Harford schools Superintendent Bulson kicks off 'Listen & Learn Tour' at Bel Air Middle School

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Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Sean Bulson started his five-week Listen and Learn Tour Tuesday evening, speaking and interacting with 50 people gathered in the cafeteria of Bel Air Middle School.

Bulson, who became the head of the public school system in early July, will visit middle schools countywide through mid-October to meet members of the community and hear their concerns and ideas to improve the school system.

“We’re excited to see the attendance this evening and look forward to the next eight stops on the tour,” Jillian Lader, HCPS’ manager of communications, said.

Some of the concerns and aspirations expressed included preserving programs such as those offered through the Harford Glen Environmental Education Center, potentially restoring programs that have been cut over the years because of budget issues, ensuring support for teachers and students, inspiring a strong work ethic among students, promoting more community outreach events by the school system and funding for the system.

“There are no easy decisions,” Bulson told The Aegis with regard to his findings on the HCPS budget, which he also shared with the audience. “We’ll have to make some hard decisions, but it’s important that we do that with a sense of what our community values for our schools.”

Those present included HCPS parents, members of civic organizations, school system staffers, principals, central office officials and Board of Education members. The gathering at Bel Air Middle lasted about 90 minutes. Bulson made introductory remarks and spent the bulk of the time listening as members of the audience took part in group discussions at cafeteria tables.

Discussions were based on four questions presented during the introduction, including what are their beliefs about the school system, what should be celebrated about HCPS, how they think the schools “inspire and prepare each student to achieve success in college and careers” and their suggestions for improvements.

The superintendent went to each table, listened as people talked and chatted with them before moving on to the next group.

Bulson stressed the importance of having “a sense of the pulse of the community” when making such decisions.

At the end of the session, the superintendent thanked everyone for their participation.

“I now have a responsibility to ensure that you have a chance to hear your voice in the outcomes,” he said.

Bulson said he cannot guarantee that “every comment, every appeal” expressed Tuesday will be incorporated into his initiatives for the future of the school system.

But he also recalled a conversation he had with his predecessor, former Superintendent Barbara Canavan, after he was hired. Canavan, he said, told him, “There’s no one here that wants to see you fail.”

“That also implied they want to see all of you be successful,” Bulson told the audience. “I keep coming into new evidence that she was absolutely dead on with that; we have very good people to help make that happen.”

The next Listen & Learn Tour stop will be Thursday, Sept. 20, at Edgewood Middle School. The stops continue through Oct. 18. All sessions start at 6:30 p.m. The rest of the schedule includes: Sept. 26, Aberdeen Middle School; Sept. 27, North Harford Middle School; Oct 1, Magnolia Middle School; Oct. 9, Fallston Middle School; Oct. 11, Patterson Mill Middle School; Oct 17, Havre de Grace Middle School; and Oct. 18, Southampton Middle School.

Anyone who wants to attend is asked to register online in advance via Eventbrite.

Visit http://www.hcps.org/boe/superintendentsearch for more information and a link to register.

Bulson is scheduled to present his findings and strategies for the future, based on three months of meeting with HCPS stakeholders, to the community Oct. 29 at Harford Technical High School in Bel Air.

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