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Three Finalists Compete for Top School Spot

Gale Horton Gay | 3/20/2013, 10:22 a.m.

Prince George's County Narrows the Field

There's a little March madness going on in Prince George's County as three finalists vie for the position as superintendent of the county's public school system.

After a national search, the Prince George's County School Board has narrowed the field to three veteran educators who have led school systems in Chicago, Durham, N.C., and right here in the District and Maryland.

The finalists are: Eric J. Becoats, superintendent of Durham Public Schools; Harrison A. Peters, chief of Chicago Public Schools and Alvin L. Crawley, who has been serving as interim superintendent of Prince George's County Public Schools since September 2012 and previously as deputy chief of programming for the District's public schools.

"We set out an ambitious timeline for our superintendent search and we are happy we attracted these qualified candidates," said Board of Education Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs. "During the next few weeks, the public will have an opportunity to interact with the three candidates and provide their input to the board as we select the next leader who will further the mission of our school district."

Previously, Becoats served as chief administrative officer for Guilford County Schools in Greensboro, N.C.; director of community economic development for University Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.; assistant superintendent for planning and development for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; and chief of planning for Baltimore City Schools in Baltimore, Md. He holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Master of Science degree in finance from Johns Hopkins University.

Crawley previously was assistant superintendent and director of special education for Arlington Public Schools; and assistant superintendent for special education and gifted programs for Chicago Public Schools. He holds a doctorate in instructional leadership from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a Master of Science degree in speech and language pathology from Northeastern University.

Peters served as chief area officer for Chicago Public Schools; principal of Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, N.C.; and principal of Robinswood Middle School in Orlando, Fla. He is currently completing his doctorate in organizational leadership at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He earned a Master of Science degree in educational leadership and administration from Nova Southeastern University.

The new superintendent will oversee a school system with 204 schools, 125,000 students, 18,000 employees and an annual budget of $1.6 billion.

The public had its first opportunity to hear from the three candidates at a public forum held on March19 at the Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro. Each candidate was given 45 minutes to address the audience and community members asked questions.

In December Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the firm conducting the superintendent search, presented the Prince George's County School Board with a 20-page "Leadership Profile Report" that outlined what various "stakeholders" want in a new superintendent. The top characteristics that all the groups the firm gathered information from rated as most important were listening skills, ability to create a professional and positive workplace, recruitment/retention of personnel and a "clear vision of what is required to provide exemplary educational services and implement effective change."

The report is the culmination of information gathered during several months of community meetings, one-on-one interviews, focus groups and responses from surveys.

The search firm concluded that there are 12 characteristics respondents want in a new superintendent including a willingness to make a long-term commitment, strong presence and involvement in the community, works effectively with the school board and elected officials, and fosters trust and transparency. They also indicated that being a strong communicator and motivator, working collaboratively with the school board and the community and being decisive, demonstrating both creativity and risktaking are also important.

The board is expected to announce the new superintendent before July.