Picking your school chief

Superintendent search: Arundel board holds a community forum, but nobody shows up.

November 12, 2001

SEATING CAPACITY at the Meade High School auditorium in Fort Meade is 863.

But just two of those seats were occupied by parents Tuesday during a well-advertised community meeting that sought public input in the process to select the next Anne Arundel County superintendent.

How pathetic.

Only Kiz Cohen and Eugene Peterson were there to say what characteristics the next superintendent should have.

They had good ideas, but they shouldn't have been alone.

Citizen input has been a nasty point of contention in area superintendent searches. Baltimore County parents were furious two years ago when they felt they were being locked out of the process.

Perhaps Anne Arundel County used that lesson, and Howard County's pleasant experience after involving residents a couple of years ago, when opening its selection process to the community.

Unfortunately, the community hasn't responded yet, although schoolchildren were sent home with fliers and survey forms that promoted the Meade meeting and other sparsely attended forums. The pitiful response is shocking for the county's most important educational decision. The superintendent manages a $600 million operating budget for a 74,000-student system.

School board members and administrators must drive home the message that citizens have a chance to get their say but must act fast. The search consultant will submit a report to the school board on Nov. 28 -not much time for the surveys to be returned. Parents are likely to find the surveys in backpacks. Or they can download them from the school system's web site.

This is their chance to define the search.

If citizens don't present their views now, they probably won't like the results.

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