HCPS Superintendent Tomback to Leave Office: “At the Close of This School Year I Will Go Forward to Pursue Other Opportunities”

Harford Schools Superintendent Robert M. Tomback announced Monday that he will leave office at the close of this school year to pursue “other opportunities.”

In an e-mail to school system employees, Tomback wrote: “The favorable conditions that prevail in the Harford County Public Schools, coupled with the bright future that lies ahead, make this an opportune time for the next superintendent to be selected to lead this school system.

With his four-year contract set to expire on June 30, Tomback was required to notify the Harford County Board of Education by Friday whether he would seek reappointment. The School Board now has until July 1st to choose Tomback’s successor.

Robert Tomback was an area assistant superintendent for Baltimore County Public Schools in 2009 when he was tapped to run Harford County Public Schools, the eighth largest of the state’s 24 school systems. Approximately 38,000 students are enrolled in HCPS, which also has 5,300 employees and a proposed $443 million operating budget for next year.

“On behalf of the Board of Education of Harford County, I would like to wish Dr. Tomback well on all of his future endeavors,” Board President Rick Grambo said in a statement. “We would also like to thank him for his four years of service to the students and staff of Harford County.”

The Harford School Board will choose Tomback’s successor sometime before July 1 when, in accordance with state law, the next superintendent’s term is set to begin.

Headhunting for a superintendent will be new for most of the current board members; eight of the nine sitting members were not in office when Tomback was hired. The school board at that time established a selection process that included a nationwide search and applicants screened by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education. Finalists, including Tomback, were later interviewed by various stakeholder groups that made non-binding recommendations to the board.

The selection process for Tomback’s replacement will be determined by the current school board, which will make the hiring decision subject to final approval by the Maryland superintendent of schools, Dr. Lillian Lowery.

Below is the e-mail sent today to HCPS employees, and a press release issued shortly thereafter:

Dear Colleagues,

I write to you today to express my appreciation for your extraordinary work on behalf of our students, their families, and our community. Through our collective efforts, the Harford County Public Schools is a high performing school district—both by state and national measures. More of our students are performing at higher levels of achievement than ever before, and the school system’s trajectory continues in an upward direction. Despite a very lean central office and operations staff, support to schools is provided in order to maximize student achievement as we focus our resources on the classroom.

The Harford County Public School system is well positioned to face the myriad challenges presented by our funding, the transition to Common Core State Standards, the implementation of a new teacher and principal evaluation system, and more. The core of our school system is solid; we are poised to meet the many challenges that lie ahead.

The favorable conditions that prevail in the Harford County Public Schools, coupled with the bright future that lies ahead, make this an opportune time for the next superintendent to be selected to lead this school system. At the close of this school year I will go forward to pursue other opportunities. It is with enormous gratitude that I thank you for the opportunity to work with you and for the students of Harford County.


Rob Tomback

Robert M. Tomback, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools

From Harford County Public Schools:

In a statement emailed to all Harford County Public Schools employees this morning, Dr. Robert M. Tomback announced that his four-year term as superintendent of schools will expire on June 30, 2013, at which time he will move forward to pursue other opportunities. Dr. Tomback began his term as superintendent on July 1, 2009, replacing Interim Superintendent Patricia L. Skebeck who was serving the remainder of Dr. Jacqueline C. Haas’ term.

“On behalf of the Board of Education of Harford County, I would like to wish Dr. Tomback well on all of his future endeavors,” said Board President Rick Grambo. “We would also like to thank him for his four years of service to the students and staff of Harford County.”

Dr. Tomback emailed the following statement to all HCPS employees today:

“I write to you today to express my appreciation for your extraordinary work on behalf of our students, their families, and our community. Through our collective efforts, the Harford County Public Schools is a high performing school district—both by state and national measures. More of our students are performing at higher levels of achievement than ever before, and the school system’s trajectory continues in an upward direction. Despite a very lean central office and operations staff, support to schools is provided in order to maximize student achievement as we focus our resources on the classroom.

The Harford County Public School system is well positioned to face the myriad challenges presented by our funding, the transition to Common Core State Standards, the implementation of a new teacher and principal evaluation system, and more. The core of our school system is solid; we are poised to meet the many challenges that lie ahead.

The favorable conditions that prevail in the Harford County Public Schools, coupled with the bright future that lies ahead, make this an opportune time for the next superintendent to be selected to lead this school system. At the close of this school year I will go forward to pursue other opportunities. It is with enormous gratitude that I thank you for the opportunity to work with you and for the students of Harford County.”

The Board of Education will now establish a timeline and action plan for hiring a new superintendent. More information regarding the superintendent search will be forthcoming when the process is finalized.


  1. Mary Pierzchalski says

    There is a God!! I am hopeful that the current BOE will take the time to find a superintendent that is dedicated to Harford County Public Schools & not to their self. Dr. Tomback needs to take his Baltimore County cronies with him…….specifically, Cornell Brown. This has been a disasterous reign of terror and disrespect to our school system, our students, our parents and the school teachers, administrators and staff. We are being released from purgatory! I am looking forward to a change for the better!! BYE-BYE ROB!!!

