The Baltimore County school board heard several pleas from the public last night to retain as schools superintendent Joe A. Hairston, who is being considered to lead the school district of Virginia Beach, Va.
Board members went into executive session with Hairston - behind closed doors - at its meeting, but they did not comment publicly about his potential departure as the "preferred finalist" for the Virginia Beach position.
"It's just a compliment," Hairston said of the job prospect. "It's a tribute to Baltimore County."
When asked whether he had been approached or had applied for the job, Hairston said that Baltimore County is a high-profile district. He added that the question of who approached whom was no longer relevant.
He stressed, however, that no decision had been made about the Virginia Beach job. "I'm the superintendent of Baltimore County schools," he said.
Board members for the Virginia Beach schools have said they hope to sign a contract with Hairston by the beginning of next month.
Until then, "nothing has changed," said Baltimore County's board president, Tom Grzymski, before the meeting. "We have a superintendent and we're going to proceed on."
Virginia Beach board members were traveling to Baltimore County last night for interviews about Hairston with members of parent organizations, employee unions, the business community and Hairston's Cabinet, said its chairman, Daniel D. Edwards.
Patricia Cook-Ferguson, president of the Baltimore County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, urged the local board to do everything it can to keep Hairston.
Three of the 12 members who hired Hairston in 2000 remain on the school board.
"If you are supporting and backing him, there should be no reason for him to leave," Cook-Ferguson told the board. "He has taken this county far, and we do not want to fall back."
Hairston may have several personal reasons for leaving. He graduated from high school in Chesapeake, Va., and according to several school board members, his mother lives in nearby Virginia Beach. Hairston also owns a condominium there.
The superintendent has also worked as an educator in Baltimore and Prince George's counties for more than 30 years, allowing him to retire without penalty under state law.
Baltimore County school board members renewed his four-year contract last year and gave him a $45,000 bonus, bringing his base salary to $239,200.
Timothy R. Jenney, Virginia Beach's former superintendent, was earning $192,232 when he left in June to become a vice president at a Christian college, according to news email@example.com