Wilhoyte to leave schools for job in Wisconsin Embattled official advocates equity and achievement

October 11, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

When Cheryl Wilhoyte leaves the county school system t become superintendent of a Wisconsin school district, many people will hate to see her go. But perhaps just as many will be glad to see her leave.

Dr. Wilhoyte, the county's assistant superintendent for instruction, acknowledges both.

"I do have very high expectations for myself, and I do have very high expectations for my staff," she said. "Most folks are willing to accept that fact. But there probably will be a few popping champagne bottles."

Dr. Wilhoyte has yet to announce her departure formally. But if all goes according to plan, by December she will be in place as superintendent of the Madison, Wis., school district.

A native of Washington and a resident of Silver Spring -- she has lived in the same home for 27 years, just across the street from an aunt and uncle -- Dr. Wilhoyte has been with the school system since 1988. As she prepares to leave the Anne Arundel school system, she does so with bittersweet feelings.

"There are still a few tears left," she said. "I grew up in this area, so I'm a little sad to be leaving. I adore Anne Arundel County, and I'm going to miss it."

The one thing she will not miss, however, is the controversy that has surrounded her this past year. When Larry Lorton announced he would be leaving the school superintendent's job, Dr. Wilhoyte was pushed by many as his successor. But she was passed over in favor of Deputy Superintendent C. Berry Carter II.

That decision left the eight-member school board bitterly divided. Board members have gone to great lengths recently to bridge that division, with varying degrees of success. And Dr. Wilhoyte's fate has left many parents and community members, particularly those in the black community, upset.

Black leaders say she was one of very few people in the school system who made an effort to meet the needs of the black community.

Dr. Wilhoyte "was not only an advocate for the black community, but for the education of all children," said Beth Eubanks, a member of the watchdog group the Committee for Education Equity. "We have not had that from the Anne Arundel County school system.

"She has been more of a mediator for parents and the schools," Mrs. Eubanks added. "She brought people to the table. I will be very sad to see her go. She has been an advocate for the equity of all children."

A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, where she also received her doctorate, Dr. Wilhoyte is a member of Superintendents Prepared, a national organization that selects and grooms 30 school supervisors who have displayed leadership abilities. She began searching for a superintendent's position 18 months ago.

During her relatively short tenure here, Dr. Wilhoyte said, she has been proud of her role in helping Anne Arundel's schools make small gains in moving toward equity for all students and employees.

The school system's annual report card has shown improvement for all students, including minorities. And 15 percent of the principal promotions under Dr. Wilhoyte's tenure have gone to "highly qualified minorities," she said.

Dr. Wilhoyte's record for recognizing the need to improve participation and achievement among black students and employees has earned accolades from the black community.

"We'll really suffer when she leaves," said Dr. Orlie Reid, also a member of the Committee for Education Equity. "She was the one person who was willing to reach out to all constituents. Currently, there are people in place in the school system who really don't care about equity.

"She was a ray of hope," he added, "one of the brightest stars at the Board of Education. There were some people on the staff who didn't like her. But that was because she expected them to work."

Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden, another member of the Committee for Education Equity, predicted the school system will suffer from Dr. Wilhoyte's departure.

"It's a significant loss," Mr. Snowden said. "She has really been a progressive administrator in a system that has not been extremely progressive. She was just beginning to really address some of the issues surrounding the multicultural curriculum, [and] redistricting vs. neighborhood schools.

"A lot of people viewed her highly," he added, "but there will be some breaking out the champagne. Some felt she was making waves."

School board member Jo Ann Tollenger said Dr. Wilhoyte's willingness to make waves where waves needed to be made is exactly the reason she supported her for the job of superintendent for the county.

"You can have compliance or you can be committed, and she was committed to all kids," Ms. Tollenger said. "She brought excellent management skills to the job, and she had excellent qualifications. I think 'tough but fair' would be the best words to describe her."

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