Arundel committee to begin process to pick next superintendent

An Anne Arundel County school board committee heading the search for the district's next superintendent said last week it would begin outlining a selection process now that the new school year has begun.

Yet even as the process of finding the future superintendent starts, some members of the County Council have raised issues with the way the board picked Mamie Perkins, the interim superintendent for the 2013-2014 school year.

Last week some members argued that the process leading to Perkins' selection lacked public input. Council member Derek Fink said he hoped the same would not be the case when a permanent superintendent was picked.

"We need for 100 percent of their meetings to be open to the public. That's the only way you're going to really get the kind of transparency that the school board should have, and there is no reason they can't do that," Fink said.

Board member Stacy Korbelak will chair the ad hoc committee to select the next superintendent, and will serve with fellow board members Patricia R. Nalley and Kevin L. Jackson. School officials said the committee would meet periodically during the year and post information on its meetings on the school system website. The next superintendent is scheduled to take office in July 2014.

"The first thing we need to do is get educated on the process," said Korbelak. "Now that schools have reopened, we will spend the first few weeks learning about the process."

She said the Maryland Association of Boards of Education would conduct a presentation at the board's Sept. 11 meeting. Some groundwork is considered necessary — none of the current board members was on the panel years ago when Superintendent Kevin Maxwell, who left in July to take a similar position in Prince George's County, was selected, so none has been through a superintendent search.

Jackson said the committee has discussed the process informally, and would discuss it further before the full school board, and the public, during a meeting on Sept. 25. Jackson said the committee has not decided if it will hire an independent search firm.

"That will be part of the ad hoc search committee's discussion," Jackson said. "We will have those discussions over the next few weeks before we come to the board on Sept. 15 with what we've found and why we're making the recommendations we're making."

"We want somebody active in the community that cares about children and values instruction," said Jackson. "We want to see a superintendent that values diversity and the health and welfare of children, and we want to see somebody who understands and appreciates the political environment we live in."

The school board is preparing to select its new superintendent less than a month after choosing Perkins, a former Howard County deputy superintendent. Perkins began her one-year term Aug. 1.

In his comments about Perkins' selection, Fink said school board members should have publicly named all those who applied for the job, and disclosed what the process entailed.

"It was absolutely behind closed doors. You could not ask who picked whom and why one candidate was picked over another," Fink said. "The way we select council members is in public. We can't make any decision behind closed doors, and that's the way it should be."

Asked about Fink's comments, school board President Teresa Milio Birge said, "Choosing an interim superintendent is different from choosing a permanent superintendent, because we're not filling a permanent spot, and with the time constraints we could not fill the interim position in the same way was we would the permanent position.

"It was like filling a job," Birge said. "It is different from filling a council position, which would have to be voted on by the public. We do plan on having the public very involved in the process."

While the board is preparing to find its new superintendent, Perkins spent this past week welcoming students back to school.

She is among a few interim superintendents currently heading school districts in Maryland, and they take over at a time when systems are implementing the "common core " curriculum and the state is changing the way it evaluates teachers and principals.

The other interim superintendents include Barbara Canavan in Harford County and Tisha Edwards in Baltimore City.

"I think of it in a broader sense. I don't think of it as 'time' as much as I think of it as 'task,' " Perkins said about addressing common core and teacher-principal evaluation mandates. "In doing that, I break it down into consistency of purpose, and making certain that we're moving forward with both the common core and the [evaluations], recognizing that both are critical pieces of the reform.

"I am fortunate to be in Anne Arundel County, where staff has done an exceptional job of preparing teachers and preparing principals for both the evaluative piece as well as the common core," Perkins said. "I have an expert team that works with teachers to make certain that they get the things that they need."

Note: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect date for the board's discussion of the superintendent search, based on earlier information provided by school officials. It has been updated here.

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