The three finalists vying to become Prince George’s County schools superintendent said they’re still interested in the position despite uncertainty over what the job may actually entail.
County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has announced his intention to put forth legislation in the General Assembly to give his office the power to hire and oversee a superintendent, instead of having the superintendent continue to answer to the school board.
The exact form of Baker’s proposal is still being worked on and has not yet been released, according to Christian Rhodes, the county executive’s education policy adviser. Should it go into effect, Rhodes said Baker may choose one of the three finalists or restart the search process.
“This is too important,” Rhodes said. “The county executive wants to make sure we get this right.”
All three candidates met individually with Baker prior to the public meeting attended by over 100 people at the Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro, and each said their meeting went well.
“Overall, I thought it was a very good experience,” said candidate Eric J. Becoats, the current superintendent of the Durham, N.C., school system.
Becoats, 45, who also served as co-interim superintendent of the Guilford County School System in North Carolina, said he has never served under the structure Baker is proposing.
“But I am an A-type personality person, so regardless of who I work for, I want to make sure I understand what our objectives are, our goals, and I want to make sure I meet those goals and those targets,” Becoats said.
Becoats, a Baltimore native and Baltimore city public school system administrator from 1992 to 1997, said he would welcome the opportunity to return to his home state of Maryland.
“I think [Prince George’s] is a district that has made some strides from an academic standpoint, and what I would want to do is continue to enhance efforts for students and to expand those successes on a larger scale,” he said.
Becoats said that as superintendent in Durham, he has reached out to community groups and individuals to create advisory councils, and that is a model he would like to bring to Prince George’s.
Interim Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley, 54, said the potential change in who he would report to has not deterred him from seeking the position.
Crawley was made interim superintendent after William Hite resigned last July to become the superintendent for the Philadelphia school system. He previously served as deputy chief of programming for the District of Columbia Public Schools Office of Special Education.
“I came into this district as the interim superintendent with the understanding that the board would go through a search process and my term would be limited,” Crawley said. “Certainly, I have an interest in being the new superintendent, but I know that things happen and whatever decision is made, I hope it would be made in the best interests of the Prince George’s County Public Schools.”
Crawley said stable leadership makes a difference in the success of a school district.
“I’ve lived in this area for 18 years,” he said. “I love living in this area and being here.”
Crawley said if he is selected for the job, his second-year priorities would be to further strengthen the instructional program, improving delivery of professional development and furthering the system’s capital improvements.
Harrison A. Peters, chief of schools for the Far Southside K-12 network in Chicago, said his school system has been under the authority of the mayor for quite some time. Chicago has had mayor-led school systems since 1996.
The possibility of a change in leadership did not give him second thoughts about the job, Peters said, noting he has served under four superintendents in less than three years.
“When you work ... for Chicago Public Schools, one of the things that is constant is change,” Peters said.
Peters said he discussed with Baker his body of work and whether he would commit long-term to the county. If given the job, he said he would work to promote transparency and parental engagement.
Peters, 38, noted he has “hopped around a bit,” with posts in Florida and North Carolina prior to coming to Chicago in 2010, but said he would love to make his home in Prince George’s County.
“One of my dreams, one of my goals, is to be the superintendent of a large school district,” said Peters, who currently works with 36 schools serving 22,216 students. “For me, that journey ends in Prince George’s County if I’m hired.”