The search is on… for the next MCPS superintendent
With Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast’s announcement of retirement last August, Montgomery County is scrambling for a replacement. After over a decade as head honcho of the Board of Education (BOE), Dr. Weast will retire from the BOE this June.
The BOE is the CEO of the county’s education, whose responsibilities include: constructing and implementing school policies and procedures, creating educational programs, managing fiscal budgets, and preparing students for college.
After serving as superintendent for 30 years, Dr. Weast has overseen eight school districts in five states, and has been involved with public education since 1969. Weast has also been a clinical professor and instructor at several universities. He holds an Ed.S. in General Administration from Pittsburg State University in Kansas and an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from Oklahoma State University, where he was named to the Hall of Fame in the College of Education. The son of a Kansas teacher who taught in a one-room schoolhouse, Weast believes that “the best weapon we have is a good teacher.”
Despite a national economic crisis, and wide budget cuts, Weast painstakingly worked to sustain educational funding for various programs during his tenure. In 2010, Weast urged the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for continual funding of special education programs, detailing exactly how far their funds would go, and delivered on his promise. Under Weast, in more two years, the $12 million received for Title I and $33 million for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act enabled the county to save and create 150 jobs. Joan Benz, principal of Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, said, “He has done a lot of excellent work in Montgomery County. I think he has reached an excellent place [for retirement].”
Since the announcement, MCPS has conducted a nationwide search for a replacement, hiring the nation’s largest executive search firm serving public school districts, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA), to assist. Through HYA candidates can submit applications online and read through the requirements of the position. Desired qualities include, “someone who is capable of advancing the aims of the district, such as lowering the achievement gap and preparing students to be college ready.”
The county has also taken other measures, such as conducting a national survey on the desired qualities of a candidate via the MCPS website, and has also held forums for parents and county residents to share their thoughts.
But the question on everyone’s mind is: Who will take the reins?
MCPS has not revealed the names of any top candidates. However, according to WTOP news, former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, could be in the running. Featured on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2010, and personal guest of Laura Bush at George W. Bush’s State of the Union address in 2008, Rhee is no stranger to the public eye. Some of Rhee’s most notable achievements include the founding of The New Teacher Project (TNTP), which has recruited 10,000 teachers in 20 states in 10 years, and Students First, a political advocacy organization which works on education reform issues. However, if Rhee gets the job a major concern would be the sufficiency of her experience in dealing with a vast student population, as MCPS’s student population of 144,000 greatly overpowers that of DCPS at 45,000.
Though the next superintendent is still unknown, one thing can be said for sure: Weast’s replacement will undoubtedly have large shoes to fill.
UPDATE: Stamford school chief Joshua Starr has been named the new MCPS superintendent.
Cassandra Perkins is a senior at Walter Johnson High School and an intern at HooverLaw, LLC.