N.C. administrator selected to head Montgomery schools

School board unanimously approves 4-year contract

June 30, 1999|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

ROCKVILLE -- The Montgomery County Board of Education has chosen a North Carolina administrator to lead its school system for the next four years.

Jerry D. Weast, 51, received a conditional appointment last night, subject to completion of contract terms and approval of state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.

Weast has been superintendent of Guilford County schools since 1993. With 94 schools and 61,000 students, it is North Carolina's third-largest district.

Montgomery, the state's second-largest school system, with 128,000 students, spends more per student ($8,287) than any jurisdiction and has a budget of $1.1 billion.

Weast will replace Paul Vance, who is retiring but has agreed to stay on until Weast begins.

School board President Reginald Felton said Weast was the panel's unanimous choice because of his management expertise and his ability to close the achievement gap between white and minority students.

The 9,000-member Montgomery County Education Association said it was pleased with the selection of "a change-oriented innovator."

Felton said Weast is a nationally known educator who should have no difficulty making the transition from the smaller school system.

Weast's North Carolina salary is $170,000, $15,000 more than what Vance earns. Felton said he expects Montgomery "will have to pay a large compensation package" to Weast.

The school board president defended the secrecy of the months-long selection process, during which the board met with candidates in motel rooms and private homes. The search did not involve community representatives.

"This [Weast's appointment] is an example of what happens when names are not released early," he said. "We probably wouldn't have gotten him if his name had been public."

But County Council Vice President Michael Subin scoffed at that, noting that Weast had been scouting out Montgomery.

"What's the confidentiality if the guy is picking up the phone and calling everybody he knows up here?" asked Subin, who chairs the council's education committee.

Subin pointed out that the board suffered embarrassment in May, when its top candidate, Elfreda Massie of Baltimore County, was forced to withdraw after her personal finances were questioned.

"If that isn't a red flag, there isn't one," said Subin.

Pub Date: 6/30/99

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