With Hairston departure, BCPS could see wave of change


October 18, 2011

Just as 2011 brought epic changes in Baltimore County government — a new county executive and five new faces on the seven-member County Council — 2012 has the potential for major changes in the county schools leadership.

We won't know until the 2012 General Assembly session whether the selection process for the Board of Education will change. But we do know that next year will be the end of Joe Hairston's 12-year tenure as schools superintendent. He has said he will not seek another contract when his current one expires in June.

Hairston's legacy is a mixed bag.

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of running the nation's 26th largest school district, he has proven to be an effective administrator.

He will leave behind a school system with some problems, to be sure — overcrowding, aging infrastructure, a few low-achieving schools. But, overall, the school system has shown improvement under his management.

It is ironic that, in the eyes of many, Hairston's successes will be diminished because of a management style that, in many instances, seemed to discount community input.

In instances when school policies proved unpopular — such as barring the use of school properties for PTA fundraising events and the effort to institute a laborious new assessment test — he seemed to take little interest in considering feedback from the public, or in reaching out to those who disagree.

On the balance, though, his successor will no doubt be grateful to take the helm of a school district that has been in competent hands for 12 years.

His successor might also find himself or herself facing a school board structured differently than it is now.

The issue of whether the county Board of Education will remain a body entirely appointed by the governor, as it is now, or will be changed to one with a partly or entirely elected membership will be in the hands of the legislators in Annapolis next year.

Some in the delegation are on record as wanting change, perhaps to a hybrid board that combines appointed and elected members. We think a hybrid is the best solution.

It's been an era of change in Baltimore County. It's not over yet.

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