Schools nominee mixes youth, experience

Educator: During her 12-year career, the candidate for Baltimore County deputy superintendent has been a teacher and administrator.

July 07, 2000|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

In one of his first moves as Baltimore County schools chief, Joe A. Hairston has chosen a young, ambitious educator who began her teaching career in Maryland to be his deputy superintendent.

Christine M. Johns, 34, is an assistant superintendent for instructional services with the Pasadena, Calif., Unified School District.

She has been a teacher, instructional specialist, principal, consultant and assistant to the superintendent in three school systems in her 12 years in education.

Should the Board of Education approve Johns' appointment at a meeting Tuesday, Johns will be one of the youngest deputy superintendents in the school system's 147-year history.

"She has been a rising star in almost all the systems she has been involved with," said school board President Donald L. Arnold, who met Johns last week.

As Hairston's closest adviser and confidant, Johns could be called upon to defend his management decisions before the school board, county officials and parents. She would oversee some of the school system's most important departments - including physical facilities and fiscal services.

The salary range for deputy superintendent is $115,000 to $125,000.

Johns has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University. She expects to receive a doctorate from Harvard University next year.

Asked about Johns' relatively short career, Arnold said, "You run into some people that have really found their niche and excel at it, and she seems to be one of those people."

Eager to work with Hairston

Johns said she is eager to work with Hairston, who is a mentor and friend.

"I want to work with Dr. Hairston because of his commitment to children," she said. "Also, I believe in what the state of Maryland is doing in terms of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program."

In Pasadena, Johns pulled together a teacher task force to fine-tune statewide standards in mathematics, reading and science, and invited community members to create accountability measures for pupils and administrators.

In a system where half of the 23,400 pupils are of Hispanic origin, Johns was seen by parents as an inclusive administrator who fostered positive race relations.

"She fit right in and embraced the cultural and ethnic diversity," said Jacqueline Jacobs, president of the Pasadena Board of Education.

Johns will be able to use those skills in Baltimore County, where about 31 percent of the 107,000 students are African-American.

An achievement gap between white and black students has frustrated educators for years - a situation that has led some parents to complain bitterly to state and county officials.

Hairston, who started work as the county's 17th superintendent Monday, worked with Johns in Prince George's County.

While with that school system, Johns was an elementary school teacher, principal and administrator.

She also helped write sample test questions for the first MSPAP exams, which measure students' performance in reading and math.

In Baltimore County, Johns could serve as a "model" to recruit talented young educators from across the nation, Hairston said.

"She represents an investment in our future," said Hairston, also acknowledging the possibility that Johns could eventually replace him as schools chief, a move not unusual in education systems.

Praise from colleagues

Bobby Williams, a teacher at Fort Foote Elementary School in Prince George's County, the school where Johns served as principal from 1994 to 1996, said he enjoyed working with her because she "brought a lot to the table" and projected a "high-energy" personality that motivated staff.

"She was well organized, and she was very knowledgeable of state and county curriculum," said Williams, who recalled Johns as an administrator who taught teachers. "She was a good person to work for. I hated to see her leave when she did."

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