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Integrity listed as priority in superintendent search

November 27, 2001

Integrity listed as priority in superintendent search



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A group of graduate students charged with suggesting criteria for selecting the next superintendent of Washington County Public Schools has some advice for the School Board: Scrutinize the backgrounds of the finalists and hire someone with integrity.

"Check their backgrounds thoroughly, visit where they have worked previously, talk to a lot of different members in those communities, and make sure they are not someone else's cast off," the class noted in its report to the School Board Monday night.

Nineteen graduate students at Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center conducted the study in October and November by forming 24 focus groups consisting of 131 parents, community members, business leaders and current and retired educators.

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Of the 131 participants, 56 percent did not have children in the school system, 31 percent had children in the school system and 48 percent were employed by the Board of Education.

Most of the graduate students who monitored the groups are Washington County teachers.

Each group was asked the same five questions, including what personal and professional qualities the next superintendent should have.

"They wanted a superintendent that was a person of integrity," said class member Ed Waldron. "They wanted someone who is honest, someone who speaks truthfully ... and someone who will take responsibility for what happens to us as a school system and not run from problems."

Others in the focus groups said the next superintendent's professional background should consist of instructional leadership and organizational management to build upon the strengths of the school system.

Class member Barbara Gift said retired administrators who were interviewed "wanted someone to come in who was kind and caring."

Other responses included hiring a superintendent who:

-- Is a consensus builder who can pull people together around a common vision.

-- Has financial experience and knowledge of grant funding to ensure the school system has more than adequate resources to meet diverse student needs.

-- Has knowledge of state, community and local expectations and needs.

-- Is personable, friendly, approachable.

-- Has a high-level of energy and enthusiasm.

-- Has the ability to recruit and retain quality teachers and staff to meet the diverse needs of students and communities.

School Board President J. Herbert Hardin said the study will be valuable in the search for a superintendent.

"I think telling us what they want is the most important avenue we can follow," Hardin said.

The School Board has already collected the suggestions of board employees, who said they want a superintendent who would be a good listener and responsive to concerns.

The board is looking for a superintendent to replace Herman G. Bartlett, who resigned in April. Elizabeth Morgan, former chief academic officer for Baltimore City Public Schools, was hired as interim superintendent for the current year.

The deadline for applying for the permanent position was Nov. 10. Hardin said he did not know how many people had applied and that all applications were given to experts in the Washington, D.C., area who would evaluate the credentials of the applicants.

Hardin did not have any additional information about the evaluation process.

In October, Morgan had said she would consider applying for the position. She has since declined to say whether she had applied.

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