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Wilcox chosen as next Washington County schools superintendent

Scholastic Inc. exec, former superintendent in Florida and Louisiana named to succeed Morgan

May 03, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Clayton M. Wilcox
Clayton M. Wilcox

HAGERSTOWN — Clayton M. Wilcox, a Scholastic Inc. executive who has past experience as a schools superintendent in Florida and Louisiana, will be the next superintendent of Washington County Public Schools.

".... The board in making this decision believes Dr. Wilcox brings a wealth of experience in the public and private sectors and will help continue the momentum of success that we are accustomed to in Washington County Public Schools," Board President Wayne Ridenour said Tuesday in announcing Wilcox as the next superintendent.

Wilcox, 55, of Westfield, N.J., has been a superintendent in Pinellas County, Fla., and in East Baton Rouge, La. He left the Florida job in 2008 to become senior vice president for education and corporate relations at Scholastic Inc. in New York City.

Wilcox's hiring is dependent upon the blessing of Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick, and the county school board's approval of his contract, Ridenour said.

Under state law, superintendents must sign four-year contracts that begin July 1, lead superintendent search consultant William Middleton has said.

Ridenour, sitting with his fellow board members, announced the decision Tuesday afternoon after the board's business meeting at the central office off Commonwealth Avenue. Wilcox did not attend the meeting.

"I'm very excited. I'm thankful to the board and to the community," Wilcox said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon from his New Jersey home.

"I'm looking forward really to some great days ahead," Wilcox said.

Wilcox was one of three finalists the school system announced more than two weeks ago. The other two were Craig Fiegel, who is superintendent of Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, near Ann Arbor, Mich., and Boyd J. Michael III, deputy schools superintendent for Washington County Public Schools.

Wilcox would succeed Elizabeth Morgan, who was named 2010 National Superintendent of the Year and oversaw the school system for 10 years until she retired Feb. 28 to take a job leading a national nonprofit organization's dropout-prevention initiative.

Stan Schaub has been serving as interim superintendent.

Morgan's base salary for this fiscal year was $182,905, but her salary for the full fiscal year would have been $195,000 because she chose to roll her car allowance into her pay as she was permitted to do under her contract.

The next superintendent would make at least $180,000 a year, according to a brochure for job applicants.

Ridenour said there was no question Wilcox will have to take a pay cut from what he's earning at Scholastic. Due to a nondisclosure agreement, Wilcox said he could not say how much he was being paid at Scholastic.

The board expects to vote on Wilcox's contract within the next few weeks, Ridenour said.

The last superintendent job Wilcox had was in Pinellas County, which had about 115,000 students and 40,000 adult learners, Wilcox has said.

Washington County Public Schools has approximately 22,200 students and more than 1,700 teachers.

Wilcox said Tuesday that he will live in Washington County.

His daughter, who will be a sophomore next school year, will attend Washington County Public Schools, he said. His son will be a senior next year so his family has to decide whether he will finish out high school at his current school or in Washington County.



'Rigorous process'

Ridenour thanked the various employee, student and community groups who met with the three finalists and provided feedback to the board.

Wilcox said it was a "pretty rigorous" process.

"Meeting with the different groups, it was challenging. Everybody made you think on your feet," Wilcox said.

Brien Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, was at the school board office to hear the announcement.

"Dr. Wilcox fits a lot of the criteria that the business community was looking for," Poffenberger said. In answering business leaders' questions, Wilcox took it to the next step, "to a place we didn't anticipate," which is what you want with the next schools superintendent, Poffenberger said.

School board member Donna Brightman said she thought Wilcox was thoughtful about public education, had a great moral compass, would be a consensus builder, and could "go out to every group in this community and meet them on their terms."

"This is an individual the board, the elected board, can work with going forward," Brightman said.

Brightman said all three finalists were great, and the decision was one of the toughest she's made as a board member.

Board member Justin Hartings and Ridenour said they would have been comfortable hiring any of the finalists.

"I think he brought a breadth of experience in school districts, that were large and small, and experience in the private sector," Hartings said.



Working with others

Wilcox was involved in some contentious issues in Pinellas County, according to published reports by the St. Petersburg Times.

Both he and a school system attorney signed an agreement pledging to work together after tensions between the two men led to meetings with a former schools superintendent who helped craft the pact, according to March 31, 2008, stories at TampaBay.com.

Ridenour said he had no concerns about Wilcox's ability to work well with others.

"We saw the Internet stuff," Ridenour said. "It's hard to hide things today."

"People with an ax to grind will say things and try to bring things out," Ridenour said, but the board did its research, he said.

Wilcox said stepping away from the superintendency for three years and working at Scholastic has given him a different view of himself and how he affects people.

"I think today I'd be a much better superintendent than I was, but I hope that would be true of just about anybody in any occupation, that they get better each day."

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