Harford School Board Seeks Input on Superintendent Tomback’s Successor; Interim Replacement to be Named in Coming Weeks

Choosing a superintendent is arguably the single most consequential decision a school board has to make, affecting not only the school system, but the public at large. The Harford County Board of Education plans to do it twice in the next twelve months, first by naming an interim superintendent in the coming weeks to replace the departing Dr. Robert M. Tomback, followed a year later by the appointment of his permanent successor.

Explaining the school board’s decision back in February, Board President Rick Grambo said in a prepared statement:

“…While we, as a community, have the critical task of selecting the next Superintendent to lead our school system, we must ensure that this process does not interfere with our mission and responsibility of instructing our students and preparing them for a successful life beyond Harford County Public Schools. In order to allow more time to sufficiently gather feedback and input from the parents, students, staff and community regarding desired criteria for our next Superintendent, we have decided that it would be prudent to appoint an interim superintendent to serve a one-year term.”

Grambo went on to say that the interim superintendent would be allowed to apply for the permanent position, which comes with a four-year term under state law.

Keeping in mind the Board’s request for public engagement in the search, and in the interest of helping stakeholders offer informed opinions, The Dagger offers the following overview of the job of the superintendent. But first, a caveat…

Superintendent, Not Super Hero

Like it or not, there are some things a superintendent cannot do, or must do, in order to stay on the right side of the law. As the Maryland Education Code frequently notes, mandates from federal and state authorities, including the state superintendent and the state board of education, trump the authority of county superintendents and their local school boards.

Got a problem with high stakes tests, the required 180 days of school, or the upcoming switch to the Common Core standards? Sorry, those are all decisions made at the state level and beyond.

On the other hand, there are plenty of decisions left up to a local superintendent, who manages the day to day operations of the school system, and the thousands of employees who make it work.

Duties and Powers

In addition to carrying out federal and state mandates, a county superintendent also implements policy set by the local school board and strongly influences the direction of local schools through recommendations made to the board on issues both great and small.

Specified duties and powers under state law run the gamut, from proposing the annual operating and capital budgets, to recommending “appropriate locations for posting flashing caution signs” at or near school sites.

Other requirements outlined in the Maryland Education Code include evaluating the program of instruction; recommending curriculum guides and courses of study; recommending textbooks for purchase; providing for professional development, and last but not least, making recommendations to the board regarding school buildings.

More information on the job of superintendent can be found here.

In Harford County Public Schools, examples of decisions made or heavily influenced by a superintendent include comprehensive school redistricting; shifting priorities for school construction; removal of school principals; salary increases or cuts proposed for employees; suspensions and boundary exceptions for individual students; the implementation of Everyday Math in elementary school; the switch to the block schedule and the focus on Advanced Placement in high school; the reorganization of senior staff; and the establishment of magnet programs and the student advisory council.
The superintendent also, either directly or through recommendations to the school board, makes personnel decisions, including hiring senior staff, transferring principals among schools and promoting teachers.

Finally, state law also requires local superintendents to be advocates for their school systems, as they must “seek in every way to secure adequate funds” and “try in every way to awaken public interest and improve educational conditions in the county.”

Beyond the letter of the law, but still worth noting, is a superintendent’s management style, which can set the tone for better or worse in an organization that relies heavily on inspiring people to fulfill its mission.

Given all of the above, by what criteria should the School Board select the next superintendent of Harford County Public Schools? The Board will formally request community input on that question once the interim selection is announced, which according to Grambo’s statement, is planned by June 10. Dagger readers are invited to opine on the topic starting now in the space below.

In the meantime, if you think you have the stuff to be the next superintendent, or know someone who does, here are the licensing requirements for county schools superintendents in Maryland, as published by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

“Maryland Superintendent License Information
From the Code of Maryland Regulations
13A. Superintendents.
The requirements for certification as a superintendent, deputy superintendent, associate superintendent, assistant superintendent or equivalent position are that the applicant shall:

A. Meet the requirements for certification in early childhood education, elementary education or a secondary education area;

B. Have a master’s degree from an accredited institution;

C. Have 3 years of successful teaching experience and 2 years of administrative or supervisory experience; and

D. Have successfully completed a 2-year program with graduate courses in administration and supervision in an institution or institutions approved by an accrediting agency recognized by the State Superintendent of Schools. Graduate work under §B may be applied toward the requirements of this section, provided that a minimum of 60 semester hours of graduate work is presented.”


  1. HCPS Suck says

    Anyone is better then Tombeck….school system can’t get any worse.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1
    • a taxpayer says

      You say it the “school system can’t get any worse.” There is always Baltimore City or PG County to compare yourself against.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
    • Susie Q says

      Try using correct English, HCPS Suck! The word is than is used for comparison!

