ANNAPOLIS- An Iowa-based search firm will help find the next leader of Prince George’s County Public Schools, and its first task will be to assemble a committee to direct the search.
Gary Ray, president of Ray and Associates, Inc., said he plans to meet with the county school board Thursday to sign the contract. Ray said his firm responded to the board’s request for proposals and his company’s fees and expenses would be $35,000.
Some parents are hoping the search for a new schools chief will result in a better fit than the previous system CEOs.
Previous chiefs Andre J. Hornsby and Iris Metts ran the schools with an attitude of “this is what I say and this is what we will do,” said parent Heidi Hess-Webber. “How many times do we have to make mistakes before we do things right?”
Hess-Webber, Laurel High School Parent Teacher Student Association president, said the next system CEO needs to work with people on all levels, not just administrators.
“We need someone at the helm directing the system who is engaged in the community and in a relationship with employees of the county,” she said. Hornsby was “all about himself. He wanted parents’ support but didn’t care what they had to say.”
The county board of education announced the hiring of Ray and Associates on Monday, but a schedule for selecting the next schools CEO has not been set, said John White, spokesman for the school system.
White said once the contract is signed, the firm will work with the board to create the search committee. The committee will then produce the job description, and the firm will advertise for candidates.
White said the committee would include representation from the teachers’ union, community groups and the more than 60 parent-teacher organizations in the school system.
The county’s schools have been without a permanent leader for nearly four months, since Hornsby stepped down in May amid a conflict of interest investigation. That investigation found that Hornsby’s live-in girlfriend had profited from a sale of educational software to the system and that Hornsby worked as a consultant without school board authorization.
White said the board selected the Ray firm in part because of its experiences with diverse, urban districts similar to Prince George’s County. Ray and Associates is a national search firm that has been in business for 30 years and has assisted with searches in school districts such as Columbia, S.C.; Chicago; El Paso, Texas; and Boulder, Colo.
“There are always challenges at a school system as large and diverse as ours,” White said. The system has nearly 200 schools; 16,000 full-time employees; 139,000 students; and a $1.2 billion budget.
Hess-Webber said the system is just too big.
“No matter who comes to the helm, the problems and challenges are so diverse,” Hess-Webber said. “Until the county and state are willing to split this into three separate and distinct school systems with their own budgets, it’s like trying to push a dinosaur.”
Such an idea hasn’t been formally discussed, she said. White said down the line, when CEO finalists have been chosen, the board plans to ask for more community feedback in the form of a public hearing. The board will be “reaching out to the community” for help in the search.