    Well-loved. Thumb up 41 Thumb down 1
    • alex says

      I concur completely with Mary. Let’s rid the county of the Baltimore County Big Brother club. What we need is more brain and less muscle. the misguided perception is that everything from Baltimore County is better—How about setting our sights beyond Baltimore County? How about truly inspired leadership?

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    • Lucy says

      Sounds like Mary is probably a parent who just didn’t get an answer she wanted from Mr. Cornell Brown. I’ve appealed decisions to Mr. Brown and even if I did not get the answer I wanted, he explained why he made his decision. For instance, with bus stops. He thrououghly looked into my situation and responded politely. People can not always get the answers they want…that is called life.

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      • Mary Pierzchalski says

        Actually Lucy, I wish that my only problem was bus stops. If I had a problem with a bus stop, I would put my kids in the car & drive them to school. What it sounds like is that Cornell Brown is also very impressed with himself & the power that he has been given by “Rob”. When the questions get more difficult than a bus stop, when it really matters for the students & their success, he is useless!! When he doesn’t know the answer, which is often, he just doesn’t call back………..even when he says he will. We need someone who cares. If he’s that wonderful, I’m sure that Baltimore County will be happy to snatch him right back in to their fold.

        Well-loved. Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1
      • christina says

        It is because of Rob and Cornell that custodial staffs throughout HCPS is being spread thin due to the fact that the two eliminated the custodial sub pool. Which were people hired to fill a vacancy when people went out on medical leave or what not. It was also useful because they were already in the system which meant they knew the ropes, they were familiar with equipment we use and routines. Now that Rob is gone maybe we can bring that back.

        Not to mention it also leaves the custodial crews short handed in the evening because they had to go to anther school to sub. Which means double the work, for less money I might add.

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  2. Reggie says

    I just hope that the next Superintendent is either from Harford County OR agrees to live within Harford County. I never liked that he commuted from Baltimore County. Gas expenditures and vehicle upkeep alone cost us a fortune, let alone the nice home office we provided at tax payer expense.

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    • jennifer says

      I would vote against a home-grown superintendent. Natives of Harford County tend to think inside the box, the result being a mediocre school system with people unwilling to make change and perpetuate the same old same old. We need an innovative thinker who is really (not superficially) commited to educational growth.

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  3. ALEX R says

    The Ravens win the Super Bowl and now this.

    Folks, you may want to buy a lottery ticket while the good luck is rolling.

    Seriously, the BOE now has a chance to select someone who gets it. If they can attract that person and if they have the smarts to actually recognize him or her when they see them.

    And let’s all remember that the larger problem with Mr. Tomback was only partly Mr. Tomback. He is what he is and what he has always been. The real problem for Harford County was that the BOE knew – or should have known – what he is and yet brought him here anyway. And then allowed him to bring his colleagues with him.

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    • Kharn says

      I hope the new Superintendent spends the summer reading about Stalin and his methods for going about a good purge of incompetent leadership. Bonus points for doing it with a killer mustache.

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      • Jaguar Judy says

        I hope the new superintendent spends his summer in his office every day with his staff gathered around him trying to figure out how to fix the damage.

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    • PTB says

      Thankfully this rids us of yet another vestige of the stench of Mark Wolkow and his board. They were arrogant, incompetent, and as easy to snow as Captain Parmenter from F Troop. May we continue to move forward in eliminating the damage and shame that Wolkow, Rich, Hess, Krchnavy , et al. brought upon us.
      Hats off to certain members of the current board (both elected and appointed) for doing their jobs and seeing thru the self-serving mediocrity of Tomback, Brown and Lawrence. This is a great day for HCPS. Onward and upward for the great educators, students, parents and community members of Harford County.

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      • Hcps says

        You assume the BOE pushed him out. You assume that Brown and Lawrence are also going. Do you have other info on this?

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        • a teacher says

          Use your head. Do you really believe that he decided to leave on his own? There are probably a lot of nervous people in leadership right about now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some like Lawrence and J Brown bail now before the current school board cleans house.

          Well-loved. Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1
      • observer says

        From that group only Krchnavy remains. The voters will have the opportunity to pass judgment on her record as a member of the BOE come the next election. Anyone interested in making predictions?

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      • Bel Air Fed says

        Jackie Haas. Homegrown. popular. effective. We don’t need BOE making snob decisions. We need a fire in the belly for Harford person who knows the system like Jackie.

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        • KramerLuves says

          Things were smoother, thanks to the ‘good ol boys’ and the bobble head board-nod at what ever she said. Wasn’t always open to discussion and could be a bully. Just much politically smoother.

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        • christina says

          I worked under Jackie Haas for a lot of years, and she is surely missed. She was for the employees she knew where we came from since she worked her way up the ranks and I think that was what made her a good superintendent. They need to keep her qualities in mind when they hire a new superintendent.

