When I was in Montgomery County, we had a Parent-Community Engagement Academy. What started out as something small, where you had a group of folks going out and doing talks in the schools of various topics of interest to the community, the school was the venue. ... It eventually scaled into this huge, huge, entire office with dozens of staff members whose whole job was engaging the community.
The other very successful initiative Montgomery County had, and I would like to see here, was called Montgomery County Business Education Roundtable. We partnered with the business community, and you had top leaders in that community coming in and mentoring the executive school staff. ... We learned how to leverage technology so that the work that teachers were doing were fewer clicks on the mouse, learning how to do what we do faster, better and cheaper. In partnering with the business community, we took their expertise. It works well in Montgomery, and I'm sure it would work just as well here.
What can Howard County learn from other school systems in the state and in the country? Or in the world?
I'm a firm believer that this is one of the best school systems in the state based on assessment measures, arguably the best in the country. How do we showcase that? How do we continue to develop our workforce? ... ...How can we go to the next level? Why aren't we leading? In Montgomery, they communicate, they collaborate, and they're effective at those. We could learn how to become more of a partner with our internal stakeholders, like the union groups, our parents, our PTAs, different CACs that exist and move forward from there. I get the sense there's a need for some more of that occur.
What are some of the weaknesses and some of the strengths of the Howard system?
There's many more strengths than there are weaknesses. The strengths are, obviously, the rich academic program, the very talented and dedicated workforce. We obviously have very engaged and very motivated students, and that doesn't automatically come — that has to speak to what is happening in schools for that to occur. There's already a pretty good level of community engagement and involvement.
How can the budget reflect the challenges the economy faces?
We have to look to see where we have redundancies. If two offices, or two parts of the organization are doing the same thing, maybe it can be done with one office. ... What can we do moving forward in integrating technology and expanding technology? Are we making sure that what we're doing is smart? Everyone has a cell phone now, so with that, what can we do to so that we're increasing our access and overall effectiveness with technology and are we being smart with that? ...
It's not more with less, but doing more with a better approach to what we're doing. Let's find way to take things off the plate, re-prioritize. ... I think there's a lot of redundancy and duplication of effort. Let's find ways to work smarter and more efficiently as we move forward.
What is the role of the superintendent in interacting with the Board of Education? What is an ideal dynamic?
An ideal dynamic is open, it's collaborative and it's transparent. That's an ideal working relationship. We're colleagues, collegial, and knowing that they can approach me in my office, and knowing that if they have a packed board room with a very contentious issue, that I'm going to provide the leadership necessary to help with whatever the situation is.