Searching for a Superintendent

February 03, 1994

There is sentiment growing within education and political circles in Anne Arundel County that the school system can stop looking for a new superintendent right now because it has already found a qualified leader in Carol S. Parham. It is not difficult to see why. In the six months since she was named acting superintendent, Dr. Parham's quieting influence has been a welcome antidote to the tumult of the Ronald Walter Price sex scandal. She has steered clear of controversy, left all comment on the Price problem to the school board and tackled a few unrelated problems such as staff changes and redistricting.

She has done a decent job. Yet the search for a permanent superintendent should not stop with her. Anne Arundel schools are just beginning to recover from a crisis of immense proportions, a crisis spawned in part by school officials' excessive loyalty to the system. If ever there was an appropriate time to look for a strong, experienced leader from outside, this is it.

With five months left before the board must appoint a new superintendent, it has yet to begin its promised national search. At one point, board President Thomas Twombly reminded Parham supporters that while she was certainly a candidate, she was by no means a "shoo-in"; that the board intended to search for "someone like Lee Iacocca," who could "take the school system where it has never gone before." Now, Mr. Twombly refuses to say whether there even will be a search.

Anne Arundel school boards have a miserable track record when it comes to keeping superintendents. The last three all quit under pressure from the board before their contracts were up. The board cannot afford another mistake. The system needs stability. It needs a leader who will be here for the long haul. That means someone whose performance will not prove unsatisfactory after one year; it also means someone who is not looking at the job as a stepping stone to something else.

Qualified applicants from within the system deserve a chance to compete for the superintendency on an equal footing. Nonetheless, board members owe it to parents and children to look beyond this county for candidates with superior experience and a proven track record in a large school system with complex problems and challenges such as the ones Anne Arundel now faces.

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