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2
      • Uncle Eddie says

        Don’t blame HCPS SUCK for his incorrect vocabulary. He is obviously a product of the Harford County school system.

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  2. Kharn says

    I nominate Mr Burbey. He knows everything about finances, lobbying and running a school system from the trenches.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 10
    • Ryan Burbey says

      Sorry, I am not eligible. I don’t have administrative experience.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
      • Really? says

        oh paLEEEEEEEAsE. Kharn and Burbey: Thank you so much for starting my week out with a belly laugh.

        Well-loved. Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
      • Kharn says

        So a union leadership position is neither executive or administrative?

        Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3
        • Ryan Burbey says

          My understanding is that the experience must be within schools but perhaps I do qualify…As union president, I have both executive and administrative duties but I have never been a principal and was only a department chair for one year.

          Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
    • Monster says

      Good one, Kharn. I think he should run for County Executive also. Then, he can answer the county taxpayers about their lack of support for education. He would also see that there are many demands for tax dollars that he takes for granted and probably didn’t know care existed.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5
  3. Katrina says

    Nice photo of Tomback …. sums it up! Now if only Joe Licata would leave (he’s already mysteriously out of the office for 7 hours a day anyway).

    Well-loved. Thumb up 13 Thumb down 7
    • Cdev says

      Define? I mean he does have to hear all the 10 day suspension hearings.

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

        I surmise that a school staffer who reported that he is “always” visiting an attractive administrator at their school is simply seeing a mirage. You’re probably right. The guy who was arrested on charges of soliciting a prostitute a decade or so ago while employed by HCPS would never be doing anything but working. My apologies.

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  4. Reality says

    how about hiring someone that at least lives in the county! and someone that will clean house with the high paying board of ed positions that are worthless! make the public school system more about students getting a good education rather than lining pockets with cash…

    Well-loved. Thumb up 20 Thumb down 6
    • a taxpayer says

      What “high paying board of ed positions” are you talking about? Some specifics please, starting with which positions are worthless and why? Also, how would you redistribute the duties of these positions after they are eliminated?

      Well-loved. Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4
      • Reality says

        you could get rid of half of the upper level clowns and be just fine….if public schools were run like a business it would need a bailout. i do not have to state specifics to persuade people that public school management is spoiled and ripping off taxpayers. the teachers deserve pay raises…board of ed members deserve a little house cleaning! stop thinking you are so vital…

        Well-loved. Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4
        • a taxpayer says

          For some it is easier to complain than to roll up your sleeves and work with others to find solutions to a problem. Your response is typical of people that do not, or will not, look beyond the easy soundbite. You make loud pronouncements about excess positions and wanton waste in the school system but insulate yourself with “I do not have to state specifics” to back up your claims. I would hazard to guess this is because you have no specifics to offer. Just so I know, I do not work for the school system and neither does my family.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4
          • Reality says

            so please explain how the former principal of john archer gets in trouble…gets removed from her school and then somehow finds an open position at headquarters? probably because she is a black female….but i’m trying to understand how positions suddenly open up? maybe the reason why the board of ed doesn’t get the pay raises they approve of is because the county council sees the waste at the highest levels and doesn’t want to reward the poor spending habits….call me crazy. amazing how private schools spend far less per student and yet achieve better results? because they don’t put up with the same crap that you are defending….

            Well-loved. Thumb up 14 Thumb down 8
          • Cdev says

            Reality this falicy has been debunked before!!!!! Considering the services private schools do not provide that public schools are mandated by law to provide they cost alot more!!!!! Most private schools do not provide Special Ed services and those that do are far more expensive!!!!

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7
        • Cdev says

          If you want to be taken seriously name some specifics. What jobs. You also seem to be saying board of ed jobs. The actual Board of Ed members do not get paid except for a small (and I do mean small) stipend.

          Well-loved. Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3
          • TSB says


            It was not debunked, i just stopped arguing with you. if you want to bring it up again I can.

            Harford county spends 11K+ per student through all grade levels K-12
            Most private schools offer tuition for grades k-5 at around 4k a year
            grades 6-8 around7k. It’s not until you get to highschool that the tuition get a significant increase to an average of 14k a year.

            So, to use today’s #’s. the cost to educate a child enrolled in a public school for 13 years(k-12) is 156k While the cost to enroll the same child in a private school system would be 101K. a savings of 55K over the time of enrollment.

            With that being said, a “private” school system (using taxpayer money) could be created with a weighted system that provides more money for those pupil’s that need it and less for those that don’t (you can also weight it for the grades that need it, less for primary and more for secondary) similar to the way it is now.

            if you want to bring up transportation, then i suggest we use your recommendation from another post on a differnt issue. Allow those parents that want to waive the MD constitutional requirement of transport to do so and only offer it to those that need it.

