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Elizabeth Morgan fits the definition of a leader

November 13, 2010

Washington County has been blessed with some great educators over the years, men and women who were not only assets in their own right, but who were matched perfectly to their time. Through two or three decades they moved education forward, mostly at a calculated pace with which Washington County was comfortable. Comfort will never be a word associated with Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, who is leaving the system early next year to join a national association. Morgan took a cattle prod to incremental progress and in nine years accelerated the pace to a point where Washington County is at least within shouting distance of her oft-stated goal of a world-class school system. Morgan also has served the county as lightning rod-in-chief, and there is little she can do without creating a wave of controversy, ridicule and even anger. Strange as it might sound, this could be her greatest achievement. There was a time not so very long ago in this county when education was on auto-pilot. There was no controversy because no one outside of the immediate school system cared. Education was a bothersome thing that delayed entering the work force and collecting a fat paycheck from any one of many local manufacturers. That attitude began to change throughout the years, but it was Morgan who placed learning squarely on the front burner. In a series of bold strokes, she built schools, initiated a magnet program and wrenched teachers and administrators from their comfort zones. She was a force in Annapolis, bringing home more money for Washington County than we will ever realize. Naturally, these changes were often greeted with protest, in and out of the schools. But if adults have been inconvenienced, we believe the children have benefited, and exponentially so. There are those who treat education as if it were a game of rotisserie baseball, parsing numbers, scores, rates and statistics until they find a combination that shows the school system in a less favorable light than the school system (which, to be fair, plays the numbers game, too) represents itself to be. We have no problem with watchdogs, but we wonder if they might have a better feel for our schools if, instead of complaining, they spent their time actually observing our classrooms where we have a number of crackerjack teachers and programs. The job of Superintendent of Schools is the toughest job of any county public office. Half the job is educational, the other half administrative and financial. Politically, a superintendent must figure out who responds best with the carrot and who responds best with the stick, who needs to be stroked and who needs to be hounded. A superintendent must understand that it's not her job to be universally liked and that some, for their own personal reasons, are rooting for her to fail, regardless of results. Morgan was an expert at juggling this multiplicity of balls. She ran a tight ship and kept a tight focus on the kids. It would be very hard to find anyone in Washington County over the past decade who more aptly fits the definition of a leader. We wish Morgan well in her new endeavor and thank her for her nine years of invaluable service to this county. After Morgan, education in Washington County will never be the same. And we view that as a tremendously good thing.Washington County has been blessed with some great educators over the years, men and women who were not only assets in their own right, but who were matched perfectly to their time. Through two or three decades they moved education forward, mostly at a calculated pace with which Washington County was comfortable. Comfort will never be a word associated with Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, who is leaving the system early next year to join a national association. Morgan took a cattle prod to incremental progress and in nine years accelerated the pace to a point where Washington County is at least within shouting distance of her oft-stated goal of a world-class school system. Morgan also has served the county as lightning rod-in-chief, and there is little she can do without creating a wave of controversy, ridicule and even anger. Strange as it might sound, this could be her greatest achievement. There was a time not so very long ago in this county when education was on auto-pilot. There was no controversy because no one outside of the immediate school system cared. Education was a bothersome thing that delayed entering the work force and collecting a fat paycheck from any one of many local manufacturers. That attitude began to change throughout the years, but it was Morgan who placed learning squarely on the front burner. In a series of bold strokes, she built schools, initiated a magnet program and wrenched teachers and administrators from their comfort zones. She was a force in Annapolis, bringing home more money for Washington County than we will ever realize. Naturally, these changes were often greeted with protest, in and out of the schools. But if adults have been inconvenienced, we believe the children have benefited, and exponentially so. There are those who treat education as if it were a game of rotisserie baseball, parsing numbers, scores, rates and statistics until they find a combination that shows the school system in a less favorable light than the school system (which, to be fair, plays the numbers game, too) represents itself to be. We have no problem with watchdogs, but we wonder if they might have a better feel for our schools if, instead of complaining, they spent their time actually observing our classrooms where we have a number of crackerjack teachers and programs. The job of Superintendent of Schools is the toughest job of any county public office. Half the job is educational, the other half administrative and financial. Politically, a superintendent must figure out who responds best with the carrot and who responds best with the stick, who needs to be stroked and who needs to be hounded. A superintendent must understand that it's not her job to be universally liked and that some, for their own personal reasons, are rooting for her to fail, regardless of results. Morgan was an expert at juggling this multiplicity of balls. She ran a tight ship and kept a tight focus on the kids. It would be very hard to find anyone in Washington County over the past decade who more aptly fits the definition of a leader. We wish Morgan well in her new endeavor and thank her for her nine years of invaluable service to this county. After Morgan, education in Washington County will never be the same. And we view that as a tremendously good thing.

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