Despite the quandary Prince Georgeís County is in with the resignation of the schools superintendent, the school board has performed remarkably well in handling the aftermath.
Almost immediately after William R. Hite Jr. announced he was leaving for the top schools post in Philadelphia — the announcement came on the heels of the deputy superintendent leaving for a job in Mississippi and just months before five of the nine school board seats are up for election — the school board began soliciting input from the public on his replacement. Officials encouraged feedback via mail, phone or fax and even set up an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, just for comments and suggestions on who should help lead the system.
On the school system website, pgcps.org, a timeline for the process of finding Hiteís successor was made available, and a series of forums have been scheduled this month for residents to share their thoughts with school board representatives.
Such openness is a stark contrast to just a decade ago, when the school boardís inability to communicate effectively with the superintendent, the public and each other ended up causing the group to be disbanded and replaced with an appointed board.
Ironically, the man who led the effort to fire the board in 2002 is now leading the county: Rushern L. Baker III — and he, too, is making sure the public remains a part of the decision-making process for education. He recently announced creation of a commission consisting of parents, educators and officials to suggest improvements to county schools.
The next test will be to see whether the feedback is actually used. Too often, forums are held as more of a formality than a true quest for information.
Residents must be sure to avoid generalities when detailing the next superintendentís qualifications, such as experience reducing class sizes or bringing top-notch technology to a school system.
But the outreach so far has been a welcome change of pace. Now they just need to keep it up.