Capitol Heights activist Emma Andrews said the next Prince George’s County school superintendent needs to be someone who "really understands" the county.
"I don't want someone coming here from California who has no idea what is needed in Prince George's County,” said Andrews at a Nov. 8 community forum at Capitol Heights Elementary School.”We have to have someone who is familiar with where we are coming from."
The search began in July to replace Dr. William Hite Jr., who left to take over the Philadelphia school system after four years as Prince George’s County’s superintendent.
Andrews said while her children and grandchildren are no longer in the school system, she and her husband, Harry, are very concerned about the state of education within the community.
Andrews' comments were echoed by most of the eight attendees at the forum, composed of parents, school and local officials and community activists seeking to share their input.
"I really hope we get someone who is listening and really responsive,” said Beth McCracken-Harness, president of Prince George's Association of Talented and Gifted Education — an advocacy group dedicated to advocacy and support of gifted programs.
McCracken-Harness, who has a ninth-grade son at Greenbelt’s Eleanor Roosevelt and a sixth-grade daughter at Landover’s Kenmoor Middle, said she hopes the next superintendent will support and improve the county’s TAG programs.
"This person has to be a visionary and a strong leader,” said Capitol Heights Mayor Kito James. “This new superintendent must be fiscally disciplined as well.”
James cited national studies that have shown African-American and Latino males are most at-risk of dropping out of school.
"I hope the next superintendent is in touch with at-risk populations and minority populations," James said
The search for a new superintendent is now in its third phase, said Alan Leis, senior vice president of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the search firm hired by the school system to assist in selecting a new superintendent.
Leis, a former teacher, administrator and Chicago school system superintendent, said that the goal of these forums, as well as an online survey, is to gather public opinions on the characteristics most important in a new school superintendent.
The deadline is Tuesday for completing the online survey, located on the school system's website at www1.pgcps.org/superintendentsearch/.
The survey and group results will be brought to the county school board next month.
"They will decide on the final list of characteristics and then we will do key recruiting and screening to those characteristics," Leis said.
A new superintendent is expected to be selected during spring 2013, Leis said.
"Our leaders, our Board of Education members and our superintendent must understand that we the people are in charge, and you are accountable to us, and we as taxpayers want to make sure we get our money's worth," Andrews said.