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  4. Kharn says

    I recommend we give the job to Mr Burbey. He has shown his abilities include pushing bad agendas, making polarizing decisions, demonstrating horrible PR skills and excelling at biting the hand that feeds, so his resume is practically the same as Mr Tomback’s.

    Burbey for Superintendent 2013: Damn reality, full speed towards Marxism.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 19
  5. hcps employee says

    Great news! Im sure he was partially motivated by the fact that nobody wanted him back. He has been a horrible addition to the school system as well as all of his other yes men and women he brought in with him. Please remove them as well.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0
  6. big neck redneck COUNTRY says

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Thumb up 15 Thumb down 32
    • Casual Observer says

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      Poorly-rated. Thumb up 6 Thumb down 23
    • BRUNIS says

      Wahhh, only a 2 hour delay I want code blue closed. clip clip clap clap clap, sounds like a horse trotting but its a keyoard being worn out on internet news sites.

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      • Harford Resident says

        My spouse grew up in New york state. I hear the laughs when the schools are closed for an inch of snow. They had way more snow up there and the schools were closed far less!!

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        • Reader L says

          Yes, I lived there too and there were 2 feet of snow on Sun. night, and I had school on Mon. morning. Not even a delay… BUT they had very sophisticated ways to clear the roads that they are not available here in MD. It’s a totally different world up there with over 200 inches on an average year; there is NO way they could cancel for every inch or two. ALSO, we now live in such a litigious times, that everyone is afraid of a law suite!!

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          • Because says

            True, but we also went to school on time when there was fog. You guys that live here seem to be upset by anything that falls from the sky except sunlight.

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  7. Neal Anderson says

    I hope the board seriously hunts for an excellent Superintendent and not just a cheap one. Mr. Craig, it is now up to you to support Harford County Public Schools. Are you going to do what’s right or what’s easy?

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    • Dismayed by Decision says

      Do you call $200,000 cheap? This guy makes more than the Governor and has all kinds of perks. Really disgusting.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1
      • ALEX R says

        Actually I do call $200,000 plus benefits cheap for a head of a school system the size of Harco. I’m not speaking to the qualifications of Dr. Tomback but what a top notch Superintendent is worth. Maybe, and I certainly don’t know this, what Harco is willing to pay limits the quality of candidates that it can attract. We should demand that the BOE get the best available if we are going to hold them accountable for who they hire. We should be willing to pay a competitive package for the person hired.

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  8. Wally Brenton says

    Don’t forget, the Harford County taxpayers paid for this bum to go to China!

    Well-loved. Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1
      • a teacher says

        A nice vacation for those that went along. What better use of that grant money could have been found?

        Well-loved. Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
        • ALEX R says

          A Teacher,

          Perhaps no better use if that grant was specifically for the trip. Grants are awarded for very specific purposes and the organization receiving the money is not permitted to say “Wait, I know, we can use the money for something we think is better.” I’m sorry but it doesn’t actually work that way.

          I’m not speaking to whether the trip was worth the time and whether HCPS got value out of it. It probably wasn’t worth the time and HCPS probably didn’t get value. But that is an issue of leadership.

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        • a teacher says

          I believe the Chinese government paid for the trip we just lost the work days used by the participants unless they used vacation time.

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      • former teacher says

        Grant funds did NOT cover all expenses related to that trip. Don’t kid yourself. And tell me, exactly how did HCPS benefit from sending him and the entourage to the Great Wall? Tomback has been our own little emperor, and it is time for him to go.

        Well-loved. Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  9. Patrick H. says

    This letter is a great example of how Dr. Tomback could speak speak so much yet say so little. I sincerely wish him well and look forward to the opportunity that this very engaged BOE has before it.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
    • just my opinion says

      Tomback was very good with the gab. Maybe he should consider a run for political office.

      I have to agree with you, despite what many on the Dagger might say, I think the current BOE is very engaged. Well, except for a couple who are easy to spot if you are paying attention. Moving to the partially elected BOE has made a huge difference and I must admit there have been some quality appointments by the governor. I like that the majority of the BOE has taken a “no more rubber stamp” attitude toward the superintendent, are willing to question or disagree with his decisions publicly, and that is a good thing for the system.

      The BOE has a tough job ahead of them. There are many bridges and much other damage done to the school system that are in desperate need of repair. I fear that the residual effects of the damage caused by Tomback, Lawrence and some others (including some recently promoted school based administrators) may be with us for years. We need someone with GREAT people skills, real leadership qualities, and is a first class COE to manage the business side of the organization. The next superintendent may not be the long term solution, but we at least need a person that can right the ship and change the course of our current direction. As much as Tomback is an indictment of the BOE that brought him and Lawrence here I pray that the current BOE can get it right this time.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  10. Time for change... says

    I believe he saw the writing on the wall and got out before he was driven out. Thank God!!!! Now, BOE, do YOUR JOB and get someone who is going to lead this county in the direction it needs to go. God help the teachers he has ruined and the administrators he has pumped up with power to destroy.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
    • Kharn says

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      Poorly-rated. Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10
      • ALEX R says

        So, Kharn, if that is really their attitude and behavior then they aren’t the PROFESSIONALS that they claim to be. And so they should actually be culled out to make room for professional teachers and not blue collar union workers standing in front of a classroom imitating a real teacher.

