'I'm listening:' Superintendent Steven Lockard emphasizes relationships, communication heading into first year

CCPS Superintendent Steven Lockard is ready for the new school year, and looking forward to getting students back in the building.

On a Tuesday in August, one week before the first day for students of the 2018-19 school year, Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Steven Lockard strolled down the hallways of Century High School.

On this day, elementary educators in CCPS took the place of students, filling desks during a day of professional development.


Lockard wound his way through the school, popping his head into a classroom here and there to introduce himself, observe the lesson and, when time allowed, stopping in to sit down and talk to the teachers.

A particularly familiar face greeted him in one of the classrooms.

While Pam Kempa, a second-grade teacher at Winfield Elementary School, will now look to Lockard in a leadership role, decades ago, Kempa baby-sat Lockard when he was in elementary school and she lived across the street.

“He was the best little kid in the world,” she said, laughing, noting that she was just a few years older than Lockard when she watched him all that time ago.

“I’m very excited about him being in the county — thinking about what his father brought to the county and now this great new young spirit here — he’s just a great man and we’re thrilled to have him in Carroll County.”

Everywhere Lockard went on Tuesday, some sort of connection was there, from a onetime neighbor and baby sitter to someone who worked with his sister to a former coworker in another school system.

He spent part of the day meeting with Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, he stopped by two different schools to look at professional development and he also had a working lunch with Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer.

For Lockard, it’s those connections — with students, school staff, community partners and residents of Carroll — he plans to continue and build on as superintendent.

“Communication is key,” Lockard said. “I heard that from the board in the interview process. I saw it in the feedback that the community provided.”

Lockard said in his first two months on the job, he’s spent a lot of time meeting with local leaders and officials. This year, he said, he plans to hold listening sessions for parents, and also townhall-style meetings for students.

CCPS needs to make sure it is listening to the student voice, Lockard said.

“I'm very focused on making sure I'm trying to establish or re-establish connections with folks and keep that opportunity for engagement ongoing,” he said.

Carroll County, through and through

Lockard was born and raised in Westminster. He attended Robert Moton Elementary School, East Middle School and Westminster High School before attending Frostburg State University. After graduation, he took a job in neighboring Frederick County as an elementary school teacher.

He spent 22 years total in the district — working his way up from a teacher to an assistant principal, to principal, into central office and eventually to both an associate superintendent and then deputy superintendent.


"From there I was ready to learn, to grow, to try something new,” he said.

He moved to a job in Fairfax County, Virginia, where he worked as the deputy superintendent for four years. A few years into the role, the superintendent left and Lockard was named interim superintendent before he found his way back to Carroll.

“That was a really steep learning curve in Fairfax County, but a great opportunity to learn, to do some things that I hadn’t counted on,” he added.

But for Lockard, while he spent more than two decades working outside of Carroll, his roots in the county remained.

“I’ve always had a spot in my heart for Carroll County having grown up here,” he said.

His grandfather worked in the system, as did his father, who served as CCPS superintendent in the 1990s. Framed in his new office in the Winchester Building is a set of three photos — his grandfather with one of his classes, his father with one of his and Lockard with a class of his own.

It means a lot to be here, Lockard said.

"I have learned what I knew a long time ago, and that is there are outstanding people here dedicated to educating Carroll County students,” he said.

A student-centered approach

Lockard said he’s spent the summer touring schools, but it’s not the same without the students there.

One of the things he is most looking forward to is having the kids back and roaming the halls, he said. And, Lockard added, he’s eager for school sports and extracurricular activities to be in full swing.

"I’m really excited for our athletic programs to get underway. Expect to see me at a lot of sidelines and bleachers and events,” Lockard said.

Athletics and the other activities in CCPS are the “special sauce” of public education, Lockard said, offering opportunities for students who may not excel as strongly in education to participate outside the classroom.

"That's a great engagement vehicle,” he said, adding that he’s proud of the programs CCPS has.

That focus on the whole student, as well as student achievement, is one of the goals Lockard said he came with when he interviewed for the job.

It is his hope to continue to build on CCPS’ successes, and to listen to the school community about what can make CCPS, and the students, even better.

"Everybody plays a role in student success, from the teachers to the bus drivers to the cafeteria and maintenance workers,” he said. “Everybody’s important. Take one of those pieces out and we don't have a successful puzzle.”

And the way to get to that place of success, Lockard said, is to hear what people need.

"[I'm going to] do a lot of listening this year,” he said.

What’s on the horizon

Lockard said there haven’t been a lot of negatives about the job so far, though he said he’s not naive enough to think there won’t be challenges or issues.

There will be tough decisions, Lockard said, based on the suggestions that come out of the Redistricting and School Closure Committee. RSCC is scheduled to present its report at the September board meeting.

Lockard said he also expects to deal with tough issues when it comes to this year’s budget session.

“I'm accepting those challenges,” he added.

This year, Lockard also said a big topic will be finalizing the strategic plan the Board of Education has spent months working on, as well as a data dashboard that he proposed at a work session over the summer.

He also acknowledged the school resource officers will be a new challenge this year, though he said it’s not foreign to CCPS to have law enforcement be a part of the school system, like through previous partnerships and at sporting events.

Lockard said he’s had experience with other school systems where SRO programs were in place and successful.

“I'm pleased to see that opportunity here in Carroll County,” he said. “They're there to support a safe environment.”

‘The door is open’

Lockard started in his position on July 1, immediately heading into school board work sessions, meetings and more. He said it’s been an “incredibly supportive transition,” adding that everyone along the way has been helpful.

Even after just two months, Lockard said he has a sense the system as a whole is excited about focusing on instruction, students and collaboration.

Lockard emphasized more than once the importance of communication and community engagement in the school system.

“I'd like them to know that I'm listening and the door is open,” he said.

And while sometimes it’s hard to collaborate because not everyone has the same priorities and they don’t always agree, when people work together, anything is possible, he said.

In his time in education, Lockard said he’s seen a lot of roles in the school system, from being a parent to being atop the organization. Even in his youth, Lockard said he worked as a part-time custodian in CCPS during the summer months between college.

“I hope the community knows I'm here as a team player,” Lockard said, “[and] that I look forward to rolling up my sleeves.”