`Lifelong learner' brings enthusiasm to school job



An educator for nearly four decades, R. Lorraine Fulton sees her decision to accept a job as an assistant superintendent in Carroll County public schools as a chance to keep learning new things.

"If you believe in being a lifelong learner, you want to have new challenges," said Fulton, 59, who has been deputy superintendent for the past nine years in the St. Mary's County public school system. "At this stage in my career, many people would be ready to slow down. But I relish opportunities to face new challenges and achieve the goals I have set for myself."

Fulton, who began her career in education as an art teacher in 1969 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said she has been spending weekends at her daughter's house in Woodbine as she looks for a home and explores the county.

"I've been going into little spots and meeting people, and I've enjoyed every minute of it," she said. "Here in St. Mary's, I've become an integral part of the community. I want the same thing in Carroll County."

Carroll Superintendent Charles I. Ecker recently named Fulton as assistant superintendent of instruction, a position that had been vacant since August.

Her responsibilities will include overseeing special education, curriculum and instruction, and student services. She succeeds Harry T. Fogle, who left Carroll to lead a team charged with overhauling Baltimore's special-education program.

Ecker, who interviewed seven candidates for the opening, said he chose Fulton because of her administrative experience as well as her people skills.

"We had a lot of good candidates, but I felt her abilities and talents were best for us at this time," Ecker said.

Fulton has held many positions as an educator. After spending nearly two decades in art departments - teaching art in Nova Scotia, Worcester, Wicomico and St. Mary's counties in Maryland, she became a resource teacher in Wicomico County's gifted and talented program. She also was supervisor of fine arts and gifted and talented education in Wicomico and an assistant principal at Leonardtown Middle School in St. Mary's County.

She has several college degrees: a bachelor's in fine arts from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, a master's degree in education with administration and supervision from what was then Salisbury State College, a master's degree in guidance and counseling from Bowie State College, as well as a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Maryland, College Park.

She said that while she has a passion for horses - raising and showing quarter horses competitively until about two years ago - and grew up wanting to be a veterinarian, she possessed an artistic flair.

"I grew up on a small island, Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia. At that time, most women became nurses or art teachers," she said. "I grew up with a talent, as most kids do, and if you had a talent you were pretty much obligated to use it. ... But I kept pursuing other degrees."

After a year as assistant principal at Leonardtown Middle, she was named supervisor of instruction for elementary education, guidance and health education in St. Mary's. A few years later, she became supervisor of guidance and pupil services and then director of student services.

In 1997, she was named assistant superintendent of schools in St. Mary's. Three years later, the title was renamed deputy superintendent. Earlier this year, she spent six months as interim superintendent when Superintendent Patricia M. Richardson retired.

"I picked her for two main reasons," Ecker said. "First, because of her knowledge and what she has done with instructional programs and the administration of schools. Second, how she works with people. She's pleasant but firm."

From support staff to central office staff to the school board, Fulton has earned a reputation as an excellent communicator.

"She understands how to work with people to make things happen," said Cathy Allen, chairwoman of the five-member school board in St. Mary's. "She's very sensitive to board initiatives and has read the board fairly well in terms of the suggestions we might make when others may have thrown up roadblocks. She has a very collaborative spirit."

Rose Alvey, Fulton's administrative assistant for the past 16 years, said Fulton is approachable and patient.

"She's very easy to communicate with, for anyone from parents to the community to staff," Alvey said. "She will listen and do whatever she can to help you."

Fulton said that her approach as an administrator has not been much different than how she handled students as a teacher.

"I expected no more of [the students] than I gave to them," she said. "To get good results, the leader has to be the one who sets the tone and the pace."

Linda Dudderar, director of elementary instruction and administration in St. Mary's, said she most respected Fulton's ability to build consensus.

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