Schools chief qualities


January 27, 2000

Last time we asked: If you were choosing the next superintendent of Howard County schools, what qualities would you like the person to have?

A person of love, compassion and integrity.

A process-oriented, consensus-building, good listener.

A visionary who concisely articulates and visualizes alternatives.

A self-confident, experienced leader.

A humble learner who knows that every person and situation is unique.

Lastly, a servant who will take action courageously.

Ray Donaldson, Fulton

I would want a superintendent who understands that parental concerns and support are essential to students' performance in school. The superintendent would be open to meeting with and listening to parents.

Gail Bates, West Friendship

In view of the highly charged political atmosphere which has surrounded education in Howard County lately, I believe the public schools need a leader who, first and foremost, listens to the entire community and is able to blend widely disparate views into a unified vision for the future. It is evident that citizens want to actively participate in improving our public schools, and the new superintendent needs to be someone who will welcome public opinion and work with the community.

Laura Mettle, Woodbine

Qualities of a Howard County superintendent should be:

Strong people orientation.

A vision/philosophy of education.

Sense of humor.

Courage of convictions.

Good listener.

Skepticism about panaceas, such as the big emphasis on testing.

Willingness to question status quo (county and state).


Indignation about current salary situation (10th in state).

Interest in staff development, recruitment and teacher education.

A motivator.


Frank T. Lyman Jr., Columbia

I would be interested in a candidate whose interest was not in treatment of high-achieving African-Americans, but whose interest was in high-achieving Americans. Please note the difference. Howard County residents are no longer interested in pushing the achievement of African-Americans, but of all students.

Doris Cooke, Clarksville

The following are some attributes I would like for the new superintendent of the Howard County public schools to possess:

A commitment to having all students, including those who historically have benefited least from schooling, to achieve at levels commensurate with their potential.

A thorough knowledge of and an appreciation for the conditions of learning.

A willingness to question the costs and benefits to children resulting from a statewide testing culture that often causes a kind of instructional paralysis.

A commitment to become intimately involved in the selection process for principals.

A commitment to ruling by persuasion rather than coercion.

A sense of humor.

Thomas J. Brown, Columbia

We choose for superintendent someone knowledgeable and understanding about the needs of pesticide-sensitive children who attend Howard County public schools. A strong advocate for safe and healthy school environments free of toxic pesticides. We'll all breathe easier knowing our children are safe, not unwillingly, unknowingly and involuntarily exposed to school use of toxic pesticides.

Jon and Mindy Sperling, Columbia

The candidates for superintendent can be summed up by "It's a matter of vision and leadership. O'Rourke has vision, and Sawyer has leadership." O'Rourke has vision, which is what we need. He seems to have a natural propensity for seeking out whatever new solutions are required for his district. O'Rourke's only negative -- he comes from a smaller district -- is unlikely to be a problem for someone of his caliber.

Ben Dorman, Columbia

I would like a superintendent who values individual students and truly believes that every child can learn. Additionally, the superintendent would restructure central office to provide more appropriate support for teachers and students. Finally, our leader would listen to teachers, parents, students and advocates, and cease the internal retaliation against teachers who advocate for their students' needs.

Kristine Lockwood, Columbia

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