Process Begins to Find New Superintendent

Gale Horton Gay | 8/1/2012, 12:36 p.m.

A new chapter in Prince George's County Public Schools [PGCPS] has started long before the bell officially rings to open the 2012-2013 school year.

The county's public schools are now under somewhat new - although temporary -

leadership with two veteran school administrators assisting Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., who is leaving Prince George's County to head the Philadelphia public school system - one of the largest in the nation. Hite selected Monica Goldson, PGCPS's chief operating officer, and A. Duane Arbogast, acting deputy superintendent of academics, to assist him in the transition for the next two months.

Hite's contract contained a 120-day notice provision, which he decided to forgo along with a $125,000 severance package - an amount equal to six months' salary - in exchange for an early release. His official last day as superintendent will be September 30.

School board members expect to name an interim superintendent by mid-August.

Verjeana M. Jacobs, chairman of the Board of Education, said she wanted to assure parents that "the progress we have made will continue" and school officials "have a continuous process to get the schools open. We got this, but we need your help."

The board is currently reviewing proposals from individuals and executive search firms to conduct a national search for a new superintendent. The board specified it's seeking a firm with experience in the recruitment of superintendents of school districts "with 100,000-plus students" and "characteristics of an urban school district."

The timeline released by the school system indicates a search firm should be selected in early August and the search for a superintendent should be launched by fall. They want to secure a candidate who can start work no later than June 2013.

Community meetings are tentatively scheduled for November, December and January.

Several parents said they hope the search leads to a new superintendent who will take Prince George's schools and students in the right direction.

Elizabeth Corney, 37, of Laurel is both a mother with a child in Prince George's public school and a teacher in the district. Her son, Nicholas Neal, will be entering the first grade this month.

She said she's saddened to see Hite leave because of the loss of continuity.

However as a seventh grade teacher at Samuel P. Massie Academy in Forestville, Corney said she hopes that with a new superintendent will come an opportunity for teachers such as herself to have contracts. She said she has been without one for three years since joining the Prince George's school system.

"There have been so many [budget] constraints," Corney said. "Maybe with a new superintendent we can get some amenities back."

Corney hopes the board chooses someone to fill the superintendent's post who has experience leading a large, diverse school district.

"It's important to realize within the whole district it's made up of different diversities. We need somebody who can work to bring the community together," Corney said.

She said the school system is in good hands with the interim leadership, and she isn't worried about the year delay in bringing in a new superintendent. It's important to "take the time to get the right person rather than someone [who will be] gone in another year."

Landover resident Linda Wilson, whose 6-year daughter Aaliyah will be starting first grade at Thomas G. Pullen School, said she wants a superintendent willing to work with teachers, to "get their perspective of what's going on in individual schools, someone who is going to be understanding, compassionate, get the job done and make sure these kids are reading, learning, prepared for college and ready for work."

In a statement issued by the Prince George's County Public School Board of Education, transparency and community input are stressed.

"We know that this is a critical juncture for Prince George's County and we are committed to selecting a superintendent who not only represents our community's interests, but can best respond to its needs," they said.

"The search process will be transparent with meaningful opportunities for community engagement. You will hear from your elected representatives on this board at every stage of the process. That is our promise to you. Nothing less than our children's education, their future and the county's progress are at stake."