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Former Southampton principal named Harford schools interim superintendent

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Barbara P. Canavan, a 40-year veteran of Harford County Public Schools, has been named interim superintendent to replace for one year Dr. Robert Tomback, who is leaving after his term is up June 30.

Canavan spent more than half her time with the school system as assistant principal and principal at Southampton Middle School before being promoted in 2010 to executive director of middle school performance.

Her appointment to a one-year term as interim superintendent, while the board looks for a permanent superintendent, was unanimously approved Monday night by the Harford County Board of Education. Her term will begin July 1 and she will earn $179,400 for the year.

At Monday's meeting, school board President Francis "Rick" Grambo called Canavan "the perfect candidate to move our system forward."

Canavan, 63, said after Monday's meeting that she applied for the interim superintendent's position for the opportunity to serve Harford County.

"It's given me an opportunity to serve the students, the parents and the community of Harford County," she said.

Canavan said she is "thrilled" about being appointed to her new role.

"I'm thrilled, I'm humbled, I'm excited and I really look forward to working with everyone," she said.

Harford County Executive David Craig, who worked with Canavan for 12 years at Southampton Middle, said in a statement he is "delighted" about her appointment as interim superintendent.

"Mrs. Canavan has served with dedication, and excellence during her 40 years of selfless service with our school system. She cares deeply for students, faculty members and staff. During her distinguished career Mrs. Canavan has served as a teacher, school-based administrator and as an executive director with Harford County Public Schools. She has served the school system well and I'm sure will do an outstanding job as the interim superintendent of schools," he said in his statement issued Tuesday.

As director of middle school performance, Canavan assumed responsibility for the direction of curriculum development and instructional programming, according to a press release from the school system. She also has been able to gain a global perspective of school system management serving the needs of students and staff throughout the county.

"We were looking for courage, vision and commitment, and we saw all three in our selection for interim superintendent," board member Thomas Fitzpatrick said.

Grambo said a number of people inside and outside of the public school system applied, and some applicants came from outside Harford County.

"That's certainly a plus; that's certainly a bonus," he said of a candidate from the school system. "We were looking for the best candidate."

Board member Cassandra Beverly said to Canavan, "I was impressed with your passion for education, and I believe that the system will greatly benefit from your leadership over the next year."

Grambo said the selection process for an interim schools leader involved candidate interviews conducted by school board members and private discussions among board members.

Grambo said the nature of selecting an interim superintendent required confidentiality, and pledged the year-long process of selecting a permanent superintendent would be much more open, with input from members of the community.

"This board is committed to gathering the stakeholder feedback on the selection of our next superintendent," he said.

Alysson Krchnavy said school officials "had an impressive group of candidates" apply for the interim superintendent position and said she would "encourage each and every one of them to apply for the four-year contract position."

Canavan didn't say if she intends to apply for the permanent superintendent position, that "over the next year she must focus her energy on the needs of the students and staff by moving the system forward during this time of transition," Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for the school system, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. "She is excited about the opportunity that she has been afforded to serve the community as the interim superintendent for Harford County Public Schools and she will address the next phase of this process when the time is appropriate."

Canavan, a graduate of Mount St. Mary's College with a bachelor of arts in English literature and a minor in secondary education and French, began her career in education in 1970 as an elementary school teacher at the Sacred Heart School in Brooklyn, N.Y. She also has a master of arts in middle school education from Columbia University Teachers College and a Master of Arts Equivalency in Administration and Supervision from Loyola College in Baltimore.

In 1973, after three years teaching in New York, Canavan was hired by Harford County Public Schools at Aberdeen Middle School. In 1978, she was named principal at Edgewood Middle School and in 1983 was transferred to the same role at Magnolia Middle School.

In 1989, after serving six years at Magnolia Middle, Canavan was named assistant principal at Southampton Middle School, then became principal in 1991; she remained there for the next 19 years.

As Southampton's principal, Canavan encouraged open-ended dialogue in order to assess the needs of the students, the staff and the community, according to a school system press release. Her active leadership and good judgment in working with all stakeholders allowed her to develop positive relationships and conduct ongoing programs to support student achievement.

Canavan, who lives in Bel Air, was married for 35 years, until her husband died in 2008. She has a son, who is engaged to be married this fall, Kranefeld said.

"Mrs. Canavan is celebrating 40 years of dedicated service and commitment to the students and staff of Harford County Public Schools as a teacher, administrator and executive director," Grambo said in a news release. "As a board, we are confident in her abilities to lead this school system and community through this time of transition as the interim superintendent, and we look forward to working with her to move forward with our mission to prepare all of our students to succeed academically and socially."

Canavan has served on and chaired many committees and task forces in Harford County, which have been instrumental in determining policy and procedure as well as the vision and mission of the school system, according to the release. She has presented key education topics at the local, state and national levels. As vice president, president and chief negotiator for the Association of Public School Administrators and Supervisors of Harford County (APSASHC) for 19 years, Canavan was able to develop a keen understanding and appreciation for the collective bargaining process.

"As a professional educator and resident of Harford County, I have been afforded a myriad of experiences which have prepared me to serve our community as interim superintendent," Canavan said in a press release. "I am committed to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to afford all students optimal opportunities to realize their full potential; to ensure that our workforce is superior in both talent and moral fiber; and, to safeguard the efficacious management of fiscal matters."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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