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School Board Hopefuls Question Superintendent Search

Two incumbents revealed information about process of selecting the school system's new leader.


Some candidates running for the three open seats on Howard County's school board said the Board of Education lacked openness in its to select Renee Foose, deputy superintendent in Baltimore County, as the new superintendent of Howard County schools.

That contention was supported by at least one member of the current school board.

“I am very pleased with the candidate we ended up with,” said incumbent Allen Dyer. “However, the process was fatally flawed."

School board candidate Ann De Lacy agreed during a  hosted by the Greater Elkridge Community Association on Wednesday. "I do have a problem with the transparency," she said.

De Lacy and some of the 12 other school board candidates at the forum expressed concern that a  with two superintendent finalists, billed as an opportunity for public input on Monday evening, was promptly followed by the  Tuesday morning.

“Honestly, I was a little surprised that by Tuesday morning, a decision had been made,” said school board candidate David Gertler.

After the current superintendent last spring, the school board commissioned an Iowa-based firm, Ray and Associates, to sort through candidates between December and March. The firm presented the board with a list of candidates, whom board members then interviewed and whittled down to two; after presenting those two publicly on March 26, the board announced its decision on March 27.

"We have to do a better job in communicating," said school board hopeful Jackie Scott. "We need to be transparent about the process and be clear about how we’re really going to take the input."

Dyer said that he was uncomfortable with the secrecy surrounding the search.

"I felt like I was covered with slime participating in the last part," said Dyer, who told Patch that in recent weeks school board members interviewed superintendent candidates across county lines, where they were instructed not to wear name tags.

“We spent time in no-tell motels and things like that interviewing these candidates," said Dyer.

Fellow incumbent Janet Siddiqui disagreed with Dyer and the other school board candidates that there was a problem.

“I think the process under the circumstances went very well and I’m very pleased,” said Siddiqui.

Transparency has been a hot-button issue in Elkridge—a community with which the school board has  about school sites—and with the board as a whole.

Dyer has what he alleges are the board's violations of open meeting laws, and last month, the board attempted to from participating in a meeting over the phone. 

As far as transparency in the superintendent search, there was more public participation in the past, according to school board candidate Mary Jo Neil, who has served on the PTA for Maryland, Howard County and West Friendship Elementary School.

“Several years ago...we did actually have a little different process,” said Neil, referencing the 2000 search that resulted in the appointment of superintendent John O'Rourke. "We did have some more time to vet the candidate. I wish we had that opportunity this time."

Incumbent Ellen Flynn Giles defended the board's decision to move quickly.

“Our objective was to get the best candidate, not the one that was left over,” said Giles, speaking at the Elkridge forum in .

Both of Howard County's superintendent finalists— and Houston's Chief Middle Schools Officer S. Dallas Dance—were in the  in Baltimore County.

“We knew that they were being pursued by five other districts, but we scheduled [a meet and greet] on Monday so we…would have a formal process with the public," said Giles.

Carl Smith, executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, said that the only thing the board has to do in public is take a vote.

The board did not respond to Patch's inquiry as to when it would vote in public on the superintendent.

Smith, who helps facilitate school board searches for superintendents, said that often to get the best people for the job, confidentiality is required.

"These are high-profile positions and most of the people who come into these postitions are [already in high-profile jobs]," said Smith. "Until they're finalists, most want their names kept confidential. If you don’t provide that, quite frankly a lot of people will not apply."

Smith cited an instance in Oregon in which every candidate who had applied for the position of superintendent withdrew candidacy because a reporter leaked their names to the public. (The incident is detailed in this article from the American Association of School Administrators.)

During the Elkridge forum, Giles went into some of the logistics of selecting Howard County's superintendent position. “There were 58 people who applied," said Giles. "We scheduled interviews with 12 and interviewed nine because some didn’t come forward. We made our final decision by interviewing again who we thought our final two candidates were on Friday."

School board candidate Patricia Gordon said she felt positive about the process of selecting a new superintendent.

The firm conducting Howard County's search asked former board members, including Gordon—who served on the school board from 2000 to 2010—to help develop criteria for the superintendent position.

“They had teacher groups, they had parent groups, they had supervisor groups...to give input," said Gordon, "so they could focus on what they felt the people in Howard County really wanted."

Dyer and the majority of others familiar with Foose said they were satisfied with the outcome, but dissatisfied with how the school board got there.

