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Maryland state school board backs away from allowing non-educators to become school superintendents

Liz Bowie
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Want to be a school superintendent in Maryland? Successful business people, military generals and foundation leaders still cannot apply.

Maryland will continue to require its superintendents to have specific academic credentials — as well as teaching and administrative experience — after the state school board backed away from a regulation it had initially passed.

In an unusual move, a little known board — the Professional Standards and Teacher Education Board — voted against the state board’s decision in September to allow non-educators to become superintendents. In order to override the professional board’s decision, the state board needed a super majority to vote to go forward with the new regulation. When the vote was taken Tuesday morning, it was one vote shy of a super majority.

Christopher Lloyd, chair of the professional standards board, said his board believed that an individual without experience inside a school couldn’t fully understand what happens in a building.

“You are at a loss at setting good policy and good regulations,” Lloyd said, adding that the professional standards board has not rejected a state board regulation in recent memory.

Before the vote, a number of state board members said they believed having an education background was crucial. State board vice president Stephanie Iszard said no local board had asked for the change.

“I think it is necessary to have that background and experience in education. I think it would be a challenge for teachers and principals” to report to a superintendent without that training, she said.

But there was significant support on the state board for the idea of having someone who isn’t a traditional educator and might think out of the box. Some large school systems in other states have chosen non-traditional leaders.

“This sets a floor for what a qualification for superintendent. It doesn’t mean that anyone can walk in the door and get the job,” said Justin Hartings, the president of the state board.

Board member Chester Finn said he couldn’t understand why the school boards were against giving options for non-educators.

“The only real surprise is that the school boards declared they didn’t want this. They want to tie their own hand behind their own back. I am always staggered when people don’t want an option,” Finn said.

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