Hightower said Foose's approachability would be an asset.

"I hope she'll have an open-door policy," Hightower said. "It seems she wants to get the community — not just parents — involved and included. The community wants a board and a system that's transparent, that will listen to us."

The challenges facing the system are the same facing other districts, Foose said in an interview, with new mandates coming down from the state with the PARCC assessment set to replace the MSAs, and a new teacher and principal evaluation system coming in the next few years.

The economy is also a challenge, Foose said.

Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

"We have to continue to find ways to do more with less money," Foose said. "We have to find a way to reduce redundancies and cut inefficiencies. At all costs, we have to preserve classrooms and schools to make sure we're not having a negative impact whatsoever on schools and classrooms. It means taking a look at what we're doing and finding ways to be more efficient while maintaining the same level of effectiveness."

In both the public sessions and in an interview, Foose spoke to the importance of eliminating the achievement gap among students of different backgrounds, and her work in the state to do that impressed board members.

"She knows what's demanded in Maryland," French said. "The whole state is a leader in the nation in the drive to eliminate the achievement gap, and we may be the first to do that."

Foose said she had a track record of eliminating the achievement gaps where they persist.

"We have to identify the gaps," she said. "Are the gaps based on race, on socioeconomics, or services received? We need to do a root-cause analysis to determine what's the cause, why do they exist, and what are the barriers that prevent us from moving forward? Then we have to put systems and structures in place so we're giving teachers opportunities to meet the students where they are, to take them to the next level."

Staff writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.