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      • just my opinion says

        I think the BOE will be looking for someone who is already inside the system or was in the system. This may be the transitional figure I mentioned in an earlier post. If that person works out then we may see a repeat of the Jackie Haas situation. The other probability is that the BOE will choose someone with superintendent experience and a proven record of success. Tomback had neither. He was a third tier manager in Baltimore County who knew nothing of HCPS and in my opinion never made a serious attempt to become part of the Harford County community. HCPS was just a job and resume builder for him. When we look back on his time here we will see an over emphasis on AP courses at the expense of other students, his dictatorial management style that has cost the school system countless quality educators and driven morale into the basement, an antagonistic relationship with our other elected officials, and of course a really important feature – a new logo.

        Well-loved. Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
        • Harford Resident says

          “we will see an over emphasis on AP courses at the expense of other students”

          But wait a minute, isn’t the entire state of MD focused on STEM achievement, and developing a more technologically educated student base? The C4ISR business resulting from BRAC, Fort Meade, and many of the related Defense contractors will have a great hiring need in the future. If we don’t emphasize excellence and achievement, our Harford (and other counties) students will lose out to employment candidates from other states. One way to achieve these goals is through AP emphasis.

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          • a teacher says

            The key was “over emphasis” on AP. The school system certainly should be concerned with STEM related instruction and encourage students to stretch their abilities but this is being done at a disproportional rate and at the expense of other students. Tomback tried to build his reputation on increasing AP “participation.” Student success, as in passing scores, has taken a back seat. An outside business like The College Board, which is making increasingly more money off of Harford County students, shouldn’t be allowed to drive curriculum decisions and class offerings (that adversely affect class sizes in standard classes) for what amounts to bragging rights.

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          • Bubba says

            STEM is a great idea, however the flaw within it is the mistake that every kid is going to be “good” in science and math. It is mistake to believe that everyone will pursue careers along those pathways. Again, I like the idea and the push…but we need to make sure we are serving the rest of the kids who won’t be engineers.

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          • CDEV says

            STEM is simply an integration of Math, Science and Technology. It is still relevent skills we teach and it emphasizes problem solving which regardless of career choice, is a skill set one will need.

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      • a teacher says

        Do you take note of the school parking lots that are full of teachers cars long after students are dismissed? And yes I know of some teachers that leave shortly after the students are gone but this is usually because they have their own childcare issues to address, personal matters that need their attention, or graduate level classes to attend. I also know first hand that those teachers just like countless others do most of their lesson planning, grading, and other school related responsibilities at home via their computers. Why is it that some find it so easy to constantly bash teachers without seriously thinking about what they are about to say before they post their comments?

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  11. Jaguar Judy says

    Resumes being frantically updated this week. Make sure the copiers are filled with paper.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  12. Mary Pierzchalski says

    I say that there is no time like the present!!! We’ve had an interim superintendent in the past & we did just fine.

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  13. School employee says

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13
    • Concerned Teacher says

      I believe that what you suggest is exactly what has already happened. Dr. Tomback came in as a scorched earth superintendent, making changes that the BOE wanted but couldn’t do with Dr. Haas in charge. Dr. Tomback was a well-paid hatchet man, and I think he knew it before he accepted the job.

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      • JC says

        I think it is pretty obvious that there are some on this school board that are neither afraid of the superintendent, to express their opinions about his actions, or tell him what to do.

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  14. Bel Air Fed says

    I hope different people will search for the next super. Snob factor seemed to cloud the thinking of the last searchers. We got a guy who knew nothing about the county. Jackie Haas was homegrown and by all accounts did a great job. Why screw that up just for snob appeal. Get a capable person with experience in the system and a fire in the belly for Harford.

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    • hank says

      I think people on the eastern side of the county have a different opinion of Jackie Haas. I’d like to see someone who was concerned about all of Harford, not just parts of it.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
      • Bel Air Girl says

        Hank….I totally agree….Jackie was not a great leader in my book. She screwed over a lot of teachers during her time as the school leader. You would not hear about it because Jackie would threaten you if you ever said anything. She was a bully as well.

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        • HCPSTeacher10 says

          I agree! Jackie dismantled the content area supervisors that would observe and could actually tell if the teacher knew what they were talking about for her doctoral dissertation…actually I think Volrath did some messing with the system for his dissertation as well. She was the one who instituted the policy of teachers signing off on a handbook that included wording that allowed her to fire any employee who speaks ‘negatively about the system, administration or policy’. And there was no choice. You signed it or resigned.
          Actually, the public doesn’t realize how much damage, upheaval and change happens because of administrators and people at the top writing doctoral papers and need the data for their supporting research. … and it really doesn’t matter if it turns out it was a bad thing…you were either ‘on the bus or off the bus’ as Jackie was fond of telling everyone.
          She had power and she didn’t mind wrecking lives and livelihoods while wielding it. Just because no one was allowed to discuss it didn’t mean it didn’t happen.

