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.