The next Baltimore city schools CEO should lead with integrity, have compassion for students, and be politically and technologically ready to meet 21st century demands.
These are some of the qualities and qualifications that parents, educators and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked for at a public forum Tuesday. It's the first of five scheduled this week where community members can help shape the job description for the city's next superintendent.
As a mother of a fifth-grade student, Rawlings-Blake said she was looking for a strong leader whose experience was "rooted in the classroom."
As mayor, she said she was looking for a partner to implement major reforms, such as the $1 billion plan to upgrade the school system's infrastructure in the next decade, and tackle persistent educational barriers like chronic absenteeism.
The mayor's remarks summarized an op-ed she wrote in Tuesday's Baltimore Sun, where she said the next schools CEO should share the qualifications as former schools chief Andres Alonso, namely having teaching experience. She also wrote she wanted a person who could maintain Alonso's progress, but "one who isn't so beholden to the status quo that he or she does not see where our current system still falls short."
Parents in the audience agreed, saying that they hoped that the next superintendent shared his strengths.
"I want someone very much like him," said Brian Kelley, the parent of two city schools students. "He seemed to have vision, and the ability to get things done. It's hard to find someone who has both."
City teacher Joe Francaviglia said he hoped the next leader would work with the union to change policies that push out young teachers. Francaviglia said that teachers often struggle with a rule that they can't transfer schools until after their third year.
"Young teachers who want to stay in Baltimore are being forced out of the district," he said.
Other attendees said that they would like to see the next superintendent tackle issues such as principal turnover, ineffective discipline policies, funding and opportunity inequities among certain schools and students and a lack of resources in programs and technology.
Members of the group also said they'd like the superintendent should frequently visit communities and classrooms.
Kim Trueheart, a community activist, said the next leader needed to understand and connect with "Two Baltimores," including one where parents and students are "dodging bullets." "If they can't go out into the community, we don't need them," she said.
The forum was led by the executive search firm, Ray and Associates Inc., who will compile a profile by Oct. 22.
Gary Ray, president of the firm hired by the school board, said he was encouraged that the city would build a comprehensive profile.
The group also offered strengths of the city, such as the growing confidence in the school system, students eager to learn, committed educators, and the unique qualities of the "city of neighborhoods."
"They were very open about the challenges, but very proud of their school district," Ray said. "It was a positive night."