As Towson High School principal Jane Barranger departs from her 12-year tenure — hallmarked by accolades and a Blue Ribbon award — the question on many lips is, "Who will replace her?"
In order to solicit comments from parents about what they hope to see in Barranger's successor, school officials hosted an informal forum Wednesday, June 19, held in the school's library and led by Maria Lowry, the recently appointed assistant superintendent of high schools for Baltimore County Public Schools.
Discourse with the more than 25 attendees began with a laundry list of wants, but shifted to their concerns about programs and initiatives that they said were lacking and which they would like to see Towson High's new administrator push.
While some said the incoming principal should maintain the school's and Barranger's tradition of strong academics — particularly expansion of the school's magnet program and continued access to AP courses — many said they felt the student body lacked school spirit.
Lowry told those in attendance that she heard similar comments from faculty members during a prior meeting she held with staffers, Lowry said.
"Even though it's not measured anywhere, having fun and having school spirit is an important part of high school," Gale Della Santina, the mother of a 2013 graduate and a rising sophomore, said after the meeting in an email.
Others said that communication between administration and parents could be improved and would be helped by having the school start up an electronic newsletter instead of using students as liaisons by having them deliver letters to home.
"This is a community of parents who are accustomed to being involved," said Julianne Lockwood, whose son is a rising Towson High junior, after the meeting. Lockwood was employed at the school for eight years as a counselor, and now works with the Anne Arundel school system. "I think it's a weird shift for them to go from being very involved, the expectation of being involved, to being that they're not in-the-know."
The next step in the process of choosing a new principal is for Lowry to choose a panel, which will conduct interviews with candidates. The panel will be composed of eight to nine people, including Lowry, and several other BCPS officials, two Towson High faculty members, a PTA parent, a parent from the school Boosters and possibly a representative from student government, Lowry said.
Interviews with candidates will be scheduled within the next week, Lowry said.
Candidates could come from an in-county pool of vetted vice principals and principals, but BCPS is opening the position to anyone, even out-of-state, who is qualified, Mychael Dickerson, BCPS spokesman, said.
The panel will then forward its top two choices to Superintendent Dallas Dance, who will review the candidates' qualifications before choosing the new principal. Dickerson said Dance generally takes the recommendation of the panel.
"Jane has set the bar very high," Dickerson said. "We're not looking for someone to be Jane, but build on top of it. Our process is open so we could find the best possible candidate."