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News Maryland Anne Arundel County Annapolis

Diversity, experience are on the mind of superintendent survey respondents

Residents responding to an online survey say they want their next county schools superintendent to be able to deal with a diverse community.

Someone with superintendent experience and a doctorate wouldn't be a bad idea either, respondents said.

The firm conducting a search for the school system's next superintendent told school board members this week they had received 1,951 responses to an online community input survey, which ran Nov. 22 to Dec. 12. That's a high number, the firm said; greater than it has received in other jurisdictions.

The findings were among several items discussed Wednesday at the board's first meeting of the year. Others items included a partnership between law enforcement and mental health organizations to serve a school for alternative education, and proposals for cellphone towers to be built on school property.

Iowa-based search firm Ray and Associates outlined findings from the survey, which is among the first steps in selecting a permanent replacement for Kevin Maxwell, who left the school system in August to take a similar position in Prince George's County.

Ray and Associates, which is also conducting the search for Baltimore City's next superintendent, said the survey asked for top characteristics residents desired, and responses gravitated to a desire for someone who can embrace the county's diversity. Respondents also said experience and a doctorate is preferred, though not required, said Ray and Associates national executive director William Newman.

"That often means they're going to hire someone with a doctorate," Newman said. "About being a superintendent, I'm guessing 75 percent of the applicants will be superintendents. It's going to take someone with suitable experience."

Newman said the survey respondents lauded the programs that were put in place or grew during Maxwell's tenure in Anne Arundel.

"People want the best possible person that will come in and follow Kevin Maxwell, and do some things differently but also maintain some things that [he] did," Newman said. He said respondents indicated they wanted the superintendent to have two-way communication and a presence in the community.

"They wanted to ensure that the superintendent was willing to engage the community and not just be an office sitter, and be willing to listen," Newman said.

Applicants can apply for the position only online, and the deadline is Feb. 17. Newman said that firm will attend national conventions and recruit applicants.

School board member Stacy Korbelak, who chairs the board's ad hoc search committee, said the search firm has not told the board who has applied, nor has it indicated the number of applicants. But she did say no current employee in the school system has informed the board of an intention to apply.

Interim Superintendent Mamie J. Perkins' contract runs through June 30. The new superintendent is expected to begin a four-year term July 1.

Also at the board meeting, the school system began a review of two applications for the construction of cellphone towers on the property of two schools — Annapolis Middle School and the Center for Applied Technology North in Severn.

The school system signed an agreement with Virginia-based Milestone Communications to consider the towers. Milestone has proposed constructing a 130-foot wireless pole at the Center for Applied Technology that could carry up to five wireless carriers. A&T is slated to be one of the carriers; the agreement said the phone service is experiencing a gap in wireless service coverage in the community surrounding the school. School officials said the wireless pole would be 277 feet from the school structure.

The agreement also calls for a 99-foot wireless pole at Annapolis Middle School that can accommodate Sprint, which school officials say is experiencing a coverage gap around the school, as well as up to three additional wireless carriers. School officials said the pole would be 263 feet from the school structure.

The moves come amid public debate about possible health and safety risk of such towers on school property. Opposition from residents prompted the creation of Anne Arundel County Against Cell Towers at Schools, an advocacy coalition that doesn't want cellphone towers within 1,500 feet of schools, day care centers or homes.

In November, the County Council voted not to restrict the construction of cellphone towers at public schools.

Milestone has now issued four proposals in the county. The company has a cell tower at Broadneck High School in Annapolis, but efforts to build a tower at Piney Orchard Elementary School have stalled.

Alex Szachnowicz, the schools' chief operating officer, said Wednesday no other proposals are pending.

Also at the board meeting, it was announced that the school system has partnered with law enforcement and mental health organizations to provide prevention and support services for Phoenix Academy, an Annapolis-based special and alternative education center.

The school system partnered with Anne Arundel and Annapolis police departments, as well as the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency to provide services that include a school resource officer from the county police who will be assigned to the school. Clinicians at the mental health agency will provide support for families and students, officials said.

The Phoenix Academy, which serves 180 students from kindergarten through grade 12, opened in August.

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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