Public forum for new superintendent search
Tonight, Baltimore County held the first of three open forums to allow the public to comment on the characteristics they would like to see in the next superintendent. Joe A. Hairston is retiring in June after 12 years as superintendent. Consultants from the search firm were there to listen, but no education officials were there. The public comments were allowed to be confidential, although no one seemed to mind being quoted. Only a dozen or so people showed up, but they represented many different groups. In general, they said they believed there were many great teachers in the system, but that they wanted changes. Several individuals said they wanted an open minded, compassionate, ethical superintendent who was a "people person" and who would have courage to try new things and stand up to elected officials.
A number of parents, including Julie Sugar, the president of the PTA at Loch Raven High School, and parent Laurie Taylor Mitchell, said they wanted a superintendent who would address the lack of air-conditioning and other facilities issues that have plagued the system for decades because of its aging buildings. They said they want a superintendent who will stand up for what schools need during budget time rather than submitting a budget that is acceptable to the county executive.
Unless the superintendent is willing to say what schools honestly need to improve and operate well, she said, the elected officials will never feel pressure to find the funds to address those needs.
Parents and teachers, both retired and current, said they want a superintendent who will address the needs of the whole child, including giving weight to physical education and the arts. The group said the new superintendent must look at the needs of all the county's children, including the growing numbers living in poverty, and work to unite the donut shaped district that has diverse communities. Two parents representing the special education community came to say that the county had fallen far behind other districts in putting special education students into regular classrooms. They wanted more attention to inclusion, they said.
High school teacher, Ed Kitlowski, said teachers feel they have no voice. The new leader will come into a district with "a leadership style that has created a lot of conflict." Teachers need to feel empowered, he said, so that they don't leave for Montgomery County where the pay is higher or Howard County where the work may be easier. He wants them to want to stay in Baltimore County because they have more authority to control what is going on in their classrooms and they can operate in a culture that encourages creativity and new ideas.
Several people said they want a superintendent who will approach solving the county's issues with excitement.