Prince George's panel selects six as school superintendent candidates

Baltimore, Howard officials among those interviewed

June 09, 1999|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

With three weeks until the deadline, a Prince George's County committee has selected six candidates -- including administrators from Howard County and Baltimore -- as top contenders for the school superintendent's job.

Roger Reese, the chief financial officer of Baltimore's public schools, and Jacqueline Brown, an administrator in Howard, were among the three women and three men interviewed last weekend by a search committee.

The 29-member committee ranked the candidates, and the school board will decide which ones it will interview next week, said board member Kenneth Johnson.

The board will chose two or three candidates as finalists and take them on a tour of the school system. At the same time, board members will go to the home districts of the candidates to conduct reference checks, Johnson said.

"They'll get a chance to look us over and we'll get a chance to look them over," he said.

Johnson expects to offer the top candidate a contract by June 20.

Prince George's, the state's largest school system with 128,000 students, is racing the clock to replace Jerome Clark, who is retiring on June 30. The State Board of Education requires each county to have a superintendent in place by July 1, or hire an interim superintendent to a one-year contract.

Brown, who heads the Howard school system's Office of Academic Support, has declined to comment about her prospects for the Prince George's job. But she has the recommendation of her boss -- Howard Superintendent Michael E. Hickey, who praised Brown for her accomplishments since he recruited her about nine years ago.

"I think she's a very multitalented individual," said Hickey, who wrote a letter nominating Brown for the post. "She probably knows better than most people in the country what it takes to deal with underachievers, and, particularly, with minority underachievers. I think she ought to be a leading candidate for Prince George's, because that's a lot of what they're dealing with down there."

Brown joined the Howard school system as human relations coordinator. Hickey said she created a systemwide staff development plan for all employees. He has likened her position to that of an assistant superintendent.

Hickey also credited Brown with improving the school system's Black Student Achievement Program, focusing it more on academics than on self-esteem and racial pride. She also works closely with principals at the county's "focus schools," institutions that receive extra resources because they have higher numbers of low-income students.

"She's very knowledgeable about what's going on in [the Prince George's school] system and what it needs," Hickey said. "I want Prince George's to be successful and find the best superintendent possible for that position. I personally believe that Jackie may very well be that individual."

Reese came to Baltimore in 1997 after three years with the Atlanta public schools to become chief financial officer, overseeing a $700 million school budget. "I'd like to be there a while," he said on coming to Baltimore.

Reese was the comptroller for the Savannah, Ga., school system. He also worked for General Electric as a senior financial analyst.

In Baltimore, Reese has not been involved in the academic side of running the schools. The school system has a chief academic officer who fulfills that role.

Reese has generally stayed out of the spotlight, rarely consenting to interviews since he arrived in Baltimore. He has begun to oversee the $24 million purchase and implementation of two new computer systems, one to track students and their records and a second to manage budget and financial data.

Reese did not return telephone calls yesterday.

Prince George's school board member Robert Callahan said being a candidate from Maryland "is a double-edged sword."

"It's good to know the Maryland system," Callahan explained. "But the negative side I see is that the person may be in the same box we're in and they might be thinking inside the same box. We need a fresh look."

But Callahan, a certified public accountant, is intrigued by the idea of Reese, who does not come from an academic background.

"No matter what the problem, it always comes down to money. It drives the programs. It drives the test scores," he said. "When you look at the superintendent's job it's all about running a multimillion dollar corporation."

Whoever steps into the $125,000-a-year Prince George's job will inherit a system with many problems but several promises. It is second only to Baltimore for the worst standardized test scores in the state. And with Baltimore it has the highest number of uncertified teachers.

But an infusion of state aid and record local spending on education means the county will be building and renovating 13 schools over the next four years.

The system is getting management advice from a panel of business leaders appointed by the governor. It also has three new school board members who are pushing for fiscal reform.

The school system has a budget of almost $900 million.

Sun staff writers Liz Bowie and Erika Peterman contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 6/09/99

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