Prince Georgeís County voters waited in line for hours to cast ballots this week and last, but the decision-making isnít over: The county still needs a permanent schools superintendent.
Unfortunately, the community forums scheduled to solicit input from the public on what qualifications the next education leader should have likely will have far less attendance than was seen at the polls.
After all, there are no glitzy television commercials warning parents that a wrong decision could hurt their childrenís education, hinder efforts to improve scores on standardized tests and miss out on innovative ideas that could boost performance. Millions of dollars wonít be poured into an ad campaign that lets residents know how struggling schools lower their property values and negatively impact economic development in the area. And door-knocking volunteers wonít be stopping by offering rides to the forums and sending reminders of the importance of being involved in the decision.
But that doesnít make the selection of the next superintendent any less important.
In the past two decades, Prince Georgeís has not been able to keep a superintendent for more than four years. While studies say the brief tenures are on par with other similarly sized areas, that doesnít mean a longer-term leader isnít needed. County schools, which have consistently remained at or near the bottom in Maryland on standardized test performance, need a visionary who not only has a solid plan for the long term but also plans to stay around long enough to see the initiatives through. In the short term, the next leader will need to address another possible round of school consolidations and figure out a way to make improvements using a bare-bones budget.
At election time, the saying goes that people canít complain if they donít take the time to make their voice heard. The same can be said of selecting the next superintendent.