Superintendent Morgan: Person of the Year 2007

January 01, 2008

She smiles often and laughs easily, but when Washington County Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan believes she's right, she stands firm and challenges those who disagree to do their best to change her mind.

She did it early in her six-year stint here, when addressing an auditorium full of teachers, many of whom were skeptical that the premise of the federal No Child Left Behind Act - that every child can achieve - was really true.

Morgan bluntly told the educators that what the law meant was that it would no longer be possible to excuse students' failures because of their family's background or low income. Every child must make progress.

Morgan has made good on that promise, leading the system to improved test scores and, just recently, to national recognition.

She's done that by changing the way the system works, adding Student Achievement Specialists, master teachers who track student achievement, coach other teachers and even tutor students who need extra help.


To give parents who might opt to send their children to private schools a reason to stay with the public-school system, Morgan and her team created a series of academies, dealing with everything from the arts to finance.

Morgan has succeeded in part because she monitors progress herself, meeting regularly with groups of teachers and answering their e-mails personally.

Someone with less fortitude might have been discouraged by the reception she received from some in the community. She was an outsider, previously associated with the Baltimore City schools, not known for their stellar academic achievement.

But Morgan persevered and won over most of her critics with her hard work and her willingness to get involved with other community activities, including the PenMar Development Corp., charged with replacing the jobs lost when the Fort Ritchie Army base closed, and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Morgan knew that winning the public's support for the school system and its mission depended first on convincing business and community leaders that things were on the right track.

By all accounts, she's done that and something related that might be the top achievement during her time here - changing community attitudes about education.

In an area where many residents' parents didn't graduated from high school, then made good wages working for local manufacturers, getting across the message that the working world had changed wasn't easy.

That Morgan and her team have done that will be a large part of her legacy. That's why she was chosen as The Herald-Mail's Person of the Year for 2007. Though she didn't grow up locally, since she arrived, she has helped this area grow in many positive ways.

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