            As far as breakfast and lunch (meal plans) are concerned. It can be doneas well, the school my younger children attend are offered a meal plan for both breakfast and lunch if we wanted. (that is an a additional cost to me, but i did include it in my overall cost per pupil pricing above.).

            All in all, I am sure with the 55K difference in per pupil spending between the “private” and public sectors, any and all additinoal services can be incorporated and still leave a “profit” incentive for a private entity to give each child a great education.

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

            Again you ignore that the number you used for the per pupil average is signifacantly inflated by special ed money. Money that is actually spent providing these services to private school kids since many of those schools do not provide them. Take out the special ed money and see where you are!!!!

            Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5
        • Monster says

          Board of Education members aren’t paid, except for a minimal expense allowance.

          Well-loved. Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
    • Really? says

      Reality: I think that you need to adjust the frequency and wavelength of your tinfoil cap antenna, because the signal isn’t coming in to clear. Either that or change the dosage on your meds.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4
      • Reality says

        wonder who you work for? you like that government teet don’t you….

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10
        • Because says

          It’s all a conspiracy as you surmised. You and Glenn Beck have nailed it completely. Where can we send the unmarked helicopters to pick you up?

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4
          • Reality says

            ahh, a liberal. that explains a lot….by the way i cannot stand glenn beck. i know it’s against your nature to cry foul or degrade any union based organization so i’ll stop…remember it’s all for the kids, right?

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8
        • Concerned Teacher says

          When you lack facts, attack with insults and name calling. Time honored strategy.

          Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
          • Original Observer says

            Why not? It works for those of a diminished, union-controlled mind. Or do you just hate having your own tactic thrown into your face?

            Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2
    • Common Sense says

      I think it’s pretty clear Reality means the HCPS administration who are paid handsomely and the partially elected school board who are not paid a salary.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  5. former teacher says

    The BoE wants input? LOL What a joke. How about hiring someone who believes that the strength of any school system is its teachers. The past supe allowed the press and public to decimate the teachers in order to cover his mismanagement of school funds (trip to China anyone?). Teachers need a superintendent in their corner. When teachers feel supported and appreciated, children thrive and prosper. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2
    • Oz says

      None of the current BOE members were around (save Knchnavy) when Tomback was named superintendent four years ago. If you wish you can thank Krchnavy you can do so at the next election by electing someone else to fill her seat. It was obvious that certain BOE members were not happy with the way Tomback was running the school system.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
      • Concerned Teacher says

        Wait, administrators are supposed to support their teachers, not run roughshod over their staff on massive ego-fueled power trips, decimating morale and undermining their authority by humiliating them in front of their students while refusing to discipline certain students because it they don’t want the confrontation it would cause with their parents? Did you teach at Walden High School?

        Well-loved. Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  6. Reality says

    from all my feedback i guess corruption and waste in the school system is acceptable. you wonder why teachers are leaving harford county in droves…keep defending the BOE! i know of at least two teachers that are going back to school for career changes…only college grads that do not know any different would sign up for the current mess.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
    • HC Citizen says

      Now you are calling the system corrupt. As stated by previous posters, state some examples to back up your accusations. You clearly cannot do so. You have no idea what you are talking about.

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4
      • Reality says

        so how was the john archer ex-principal relocation not specific? please enlighten….

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
        • a taxpayer says

          You keep beating a dead horse. She was removed from the school and put into another position. It sounds like you think she should have been fired. Even if she should have been that’s only one administrative salary. There is probably a lot more to this situation than everyone thinks they know. Is that all you have? Can’t you offer any other specifics? One admin position certainly doesn’t equate to the millions (even without employee raises) the budget is short.

          Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3
    • Reality says

      truth hurts…it’s not wise to retain the overpaid boe admin. and let good teachers walk to adjacent, better paying counties…harford county is right behind the poorest counties in this state for teacher compensation and yet has one the higher income levels and tax base. very sad…only thing holding harford teachers where they are is the economy! and if you disagree then you are blind….

      Well-loved. Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
      • HC Citizen says

        The only thing holding teachers from anything is david craig. Get a clue.

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

          he is simply putting a halt to the nonsense….it’s a shame it comes at the teachers expense. they are the ones who suffer due to boe mismanagement of money.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6
          • Concerned Teacher says

            Ok, you just lost any credibility you had going for you. BOE cannot mismanage money it does not have. BOE budget was underfunded for several years running. How is it mismanagement to go to Craig/County Council with a budget and get told to slash it by 5%?

            Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  7. Kharn says

    Maybe the entire administrative system needs to be flushed and restarted, the Aegis had an interesting article last week…

    Well-loved. Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1
  8. Reality says

    i’m finished with this topic…if you all think Harford County Public Schools are in great shape then it’s hopeless….keep bailing that water before it sinks. The good teachers are finding the lifeboats as we speak.

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

      Probably a wise decision on your part. You haven’t been able to bring anything substantial to the conversation so far.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2
    • Concerned Teacher says

      If you would read what other people post with an open mind, you would see that not a single person here is claiming that HCPS is in great shape. You are just so wrapped up in your one thought and castigating anyone who doesn’t bow before your enlightened greatness that you cannot see what anyone else is saying. Quit looking to pick fights and start looking for reasoned discourse. You might find people are more willing to agree with your point if you haven’t already carved it in stone you found on the mountain.

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  9. Big Dave says

    Just read that Andres Alonso, Balto City Schools CEO, resigned today.

    To anyone who thinks anybody would be better than Tomback … be careful what you wish for.

    Big Dave

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
    • Cdev says

      Actually Alonso did a great job in Baltimore City considering what he had to deal with. They have made significant strides. Did you read what he is doing next?

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
  10. Neal says

    Let’s give what we want for a superintendent
    1. A county resident
    2. Someone with a variety of experience k-12
    3. Someone who won’t bring in their buddies and inflate their salaries
    4. Someone with social skills who can reach out to the community and staff
    5. Someone who is transparent in the running of the school system
    6. Someone who won’t hire his buddy as his buffer
    7. Someone who doesn’t forbid or punish administrators for offering different opinions, or who answer questions honestly when asked questions by the school board. Or as colonel Klink said, “I know nothing! Nothing!
    8. Don’t pick the third, fourth, or fifth candidate, you get what you pay for

    Well-loved. Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  11. Realist says

    All I know is that since Tomback has been in that position the morale of teachers has gone down! I use to love what I did and the pay was not my motivation. But to work for a jerk and not get paid is just way too much! We can get rid of all that mess at the BOE and function just fine. All I need to mention to prove my point is Common Core and the lack of preparation from the top. Cindy Mumby if you want to get a discussion going and expose just how bad it really is start asking about Common Core and the lack of curriculum and resources being provided county wide. This is worse than a behavior specialist having intercourse with a dog.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
    • Concerned Teacher says

      If you had read Cindy’s article, you might have discovered that BOE and HCPS had **ABSOLUTELY NO SAY** in the adoption of Common Core. That was handed down as an edict from the State. The State has offered little to no guidance to the local school systems on how to create professional development to support its implementation. Your anger is misdirected and misplaced.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
      • REALIST says

        Tha adoption of Common Core is not the issue. The handling or lack there of is. There is no reason teachers should not have a clue about what they are doing in the fall and be placed under a new evealuation system. Let’s implement one thing at a time and do it well.

        Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
    • a taxpayer says

      Issues with Common Core are popping up all over the country. Some states are rethinking their decision and considering dropping out and others are considering slowing down implementation of CC because they lack the resources to make it work. Too bad MD isn’t among them because we are headed for a crash landing.

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
      • HCPSTeacher10 says

        I agree with Realist….Common Core is just someone’s latest change in direction for education. Whether we agree with it or not, Maryland took Race to the Top money and now we have to dance to the music. The problem is in the implementation. I was one of the teachers selected to attend a workshop given by the state department of education yesterday and was appalled to hear them make a comment about how far ahead Harford County is compared to some counties. So we’ve managed to fake compliance to the state. Teachers are so unprepared for next year- We are supposed to make these changes in teaching without proper preparation. The HCPS representative kept talking about all the format templates and information that would be on the sharepoint website for teachers to use. When it was asked if that would be up for our June inservice days when we are supposed to start writing our SLO’s the answer was “No, but soon”. Would you want your child to be told to write a paper in a particular format but not be given the required format until just before the due date? Teacher’s are going to be evaluated differently as well, based on meeting their SLO’s and how well their school has done on standardized testing, even if they don’t teach that subject. So far I haven’t talked to anyone who has actually seen the new evaluation form so we could align our teaching to what they’re actually looking for from us in the classroom now. If my pay is eventually going to be tied to that evaluation, obviously I’m going to teach to that form-forget innovation or taking a risk. If you thought some teachers only taught to the test before…you haven’t seen anything yet. What a recipe for disaster.

        Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1
        • Andrew says

          It is my understanding that teachers are expected to teach to a test that isn’t even written yet? Is that true? If so, how laughable.

          Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
    • Cdev says

      Common core in concept is not indoctrination. If you ever watched Are You Smarter Then A Fifth Grader, it is a solution to that problem. Look at the middle school science standards, there is nothing in there not already in the Maryland Curriculum. What is different is the depth one must teach to

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