently in place.
If you go the the MABE website, mabe.org. They are currently involved in searches for 3 other Maryland superentendents, Alleghany, Cecil, and Prince Georges Counties. I was impressed with how PG county is going about notifying its stakeholders about the meetings and the process. If it hadn’t been for “Dagger” I would not have known about the meetings or the online form. I also noticed that the residents of PG county got the same questionaire we did. Maybe the reason the meeting was held in bad weather is because MABE is involved in 3 other searches.
Is there going to be a point in this process where there will be public meetings to meet the candidates and ask questions? Or was last week the only time the public gets to make comments? I can’t find anything on the HCPS web site that talks about the selection proceess and how it’s going to work.
The plan is to allow some members of the public to meet and talk with the final candidates for superintendent, but they will be an invited group of 12-15 people, forming one of the stakeholder groups that will participate in the day-long interviews noted in the story above.
But that begs the question – who will be doing the inviting, MABE or the BOE? I’ll try and find out. I’ll also ask for these details in written form. I picked them up from MABE’s presentation at the last BOE meeting and also at the stakeholder input meeting.
I went on to Cecil County Schools site and they have a Superintendent in place at least that is what it appears on their site. I like how they have or are transitioning to a fully elected school board. You can go and read the bios of the school board members and easily e-mail them. I guess, I wished we had that elected school board and it was more open.
So what makes some one a “qualified” super?
According to MABE’s presentation to the BOE last week, the state requirements for a superintendent are:
Teaching certification, K-12
3 years teaching experience
2 years administrative experience
Masters degree and 60 hours of administration and supervisory course work
Whichever candidate the BOE selects, State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick must certify that he or she meets the above requirements. Grasmick can also issue a waiver, but Bea Gordon from MABE said Grasmick was not in the habit of granting waivers.
I also thought it was interesting that MABE says they have already gotten calls from interested candidates and that they recommend advertising the position in national, but not state or local publications.
I’m still trying to get all of this in writing. HCPS is planning to expand the link on their website at some point and I also have an inquiry in to MABE.
In searching for a new superintendent, I encourage the committee to take “classroom experience” a step further. The candidate’s classroom experience should be in an academic subject which is “tested.” Teachers in the “tested” disciplines experience greater accountability, intensity, and more precise planning ; all of which is important for a superintendent to understand.
I thought it was a bit funny that the delegates from Harford were spouting out about how they wanted someone locally to get the job. The article on this was in the Aegis. These are people who can’t even agree on who is in charge of the chair and vice chair of the delegation yet they want a local individual to be the next superintendent.
I definitely want someone outside of Harford County to come in as he/she would have no vested interest in what has been going on over the last 3 years. They would not feel allegiance to just continuing down the same path, no matter what the CRSSSP (spelling is off, sorry haven’t had my coffee) reports or recommends. That is the problem, will it be the good old boy system to a certain point? It certainly could be and I just don’t trust anyone from Harford to have the guts to say we made some mistakes and we must correct them. I know that sounds bad but nobody has yet to listened to parents, teachers and students so I just don’t see why someone from Harford would all the sudden start to.
Hope you all have a good day!
Update on the superintendent search: Bea Gordon from MABE said she received responses from about 200 stakeholders, 80 were from the general public – she called it a very large response from her experience, telling the BOE last night “people were interested in participating” in the process.
Here’s a link to the update on the superintendent search, thanks to HCPS:
My favorite part is how the Board thinks the Superentendent should do more succession planning. Kinda late on that one.
Absolutely, the new Sup. needs to come from outside Harford. Outside Maryland would be even better. You get a diffent view of the world when you’ve lived in different parts of the country.
Hopefully, the high response rate sends a message to the school Board that we the parents and taxpayers want some change on Hickory Ave. If you want to read about a great Superententdent, read the 3 part series in the Sun on Andres Alonzo. Think about what someone like that could do in Harford County, where we are already starting out with great advantages.
Instead of a small group of 12-15 people being involved in that process, Would it be possible to reserve a larger venue such as a local auditorium? Have all the candidates come on the same day and have sort of a live interview with candidates fielding questions from those the “stakeholders” that attend? Allow for time after the session for stakeholders to email their input.
I believe the feeling in our current system is one of desperation and as time passes despite their efforts that sentiment grows.
A truly QUALIFIED candidate, without any special interest besides our children!! That is what I as a mom of 4 would look for in the next superintendent!