Sean Bulson is looking forward to his first day of classes Sept. 4 as the new Harford County school superintendent. The former University of North Carolina System official takes the reins of a system with 5,000 employees and 37,800 students in 54 schools.
The Syracuse, N.Y., native, who was raised in Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut, first came to the region in 1987 to attend American University. He started his 23-year career in education in Montgomery County Public Schools, where he held various positions including community superintendent and principal of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
Bulson, 49, is married to Katherine Treanor, and they have a 14-year-old daughter, Emily.
During his first week of work this July, Bulson talked about a myriad of topics including what type of student he was growing up; his favorite teacher; and the last book he read.
Have you been to every school in the system? No. Not yet. [laughing] By the time this is published I hope to go to each twice. The only schools I went to were the ones I went to on the finalist interview day.
What is the best advice you've received in life? Don’t take yourself too seriously. And the quote from Henry Ford: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you’re right.” I believe a lot that hard work matters and believing that you can do something matters. The quote does a good job boiling it down.
What is the biggest issue facing today's youth? Probably helping them learn to successfully navigate the access they have to everything. Our youth — at very young ages — have access to so much more than people from other generations. Helping them know how to deal with that, know how to process that, know how to make good decisions around what’s available and what they can learn, that’s a thing that schools need to take the lead role in. But everyone in society needs to take an active role to help them navigate the changing society so that we help them deal with that in a successful way.
What is your family life like? Family time for us often revolves around food. Both my wife and I enjoy cooking. Once our daughter was born 14 years ago, she [his wife] made a specific point that we would all eat together. … But that idea that we can have a time to sit down and eat is very important.
What type of student were you? I was a good student. I wasn’t a straight-A student. I was one of those students where everything didn’t come easily. I had to work. I was responsible. I wanted to get good grades. Some times were easier than others.
What was your best subject? I leaned toward math and sciences. Rather than follow that lead, I went in a whole different direction. I taught English as a second language.
Who was your favorite teacher growing up? My mom. My mom was a teacher my whole life. She retired as a principal. While I had many great teachers, she was the one. … She was the teacher who I learned the most about teaching from.
What was the subject you struggled with the most? It wasn’t subjects. It was a teacher I couldn’t connect with. None of it came super easy. If it was a pattern of struggling, it came down to if there was a teacher who was engaging me.
Favorite television show? I haven’t had cable for two years in my apartment. It’s between movies and shows. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the superhero shows that have come across Netflix. I’ve consumed most of those shows. I like “Daredevil.”
What is your favorite guilty pleasure TV show? Sometimes it feels that all the shows are guilty pleasure when there is not time to get everything done. I watch a lot of HGTV and house hunter shows or Food Network.
What book are you currently reading? I just finished Daniel Pink’s latest book, “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.”