David C. Ring Jr., one of two finalists for Harford County Public Schools superintendent, sees local schools as “rather instructionally sound” and “pretty solid.”
“Generally speaking, it’s pretty solid as a school district, and I would like to see that continue,” he said while responding to questions from two representatives of The Aegis during Tuesday’s media session of the three-hour superintendent candidate community forum held by the Board of Education.
Participating were a reporter and editor from The Aegis. School board members and others from the community were in the audience.
The forum for Sean Bulson, the second finalist for superintendent, is being held late Thursday afternoon.
“I think Harford County is rather instructionally sound,” Ring said. “That’s not to say they’re not without problem or concern.”
Ring cited issues he had heard of through prior research and questions that came up during the forum, such as overcrowded classrooms and community members’ desire for greater visibility of their superintendent.
“We can always improve ourselves and look for ways to become even better,” he said.
Ring is the former president of the Institute of Notre Dame, a private Catholic all-female high school in Baltimore and the former superintendent of the public Delmar School District, straddling the state line between Delaware and Maryland on the Eastern Shore. He has spent more than 35 years as a teacher, administrator and school leader.
He answered a range of questions about his professional background, his assessment of the Harford school system, his leadership style, budgeting philosphy, his relationship to governing boards and how he interacts with community partners.
“Family is very important to us, and we made that conscious decision to move back,” Ring said, when asked when he moved from Delaware to Baltimore County in 2015.
He was the first male president of the Institute of Notre Dame, and he decided to leave that position after two years because he believed a woman would be a better fit leading the all-girls school.
Ring said he knew a woman “who was aspiring to be school president,” and he helped recruit and train her before leaving.
“I knew that I had to do what was best [for] my interests and the institution,” he said.
Ring said he plans to move to Harford County, should he be hired as superintendent. He said living in the Delmar district was a key part of being a succesful leader there.
“I can tell you, 10 years later, it had everything to do with my job performance,” he said.
The next superintendent will succeed Superintendent Barbara Canavan, who will retire June 30 after 45 years with the Harford school system. Her successor, who will start July 1, will inherit the fiscal 2019 budget she and her staff created and is scheduled to be adopted by the school board.
He said, when asked if he would start his first budget at zero, that he would build a budget based on HCPS’ needs and its finances.
“You have to have a base budget,” he said.
Ring said he would need to know the school system’s needs when he starts building the budget.
He said he met with his chief financial officer in Delmar on a weekly basis, and he stressed the need to plan budgets about five years ahead.
“It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not something that you create or recreate within a month or so,” Ring said earlier in the session. “[A] budget is something you work on on a daily or weekly basis.”
He said Delmar’s school board has final approval over that district’s budget, while Harford County can only adopt its budget after the county and state have approved their budgets. The majority of funding for Maryland’s local school districts comes from the state and local governments. Unlike some states, Maryland districts do not have taxing powers of their own.
Ring said it is critical to develop relationships with local and state government officials. During his time in Delaware, he said he worked closely with local police when developing protocols to respond to a school shooting.
He also talked about a dual enrollment program for Delmar students that he developed in partnership with Wilmington University in Delaware. High school students could take college courses and earn credits toward a degree.
“It was the most successful thing academically we did, in partnering with Wilmington [University],” he said.
Ring stressed throughout the forum that communication is critical to success. He said his predecessor in Delmar, who mentored him for a few months, told him he should work with his school board “and do not ever not share with them,” a practice he has followed in his years as a school leader.
“There should never be surprises about a decision that I make as a superintendent and not [have] this board [be] aware of it,” he said.