The School Board has scheduled a community dialogue with Morgan next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the board's central office on Commonwealth Avenue. The purpose of the meeting is to give the public a chance to meet and speak with Morgan before the board takes official action.
Morgan, who was the chief academic officer of Baltimore City Public Schools before coming to Washington County, said she expected her credentials to make her one of the board's top choices.
"I do believe in myself," she said.
The board's announcement came earlier than expected. Board members had said they expected to have a list of finalists by February, but selected Morgan as the only finalist from the pool of 13 applicants. The deadline for applying for the post was Nov. 10.
Forrest said the board spent about 100 days on the superintendent search, which is about average for such a search. The board had expected the search to take a year.
The board did not interview any other candidates for the position, saying the best was already "here in Washington County," School Board Vice President Bernadette Wagner said.
The move saved the school system money by eliminating the costs of visiting the school communities of potential candidates and hiring a search firm, board members said. Wagner said the average cost of a search firm is about $30,000.
The search cost the system $5,184, including $2,875 for two consultants the board hired to verify credentials and perform background and reference checks.
Forrest said that Morgan outshone the rest of the candidates.
Morgan, who has been an educator for more than 30 years, has received awards for excellence, most recently a Service Above Self award from the International Rotary Club of Woodlawn, Md. She won the State Superintendent's Award for Excellence in Minority Student Achievement last fall and was named one of Maryland's Top 100 Women in 2001.
In addition to her former job in Baltimore City, she has worked as a principal and then community superintendent in Montgomery County, Md., and as an associate superintendent in Frederick County, Md. She has a Ph.D. from American University in Washington, D.C.
"I'm happy with the outcome; I'm happy with the search," Wagner said. "I think it was well done."
Community members and business leaders expressed satisfaction with the board's choice.
"She will be an excellent community superintendent," said B. Marie Byers, former School Board member and educator of more than 30 years. "Her vast knowledge of curriculum and people skills will benefit the whole school system as well as the whole community."
Fred Teeter Jr., president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce spoke highly of Morgan's work ethic.
"The ideas, the energy and the interest in maintaining positive direction since she arrived bodes well for the system," Teeter said in a written statement. "The emphasis on building a world-class school system is wonderful, and the business community is excited about the direction she has set."
Morgan said she planned to stay in Washington County just for her interim year, but "fell in love" with the community and school system.
"The board has impressed me," Morgan said. "They have treated me with the utmost respect. The board has been so positive with me."
She also praised the school system's staff.
"I'm so impressed with the principals, the administrators, the teachers," she said. "All the ingredients are here. Washington County is as close to perfect as a system can get."
Morgan said she expects to face some challenges over the next four years, including budget crunches, adjusting to national education reforms and revamping the school system's gifted and talented and alternative education programs.
She also expects her experience as an educator will help lead the system over the hurdles.
"I feel gratified that my credentials rose to the top and that the board would select me as a finalist," Morgan said. "I have a powerful vision for the school system."