"At the same time, he did not exhibit the kind of openness and responsiveness to the community criticisms and concerns that he needed to during his tenure," Lafferty said.
Lafferty added that Hairston "engendered a lot of hostility, and perhaps it detracts from some of his achievements."
Recently, some parents, lawmakers and county residents were angry about the lack of preparation to deal with overcrowding at elementary schools along the York Road corridor from the city line to the Pennsylvania line, and protested a rule that kept school buildings from being used as often by the public.
And he was twice summoned to Annapolis by lawmakers, who in one instance had received a deluge of letters from teachers and constituents angry about several issues. Hairston tried to institute a computer grading system, called the Articulated Instruction Module, which an employee had created on pen and paper and copyrighted. But teachers complained and he backed away from the idea.
Hairston forged a strong relationship with teachers but lost their trust over time. Recently, that tension was exacerbated by Hairston's decision to not fill nearly 200 vacant teaching positions, which came amid the hiring of a $219,000-a-year administrator.
In a profile in The Baltimore Sun last year, Hairston spoke often about the difficulties of a superintendent's life — the weeks spent negotiating with adults instead of thinking about children, the decisions that will invite blame no matter what, the schedule that has him at legislative hearings early and awards banquets late.
He said he regarded himself as the calm eye at the center of a perpetual storm.
Of the decisions that have come to define his tenure, the superintendent said he did not apologize for his approach, asserting that he made tough decisions through personal reflection. "I'm not someone who's going to call for advice all the time," he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.