The Howard County school board announced on Tuesday morning that it has chosen Renee A. Foose as its next superintendent, making the Baltimore County deputy superintendent the first woman to head the 50,000-student school district.
School board chairwoman Sandra French said the board chose Foose over S. Dallas Dance, chief middle schools officer in the Houston Independent School District, at about midnight after weighing scores of questionnaire responses, blogs and emails from residents. The board held two events Monday for the public to meet the two finalists. She said the board's decision was unanimous.
Baltimore County announced Tuesday morning as well that it had selected Dance as its schools superintendent.
Foose will replace Sydney Cousin, who announced last year that he would be retiring effective July 1, after eight years in the job.
"I am delighted and honored to be the next superintendent of Howard County public schools," Foose said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. She said since being named she has been inundated with congratulatory phone calls and email messages from family, former colleagues from around the state and current Howard County teachers, principals and executive staff.
Foose added that after she arrived home tired from the two events, she went to sleep feeling positive about the process. Then she was awakened by a phone call from the board offering her the job.
Foose called the board's phone call, "One of most pleasant phone calls anyone could get at midnight."
"She was asleep. She immediately accepted and said, 'When do I start?'" said French. "We are thrilled with our choice. She has a strong understanding of our mandates, of Race to the Top and the common core, and how to reach out to every child and to help every child attain success."
French said she was impressed that Foose called the standards of learning "the floor, and she said that we would do better than the floor."
"I thought they took the high road with having the public and community input," Foose added about the process, "and it's nice to meet so many dedicated and engaged stakeholders."
"There's plenty of time between now and July 1 to transition in, but I want to do it in cooperation and collaboration with the folks that are already in place there," Foose added. "Dr. Cousin has done a fantastic job and I hope to build upon the legacy he created in Howard County."
Foose said that her first slated meeting is Wednesday with Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. "I'm going to continue to work with the board of education in Howard County and the staff for an effective and smooth transition," Foose said.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Ulman about the meeting. "I've heard really good things, especially about her time in Montgomery County, where she was there longer. Having a strong understanding of the Maryland education system, the system of local government, boards of education and interacting with the state government, the budget, is really helpful and important.
"I'm really optimistic and hopeful that we will develop a great working relationship," Ulman added. "I had a great working relationship with Dr. Cousin. Our school system is the engine that drives this county. It is incredibly important that we continue to have a great school system and strengthen that school system."
Foose, 45, is responsible for schools' instruction, operation and performance, directing the implementation of school system policies and programs in Baltimore County, the 26th-largest school system in the country with 105,000 students. She was hired in April.
Foose has worked in Maryland public schools for the past two decades. She was hired by Baltimore County after serving as associate superintendent for Montgomery County Public Schools. Foose earned a bachelor's degree from Towson University, master's degrees in business administration and education from Loyola University Maryland, and a doctorate of education from the University of Delaware.
French said the decision is pending contract negotiations and approval by the state superintendent. She said that the school system will likely introduce Foose as its next superintendent after spring break, which begins Friday afternoon. "We want school to be in session" when Foose is introduced, French said.
Paul Lemle, president of the Howard County Education Association, applauded the school board's choice.
"We're impressed with Dr. Foose. She's ready for the job. We're going to work hard for her as we did Dr. Cousin," said Lemle. "We think she's the right choice for our county. She has varied experience, and she seems like the steady hand that we need here. I'm glad we got Dr. Foose because she's got a strong Maryland background, too."
Chaun Hightower, president of the PTA Council of Howard County, also applauded the decision.
"I think the board made a good decision," said Hightower. "I don't think that they were going to make a wrong one because both candidates seemed to be qualified, personable, all the things that we as a community were looking for.
"I'm excited to learn more about what Dr. Foose is going to bring to the community," Hightower added. "The PTA will certainly make ourselves available to work with her in any way we can."