Interim Superintendent for Harford County Public Schools Pat Skebeck said today that the school board is planning to make a decision on the next superintendent within the next week to ten days. Skebeck said the board would then make an offer to the selected candidate followed contract negotiations, with a public announcement expected during the week of June 7.
In the meantime, The Dagger has made an effort to reach out to Dr. Carl Roberts and Dr. Franklin Till, Jr., the two candidates we were unable to interview last week, to give them with the opportunity to answer some of your questions. We’ll let you know how that works out.
Today, we bring you the last of the four finalists who have come to Harford County for a round of stakeholder interviews, Dr. Robert Tomback from Baltimore County Public Schools. You know the drill. Background information is posted below, along with some links of interest. Questions and answers are paraphrased, unless otherwise noted.
Q. What new initiatives would you bring to HCPS?
A. That’s difficult to answer. Prior to any new initiatives, I would want to understand and learn more about what’s working and what is not. It would be irresponsible on my part, without planning and discussing that first with the board of education and other stakeholders, to make changes. It would not be an appropriate leadership style. That is not to say that school systems shouldn’t change. “I do believe complacency is the enemy of an effective organization.” However, “I would not expect radical change right off the bat.”
Q. You are a district superintendent in Baltimore County?
A. Baltimore County Public Schools are divided into 5 areas. My district is in the northeast, with 34 schools and 25,000 students in elementary, middle and high school, and alternative education. I am responsible for “moving the instructional program forward.”
Q. What is your position on some of the controversial programs in place in Harford County such as the block schedule?
A. There are some advantages and disadvantages. I was the principal at a school which had the block schedule [Catonsville HS] but we modified it over time. One of the main advantages is that without adding any more staff, teaching capacity could be increased by 12%. Another advantage is that students have the opportunity to take more advanced courses and also interventions. But for instrumental music and for AP courses, we modified the block to provide for year-long classes on alternating (A/B) days.
Q. How about Everyday Math?
A. I’m not familiar; I would need to gather more information. “Evaluation would be key.”
Q. What is your leadership style?
A. “My leadership style is flexible.” I don’t subscribe to any one leadership approach. Leadership needs to adapt to the situation.
Q. In Harford County, and in the rest of the country, there are large percentages of high school graduates who need remedial coursework in college. What have you done or what would you do to address this issue?
A. “I would question the data source.” I don’t necessarily believe it’s true. If you are looking at the SOAR (Student Outcome and Achievement Report), SOAR is limited in that it only reports on students who have taken the SAT and who attended a Maryland college. It doesn’t provide all the data. That is not to say that a problem doesn’t exist. Part of the remedy is to have clear communication between HCPS and the colleges to make sure there is an alignment between what is taught in high school and what is taught in college. And the Voluntary State Curriculum has to be aligned.
Q. How will you be accessible to the community?
A. The key word is “accessibility” and not waiting for others to come to you. It means going out to the schools, to PTA meetings and community forums. It is essential for the community to get to know the new superintendent. There has to be a willingness to communicate.
Q. You have talked about communication, but what about parental and public involvement in decision-making?
A. Many of those opportunities already exist. Some of the biggest are School Improvement Teams and PTAs – which are not just for fundraising. These opportunities involve input with school personnel.
Q. What have you done in the past that has worked to retain experienced teachers and to bring teachers to areas of need?
A. A key component is making sure you’ve selected the very best candidates. That involves looking at sources that have provided the best candidates in the past and having an attractive package to offer.
Q. The best sources, such as?
A. We’d have to look at that. Once teachers are on the job, it is essential to support them to the greatest extent possible in the first year and beyond with curriculum, class management, etc. That includes mentors in school, in class and being able to talk to other teachers and share ideas. Aside from mentors, principals, assistant principals and a host of other individuals also provide support.
Q. What programs would you offer for students who are not planning to go to college?
A. Just because students are not going to college doesn’t mean there is no training after high school. I believe we do our students a service by making sure doors aren’t closed. Students need career pathways, essential skills (both academic and technical). Our job is not finished with certification in a technical field. Certification is at the entry level and still requires additional training; students need academic skills for future training.
Q. Can you talk about career pathways and magnet schools in Harford County?
A. I’d need to know more in Harford County. In Baltimore County, we want students to move into the most rigorous career pathway. Most of our students follow the college completer program. In Northeast Baltimore County, we are thinking about BRAC and high technology opportunities. Similar to the program in Harford County, Baltimore County will be getting a Homeland Security program in the future. What’s most important is to help students understand their options.
Here is the official biography released by HCPS:
Dr. Robert Tomback
Dr. Tomback earned his Doctor of Philosophy, Human Development Education at the University of Maryland. He serves as Area Assistant Superintendent, Baltimore County and is instructional and administrative leader for 34 schools and approximately 25,000 students. Before becoming assistant superintendent in 2007, he was a principal, executive assistant, assistant principal, department chair and social studies teacher. He is a member of the American Association of School Administrators, American Educational Research Association and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. He has made several presentations at the American Educational Research Association. Dr Tomback has developed several professional development courses and has published a number of articles. He is past president, Maryland Council for Social Studies and a member of the STEM Task Force, Technology Planning Committee, and Home-Base Advisory Committee, Baltimore County Public Schools.
And some related links: