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The next superintendent

May 01, 1997

Now that Washington County's School Superintendent Wayne Gersen has announced that he'll be moving on, the local school board will be making plans to search for his replacement. Let us suggest that in addition to having good ideas about improving the schools, the next superintendent must also have the ability to sell those ideas to the public.

Dr. Gersen's tenure here was filled with a variety of accomplishments, including raising academic standards, expanding a variety of programs and developing new partnerships with the business community.

What Gersen was not able to do, and why we back the board's decision to take up to a year to find the proper replacement, was to find a way to change a local culture which does not value higher education. There is still an ingrained belief among many here that after high school, a young man or woman with "common sense" should be able to step right into a good-paying position.

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The next superintendent must educate the community as well as students on the fact that to get any job that pays decent wages, specialized training will be needed. That doesn't necessarily mean college, but the days of walking onto the factory floor and "learning as you go" are doornail dead and buried.

Gersen's replacement also needs to promote respect for teachers, too often criticized for the fact that their pay (for this area) is relatively high and because they get a summer vacation.

We suggest that anyone who envies teachers or believes that they're overpaid spend just one hour trying to hold the attention of a class of middle schoolers. The classrooms of our youth have changed. They are filled, in many cases, with children who haven't been taught respect or manners at home, and whose parents profess not to believe that their little angels could do anything wrong.

The next superintendent has to enlist both teachers and parents as partners, not to mention working with business and elected officials, too. Getting the right person to do all that may take every bit of 12 months.

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