          Well-loved. Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
          • Because says

            Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  15. Bill says

    Boards of Education in Harford County are notoriously bad at selecting superintendents. Of the names Keech, Grotsky, Haas, and Tomback, only Jackie Haas gets high marks. She was also the only superintendent not brought in from outside the county. The Board that selected Grotsky and the Board that selected Tomback both had excellent in-county candidates who they did not consider. The current Board, with both elected and appointed members, might make a better decision than several of their predecessors. While the Board has to at least consider outside candidates, they would be well advised to give strong consideration to people who are already here (not including the carpetbaggers who came from Baltimore County).

    Well-loved. Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  16. BIG DADDY says

    Tomback might be a mouse compared to the next big cheese they hire. I think its hilarious, celebrate now but put your 8 inch shit kickers on, you all will be back to the curb stomping your feet when you vote for “change” again, and literally get change in your bi weekly pay checks. YEEE HAWW

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 11
  17. K says

    This reply is for Barbara who suggested Michelle Rhee. Your comment is probably the best, most insightful response I’ve seen posted to the dagger. Ms. Rhee (I’m not sure what her married name is) worked magic in D.C.. At least Barbara added something to the conversation that wasn’t insulting, derogatory, or nonsensical. I highly doubt, as I’m sure does Barbara, that Michelle Rhee would even consider HCPS. She’s not looking for superintendent work at the moment. The point is to consider true educational innovators with proven track records instead of who the HCEA, Mr. Burbey, the County Council, whoever has the most longevity, etc. want to hire. As we hear and read so often, “What’s best for our kids.”

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    • Barbara says


      Yes, I agree, Ms Rhee is not looking for superintendent work, but it never hurts to dream big. I can only imagine what could be accomplished if we had someone at the top who put students first.

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  18. Former HCPS Employee says

    K and Barbara: Seriously? Rhee? You two really know nothing about education. Take just a brief look into Rhee and you will see cheating scandals plauged her time in D.C. Take a look at this link…


    Want to see a few holes shot in her usual rhetoric about how bad our education system is compared to other countries. Try the following link.


    Or you can just keep spreading the misinformed notion that somehow people like Rhee are champions of our children and education in general.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7
    • Barbara says

      Former Employee,

      I took the time to read the referenced articles. Neither one talked about cheating scandals. The 2011 article suggested that perhaps cheating had occurred at one DC school because of the unusual number of erasures on tests. The second article written in 2012 is nothing more than one educator expressing her opinion regarding the use of merit pay for teacher performance. Something that Ms Rhee is a proponent of, and the author is against.

      I am not the one spreading misinformation regarding Ms. Rhee, if that’s what you want to call my suggestion to pursue her for the Superintendent position. Most major media outlets, both liberal and conservative are champions of Ms. Rhee and her educational thoughts.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7
      • hmmm says

        Ms. Rhee would never come here (HCPS are small potatoes for someone like her) nor would she be popular in Harford County. We need a period of calm not another storm that Rhee would surely bring.

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      • KEESHA JACKSON says

        Barbara, The reason most of the media are champions is that she demands excellence and gets results. If she were white some detractors would have the race card to play but, alas, she is not white, so some of her detractors just can’t figure her out how to attack her. They are the ones that hide behind government jobs with government benefits paid to do as little as possible and work the minimum time.

        Michelle Rhee understands that the children who are most hurt by the status quo in many of our poor and mediocre public school systems are the economically disadvantaged kids, many of whom are not white. Well-to-do parents no matter their race have the option to send their kids to top notch private schools and do so.

        Harco would have the guts to bring her in and she would be too smart to come. Unfortunately.

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          • AbingdonTeacher says

            Why would ever want someone as unqualified as Rhee. So many have complained about Tomback not being qualified. If I handed you my résumé without an advanced degree in education, no Phd, and only 3 years of classroom teaching experience, would you consider me qualified?

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          • Barbara says

            Does having an advanced degree in education instead of a Masters in Public Policy, having a Phd, and teaching for 10 years instead of 3 years make you feel differently about poor/non-performing teachers who don’t really care about their students? Had Ms Rhee possessed those advanced degrees, perhaps she would have seen the ‘merit’ in retaining poor non-performing teachers, but I doubt it.

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          • AbingdonTeacher says

            No doubt some of her ideas were innovating, but innovation can only get you so far. Without any real formal training in school administration one would have a hard time sustaining innovation. Leaders that lack strong foundational knowledge often fall back on fear as a motivator. Fear of losing one’s job is definitely strong motivation, but only in the short term. Rhee built a political career on being a bully and a media darling. Did she get rid of some poor teachers that didn’t deserve the honor of having a classroom, you bet. And I applaud her for that. Any decent teacher would. But would I want to work in a culture of fear like the one she created, heck no. The job when done well is stressful enough. You want teachers to work at a high level, but the way in which you motivate them to do that is very crucial.

            Well-loved. Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
          • Barbara says

            Abingdon Teacher,

            What does a really good teacher, who is producing great results have to fear?

            Share with us some of the motivational tools that should be used to motivate teachers. Especially the ones who are already producing great results, but are stressed as a result of doing their job well.

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      • what we need says

        Barbara wrote: “Share with us some of the motivational tools that should be used to motivate teachers. Especially the ones who are already producing great results, but are stressed as a result of doing their job well.”

        Here is a list in no particular order:
        1. Smaller class sizes
        2. Less beauracracy and fewer mandates
        3. Autonomy and respect for teachers as a profession
        4. Better funding for schools
        5. More planning and grading time that is not spent doing a million other “neccesary” things
        6. Less emphasis on standardized tests and statistics- more emphasis on creativity and critical thinking (This works in Denmark- rated the highest performers…)
        7. A society that actually values education and instead of finger pointing and slamming teachers- supports and respects the profession (Again- in Denmark, becoming a teacher is on par with becoming a doctor.) Of course, here, we curse the teachers and scientists and glorify Paris Hilton and Ray Lewis….
        8. Parental and community support for education. What happened to the values of our parents and grandparents who stood united with our teachers?
        9. Rewards and incentives for those who are going above and way beyond.
        10. Better teacher training and support in college and in the first years

        Just a few ideas.

        Michelle Rhee has good intentions, as do many beauracrats with no educational experience; however good intentions will only take you so far as illustrated in her disastrous D.C. run leading to her departure there. Wasn’t she terminated? That I am not sure of and would love to know. What I do know based on reading her book and several articles is that she is exactly the antithesis of what we need.
        We need a champion for the students and for the teachers who recognizes what is wasteful and not working and works to solve problems. A leader who motivates and supports- hands on, paying attention to what is happening in the classrooms.

        Any teacher and probably any kid or parent could name the excellent teachers in their own school and also the ineffective ones. Many of those teachers who struggle- with the right kind of support- could be excellent. Some never will be. It’s not that hard to figure it out. Personal vendettas aside, it’s pretty easy to determine who the great teachers are. Surely someone making a six figure salary can determine a way to figure it out….

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        • Barbara says

          Ms Rhee, as I understand, resigned when a new Mayor was elected. Had she remained she would probably have been let go by the new Mayor at the conclusion of her contract.

          Which of the several motivational tools that you listed would not be supported by Ms Rhee?

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          • What we need says

            Ms. Rhee used standardized testing as the sole measure of a teacher’s effectiveness.

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        • Reader L says

          ONE big way the superintendent and BOE could figure it out is when they come to the schools for the principal evaluation is to allow the teachers to write up an evaluation for their administrators- without any fear of retribution . Then it would be very evident what the school climate is, what really goes on in the school, how effective the administrative team is etc. – if a few teachers mentioned an issue or something considered problematic or they wanted to simply malign the principal/s, then it’s not a clear problem at that school or a focused message, but if the majority of the teachers say the same thing, then it’s perfectly, crystal clear!

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    • Kharn says

      Maybe the teachers were afraid of Ms Rhee’s “radical” ideas and thought if they did not cheat, they’d be fired for poor performance?

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      • KEESHA JACKSON says

        Cheating or poor performance. Doesn’t matter which, firing is the proper response.

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    • ALEX R says

      No, actually, Former HCPS Employee, they know more about accountability and leadership and creating and running a quality organization than you know by a long shot. This is not about some tweaks to the tired, old, ineffective educational system where everyone goes along to get along and no one is held accountable for their individual performance, or for the performance of their school, or their school system. It will not be until those days are over that we will have high quality education for our students.

      Rhee knows that and the people who are afraid of her are folks like those referenced elsewhere on this article that rush home as soon as the bell rings but then whine and complain because they didn’t get their step increase. These folks are not professionals and it doesn’t matter how many years of experience or degrees they have, or even, truth be told, how much they love kids. Educating kids is so much more than that.

      If you are actually a ‘former’ HCPS employee then perhaps HCPS is better off having you gone. You think some of us just don’t understand. I can tell you we understand full well and are tired of HCPS being the home of mediocrity. Rhee would demand that you perform as a professional educator or leave, and frankly I’m not sure you would be up to the task.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7
  19. K says

    My goodness Barbara, what a controversy you’ve created by making an educated, thoughtful suggestion! Well, most folks who know anything about Michelle Rhee, let alone have even heard her name, would welcome her to Harford County with open arms. The naysayers and status quoites will always be around, looking to trample on positive, enlightened thought. Hmmm, maybe that’s part of the problem with our education system.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

    Michelle Rhee at HCPS? In your dreams! She is one of a growing number of school superintendents, including Geoffrey Canada, who demand excellence form administrators, principals, teachers and all other staff. A school system only hires professionals like them if they are serious about transforming their system. And HCPS and the BOE are very far from that serious.

