ANNAPOLIS-Prince George’s County schools are on the verge of naming a search firm to help find their next system CEO, and Anne Arundel County schools are starting the process to name an interim superintendent after Eric J. Smith announced last week his intention to resign, officials said.
Charlene Dukes, chairwoman of the Prince George’s County school board personnel committee, said the board is “imminently close” to naming a search firm, the first step toward finding the next system CEO.
As of Tuesday, the search firm had not been selected, but Dukes said the firm would be announced this week. Once a firm is selected, a search committee will be formed and a job description written and advertised. Dukes said this process should be in place within the next 30 days.
The vacancy at the top of Anne Arundel’s more than 70,000-student system was the most recent and most surprising. Smith announced late Sept. 6 he will leave the school system on Nov. 23 for a job at Harvard College. He has been with the system for three years, and his contract was set to expire in June 2006.
Konrad M. Wayson, president of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, said the board has not decided who will take over when Smith leaves.
“We’re still meeting and going over the possibilities,” Wayson said. “We will try to name an interim to be on board before Nov. 23, and in the meantime we will start the search for a permanent superintendent.”
Tricia Johnson, board vice president, said the board has already received a lot of public comment about whom to name as interim superintendent and she expects the public to be involved in the search for a permanent replacement.
“We want to be diligent and make sure we do the right thing and find the right match both for the interim superintendent and the permanent superintendent,” she said.
Sam Georgiou, chairman of the board’s Citizens Advisory Committee, said the committee is likewise expecting the public’s views to be heard in making the selection. “I believe that input needs to be gotten from stakeholders,” Georgiou said.
Sheila Finlayson, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said the search that resulted in Smith’s hiring failed to consider views of all interested groups.
“I say that because one of the things we said was that we must have someone who understands collective bargaining,” she said.
“We also need someone who is willing to communicate and collaborate, not just with the board but [with] employees also.”
Prince George’s County Public Schools, the state’s second largest system and one of the largest in the nation, have been searching for a replacement for Andre J. Hornsby since May. Hornsby stepped down amid a conflict of interest investigation.
In June, the school board released the findings of the investigation, which found that Hornsby’s live-in girlfriend had profited from a sale of educational software to the county system. Hornsby was also found to have been working as a consultant without the school board’s authorization.
After Hornsby’s resignation, Howard Burnett was named interim CEO. Burnett has worked for the school system for more than 30 years. Although he was scheduled to retire at the end of the year, Burnett has agreed to remain until the search is complete, board member Dukes said.
Neither Smith nor Hornsby completed his contract, something that is not unusual.
Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, said a superintendent position is “not a long-term job in many instances.”
Reinhard said the average tenure for a superintendent in Maryland is five to six years. This is in spite of the fact that schools superintendents are often the most highly paid public official in any county. Smith earned $204,000 a year plus incentives, and the Prince George’s County CEO was paid $250,000.
Joe Cirasuolo, past president of the American Association of School Administrators, said the average tenure for superintendents in large and diverse school districts such as Prince George’s and Anne Arundel is even shorter — about three years. “Urban superintendents fall victim to the same things that make urban cities difficult to govern,” Cirasuolo said. “This results in tenure in cities being shorter than around the rest of the country.”