Maxwell builds confidence

Superintendent lays groundwork for middle school, hiring changes

December 27, 2006|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,sun reporter

In his first six months on the job, county schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell has visited nearly all 118 public schools, met with countless parents, students, teachers and administrators and held a weekend summit on turning around middle schools.

With the information he has culled on this fact-finding mission, Maxwell is expected in his second six months to propose major policy changes to reform middle schools, define magnet schools and expand the ranks of black and Latino teachers.

"It's been a priority to get out and listen and talk," he said. "But at the same time, we've laid out an agenda, laid out some goals."

Some school board members said Maxwell's meetings with the community have instilled a confidence in the proposals he will bring to them.

"I think he's done an excellent job of communicating with the board and the public and doing outreach," said Eugene Peterson, vice president of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. "I believe he will bring forth some solid initiatives."

Board members have been asking for a policy on magnet schools, which would allow them to consider expanding the county's International Baccalaureate program. Maxwell and his staff will present a draft policy next month, and he hopes a plan on magnets, consortiums and signature schools will be ready by the end of the school year.

Maxwell's staff is also using information gleaned from the county's first middle school summit, held in October, to compile recommendations on how to make students in grades six to eight more successful. Proposals could include a consulting firm's suggestion to reconfigure grade layouts and revising or getting rid of block scheduling.

A high school summit has been scheduled for Jan. 27 at Annapolis High School.

Maxwell also is working on an affirmative action hiring policy at the board's request, after the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for the school system to address "employment disparities." An internal study revealed that 8 percent of the teachers and 1 percent of school administrators are black and Latino, though nearly 25 percent of county students belong to one of those groups.

Maxwell, 55, took over the 74,000-student school system on July 1. A former community superintendent in Montgomery County and longtime educator in Prince George's County, Maxwell came to Anne Arundel with a reputation as a collaborator and someone who listens.

Anita Owens, president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, said that she and many parents have been pleased with Maxwell. He has created a parent advisory council, and after security scares this year - including brawls in a high school and a newspaper report that exposed lax safeguards at some schools - Maxwell took to the airwaves and sent letters to reassure parents.

"I think he is listening and paying attention," Owens said. "You can't please everybody, and you're not going to. But he's made some important strides."

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