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  21. Dismayed by Decision says

    I just hope the BOE is much more engaged in the process than they were when they hired this guy. It was obvious he wasn’t qualified. Experience with Budgets and submitting them to the people with the money – NO. Community Engagement – NO. Proven track record of Academic Success – No. Experience dealing with politicians – NO. Additionally when adhoc committee was meeting with candidates we were told that we had to have consensus on every comment/opinion we had and what we wrote down. This was the group that consisted of the Harford Business Roundtable, PTA, and the NAACP.

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  22. BBC says

    Happy for the Harford County teachers. Hopefully the Sheriff’s Office will be rid of the man at the top in the next election. Be careful what you wish for, the next guy could be worse–who cares? We are so downtrodden and low on morale it wouldn’t make a difference. Congratulation to the teachers at least you have something to look forward to.

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  23. Former HCPS Employee says

    Here is just a bit of the article…

    An impasse over erasures

    McGraw-Hill’s practice is to flag only the most extreme examples of erasures. To be flagged, a classroom had to have so many wrong-to-right erasures that the average for each student was 4 standard deviations higher than the average for all D.C. students in that grade on that test. In layman’s terms, that means a classroom corrected its answers so much more often than the rest of the district that it could have occurred roughly one in 30,000 times by chance. D.C. classrooms corrected answers much more often.

    In 2008, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) — the D.C. equivalent of a state education department –– asked McGraw-Hill to do erasure analysis in part because some schools registered high percentage point gains in proficiency rates on the April 2008 tests.

    Among the 96 schools that were then flagged for wrong-to-right erasures were eight of the 10 campuses where Rhee handed out so-called TEAM awards “to recognize, reward and retain high-performing educators and support staff,” as the district’s website says. Noyes was one of these.

    Rhee bestowed more than $1.5 million in bonuses on principals, teachers and support staff on the basis of big jumps in 2007 and 2008 test scores.

    Here is statistical evidence. Please try refuting this with evidence of your own that Rhee and people of her ilk are qualified to work as the head of HCPS. My guess is all I will hear is more rhetoric and personal insults by people like Alex.

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    • Mike Welsh says

      Was there an absolute conclusion that cheating had occurred? I read the article and did not read that they had determined students, or teachers, had in fact cheated. The conclusion was that the number of erasures from wrong to right were unusually high.

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      • Concerned Teacher says

        As one who has taught statistics, the probability of an event being 4 or more standard deviations from the norm is less than one-one hundredth of a percent (0.01%). It is so statistically improbable that many statistics textbooks do not include a score that many standard deviations from the norm on their lookup tables. Statistics is never used to draw absolute conclusions. It is used to determine the likelihood of an event happening given other statistical evidence. It is the same reason that juries find defendants “not guilty” rather than “innocent”. So, the statistical evidence did not (nor would it ever) show that the students and/or teachers had cheated. What the evidence shows is that, given the statistical evidence from the school system as a whole regarding the number of wrong-to-right erasures, it was virtually impossible for number of erasures at these schools to have occurred by chance.

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        • Former HCPS Employee says

          As I said…people can draw their own conclusions. Those who are not drinking the rhetorical kool aid will all probably come to the same logical conclusion.

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  24. Former HCPS Employee says

    Unusually high…like statistically the same as winning the Powerball. I think people can draw their own logical conclusions. I just think it is funny that people on this board will flame anyone who doesn’t agree with their opinion or questions their views. Rather than try to offer meaningful support for a person like Rhee they rely solely on the same old rhetoric.

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    • Reader L says

      All those who worked with Roger were devastated when he was “ousted” and many tears were shed with those who worked and saw him on a daily basis! Let’s get Roger. Who wants to make the call?

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  25. Carol Webster says

    I suggest we beg to have Dr. Roger Plunkett return to HCPS. What a lost! Great man with intelligence, integrity, and ideas.

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  26. Jaguar Judy says


    You asked “What does a really good teacher, who is producing great results have to fear?” I would hope that the answer is nothing. But if I spoke to Mrs. Darden or the teacher from Fountain Green who was falsely accused I would get a different answer. Two different scenarios I realize but the Mrs. Darden incident really troubles me because it speaks to a systemic issue.

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  27. christina says

    I was thrilled to hear that he was leaving. He has done nothing for his employees. Except undermine what we are trying to do in the school system. With that I truly hope that the board members will take the time to research out future candidates for this position. Someone that can manage the school system accordingly and give the employees the respect that we all deserve. That includes a decent raise. We are one of the poorest paid in the state it’s time that got corrected.

    I really hope that the board members listen to what we have to say and the imput from articles such as this. This could be the start of a fresh HCPS.

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    • ParentTrap says

      The Superintendent has nothing to do with how much a teacher is paid or if they get a raise.

