Superintendent candidate Foose known for reform work

In her 15 years working in Maryland public schools, Howard County Public School System superintendent candidate Renee Foose has developed a "proven record of success" in reforming schools to meet new standards of achievement, according to a system statement on her candidacy released Monday morning.

Foose, 45, who the statement said has "direct experience with numerous education reform initiatives," currently serves as deputy superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools and is one of two finalists for the Howard County position. The other is S. Dallas Dance, chief middle school officer in the Houston Independent School District in Texas.

A Maryland State Trooper for six years in the early 1990s before entering the teaching field, Foose has risen steadily through the ranks of Maryland schools in the last two decades, as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and administrator.

Recently, Foose has received attention from multiple different school districts looking for new superintendents nationally, including the school system of Orange County, Florida, the 10th largest school district in the country, where she was one of three finalists, according to Bill Sublette, chair of the Orange County School Board.

Though Orange County ended up selected an internal candidate familiar with the Florida school system to fill the position, Sublette said they were very impressed with Foose.

"I think our entire board is convinced that she's going to be a leader in American education," Sublette said. "She's risen very, very quickly through the ranks, which speaks volumes to her leadership ability and how she's viewed by others."

She is also rumored to be a candidate to replace her current boss, Superintendent Joe Hairston, when he retires this summer, but the school system is keeping its candidates private.

Rise through Maryland

A 1993 graduate of Towson University, Foose began teaching in 1996, after leaving the state police, and received a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University in 1997. She became an assistant principal in Frederick County in 2000. In 2004, she earned a doctorate of education from the University of Delaware.

She was a principal in Washington County from 2006 to 2008, when she started her career in Montgomery County, also as a principal. In 2010, she earned an master's degree in business administration from Loyola University.

Foose joined Baltimore County in 2011 — amid some uproar over her salary, which at $214,000 was more than $20,000 more than her predecessor had earned — after serving as director of school performance, director of shared accountability and associate superintendent in Montgomery County, where she worked with longtime reform advocate Jerry Weast, who retired as superintendent of Montgomery County schools last year.

"She had an outstanding leadership ability and a sense of doing the right thing for students," Weast said of Foose. "She had the ability to help students who actually were very accelerated to go to new heights, and to help students who were needing some extra help get the education that would give them a brighter future."

In her current position leading the instructional and operational aspects of Baltimore County Public Schools, Foose has done an "outstanding job," according to Lawrence Schmidt, president of the Baltimore County Board of Education.

"She is very competent and I think has a high level of expertise in terms of educational issues. And beyond that, she's just very approachable," Schmidt said. "She's easy for members of the board to work with, in terms of always being available or accessible when we have questions or need information."

Schmidt, an attorney, said Foose serves him and other members of the board who don't have backgrounds in education well.

"She's very good at being able to frame the issues and frame the subject matter in a way that's easily understandable and in a way that makes it possible to get a grasp of the nuances of the particular issue," Schmidt said.

Schmidt would not comment on whether Foose is a candidate in Baltimore County's own search for a superintendent, but said she would make a "fine candidate" for Howard County.

The Howard County school system's statement on Foose's candidacy said she is "widely respected for her success in building collaborative rapport with stakeholders and union officials to implement reform efforts and increase teacher professional capacity."

It also said she is recognized for her role in "moving schools from (No Child Left Behind) and the Maryland State Department of Education watch lists to high achieving status."

Jody Leleck, a former colleague of Foose's in Montgomery County, said she was impressed with Foose all the way back in 2005, when Leleck, then associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, first interviewed Foose about an open administrative position in Montgomery County.

"She just blew me away in the interview," said Leleck, who retired last summer as a consultant to the school system after having previously served as the system's chief academic officer. "She was pretty amazing."

The position Foose had applied for ended up going to an internal candidate, but Leleck was so impressed she called Foose back and asked her to come to Montgomery County as a principal instead.

"I said, 'I think there's a lot you can do and learn here, and a lot you could offer us,'" Leleck remembered.

Over the years, Leleck got to know Foose, who is single with no children, better.

"She makes friends very easily, but she can be very reserved, so most people don't get to see that side of her. But she's just an all-around great person," Leleck said.

Leleck is not surprised Foose is up for a superintendent position now, she said.

"All of her positions so far have been geared toward getting the most experience she can," Leleck said. "I have every confidence she will be a superintendent somewhere by this summer."

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