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      • Mary Pierzchalski says

        Really??? Then why did he take all of the credit for the pitiful 1% raise in 5 years?? Why did he ensure that the cost of other benefits were increased to more than outweigh the 1%?? Why did he try to negotiate in bad faith his very first year by “sneaking” unfavorable benefit changes in the middle of the teacher contract without indicating a change at all?? It was Tomback & the bobble heads that were on the BOE at the time! Do you think that teachers teach so that they can get a master’s degree & a big pay check? NO!!!

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    • Kharn says

      If HCPS continues to have a high number of qualified applicants for every opening, why should the payscale be increased?

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      • ParentTrap says

        BINGO!! Maybe this is why the union wants to claim teachers are leaving in droves even though the facts don’t support their claims.

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      • HCPS says

        Because HCPS needs to retain those highly skilled teachers so it’s not caught in a constant retraining cycle!!

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        • Kharn says

          Any organization can expect annual turn-over due to individual preference or life changes, the question is the acceptable level. Teaching will have a lower turn over in the initial years due to the promise of tenure, but once that is earned you’ll see an increased rate of departure as some leave to be stay-at-home moms (and teaching is primarily a female-dominated profession, so that will have a disproportionate effect on teaching than white collar jobs). HCPS recently changed tenure to begin on the fourth year, not the third, so that will keep teachers a little longer.

          So is HCPS currently surviving with a lower number of 5 to ~12 year teachers (counting years from college graduation, not years of teaching) due to stay-at-home moms, or are measures needed to reduce that practice? Given the costs of child care, especially for two or more child families, I’m not sure the county could increase the scale enough to keep a new parent working (without a general revolt from the tax payers).

          Harford’s also well located, with most schools being within reasonable commuting distance of either Baltimore City or Cecil/PA, so regardless of a person wanting a more urban or rural environment (or their spouse requiring one or the other), that option is available while maintaining employment with HCPS. APG being in the county also brings a large, mainly male, well educated, highly paid workforce to the area, which factors into less people moving away for lack of suitable suitors.

          So, I’d say HCPS is in a strong position to refuse a scale adjustment.

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  28. Reader L says

    One of the biggest motivators of teachers (and people in general) is valuing them and validating the positive evidence of hard work done on a daily basis. When my administrator (or boss) lets me know that he/she thinks I’m doing a good job, then I want to give more than 100% and I am empowered!

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  29. Renee says

    Let’s be realistic and look at this calmly. After the sudden passing of Dr. Haas, the Board went into action to hire a new Superintendent. There were many qualified applicants, yet they hired Tomback. At first he seems to genuinely want to get to know the school system and the HCPS employees. After a few months, he began moving, demoting, and letting go of personnel to accommodate people that he wanted to bring on board. He let the old Assistant Superintendent go by taking him to lunch one day and out of the blue telling him that he no longer had a job with HCPS. That is when he bought in Bill Lawrence. If you think he really cares about HCPS or has anything invested in this county you may want to go back and look at news articles, interviews, or Board of Education archives. Tomback lost most of the old senior staff after they could no longer deal with his tyranny. Tomback demoted principals and again brought in his friends to run certain schools. He brought on Johnathan Brown, who, as far as anyone can tell does nothing and collects a hefty paycheck. Also does not live in this county or has anything invested in the success of this school system. Let up not forget that a month after Brown was hired he was out for a few months on leave. WOW I sure am glad my tax dollars were just waiting for him in that regard, we were all very generous to him! Then we have Cornell Brown who is so concerned with his “status” that his arrogance is blinding. Also, he never ceases to let us forget that he is “untouchable.” So now Tomback is leaving and so too is Lawrence. We have two more that need to go, yet they remain “untouchable.” I am sure you savvy readers can figure out why they both think they are untouchable. I find it offensive personally. If you are to be judged but he content of your character….they have all failed miserably. You see, to us in Harford County we take pride in our educators, and have faith that the school system will ultimately make the right decisions for our children. We have all lost so much faith and Tomback, Lawrence, Brown, and Brown NONE of whom live in this county or have children who go to school here, have taken these jobs with no regard for who they had to walk on to get them. They scoffed when others left HCPS, or were let go or demoted. Shame on them. Let us not turn on each other in this county but band together and really get leadership that we deserve and want for our children. 2 down 2 to go!!!!

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    • Mary Pierzchalski says

      I could not have said it better myself. You have pegged each and every one of them for the non-caring egomaniacs that they are. Three cheers!

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      • ALEX R says

        Renee, Mary, Former Teacher et al,

        I can’t disagree with a word of what you say.

        But I have to ask the question “Who is responsible for these guys?” You make all four of them to be very poor choices, at best, and recount their miserable performance after selected. But someone, somewhere has the accountability for them. I am very big on accountability. Who among us hasn’t made a mistake, but we are expected to step up immediately and say “Sorry. I made a mistake. I will try not to do it again. I am accountable. I am going to fix it, and here is how I am going to fix it and fix it now.”

        Is the BOE accountable? I believe they are. And their failure to act has resulted in too many good people gone. Each of those has a story and that story often involved painful choices, financial difficulty, and embarrassment. Because some folks found it easier to put their head in the sand.

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