Foose will move into her new job as superintendent for the Howard County Public School System July 1.

Howard County's current superintendent, Sydney Cousin,  when his contract expires in June, due to .

Jack March 30, 2012 at 06:31 AM
This is absolutely the biggest scam in Howard county. “We knew that they were being pursued by five other districts, but we scheduled [a meet and greet] on Monday so we…would have a formal process with the public," said Giles." The term Giles is refering to is God and Pony show and these applicants are professional job hunters, many either their current employer knows will be moving on or hopes they will. They were all recruited at a job fair. Patricia Gordon said she felt positive about the process of selecting a new superintendent. I guess she did because she was allowed to participate Fellow incumbent Janet Siddiqui disagreed that there was a problem. “I think the process under the circumstances went very well and I’m very pleased,” said Siddiqui Now here is the third person in Howard county who is out of touch with the public to the point she is blind There you have it, the only 3 people in Howard county to support this charade and the last thing we need on the BOE.
Jack March 30, 2012 at 06:39 AM
"We have to do a better job in communicating," said school board hopeful Jackie Scott. "We need to be transparent about the process and be clear about how we’re really going to take the input." Yes you are absolutely right Ms. Scott. I will ask you again in public albeit I have asked numerous times. You were silent durring Ullman's failed attempt to take away the vote and replace it with appointments. What is your position on ellected vs. appointed? It can't be both ways, you can't be silent and hope for an appointment and have elections be your second choice.
Adam R March 30, 2012 at 11:41 AM
“We spent time in no-tell motels and things like that interviewing these candidates," said Dyer. Okay I understand the Board cannot bring applicants to the BOE headquarters during the search due to rumors, but Dyer makes it sound like they interviewed people at the Tip Top Motel on Route 1. Surely the Board could have rented a meeting room at the Holiday Inn?
Ann Delacy April 01, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Frankly, I was shocked to discover that private audiences had been held with the finalists and "prominent" Howard County citizens and elected officials. Why? Again, I am pleased with the appointment of Dr. Foose, but still question the process and lack of transparency. The 2 pm session, attended overwhelmingly by Central Office employees and school administrators, allowed for questions from the audience. At the 6 pm session, which was attended by members of the community who were able to leave work in time to attend, questions were screened. Why?
Jack April 02, 2012 at 01:20 AM
We have been talking about this for a year at Howardpubliced. Montgomery used the same search firm, had the same problems and special interest groups were allowed to participate and the public was not. There is a record of all of this at Parents_Coalition of Montgomery county. Similar problems were also in Frederick and there is a record of this at Frederickpubliced. Parents and those in the community are pissed off. There is no excuse for any of this and the hcpss BOE is very aware of all of this. Now here we are with the same failed process. The BOE could have named anyone (insert any name) and it would not matter. It is too late to try to make this about their sole applicant or their qualities. This person is a novice with baggage from teaching to the test and did not choose to anounce to the public their interest in the job nor are they worthy of the amount of money offered them. There are no other applicnats to compare them to so now they are compared to what the hcpss needs and they are severely lacking. The BOE was wrong and so was every special interest group who participated in this dog and pony show. Hold them accountable, act like a free people, act like Americans and tell them to take their applicant and shove it. These are our children, not the fuel which drives the ecconomy, these are our children and we were denied a voice in their future.
Jack April 02, 2012 at 03:24 AM
http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-03-27/news/bs-md-superintendents-20120327_1_superintendent-finalists-renee-foose-school-districts "Both school board chairs said Tuesday that they knew their candidate lists overlapped. Chairwoman Sandra French said the Howard school board heard that Baltimore County was either interviewing or choosing its superintendent on Saturday. "Yet we believed very strongly in involving the community," French added. "Therefore, we set up Monday ... as the time for the finalists to meet the community." "In fact, Baltimore County's board did conditionally offer Dance the job Saturday. The problem was that Dance wasn't qualified to be a superintendent in Maryland because he only had two years of teaching experience; the state requires three. The Baltimore County board went to interim state Superintendent Bernard Sadusky and asked him to give them a waiver to hire Dance."
Jack April 02, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Board member Allen Dyer said that during Monday afternoon's meet-and-greet event at the Howard County Board of Education offices, he had a casual conversation with Baltimore County school board member Mike Bowler, who along with others, had attended to check on how the two candidates would perform. Dyer said he brought up Baltimore County's superintendent search. "We had received word, unconfirmed, thirdhand, hearsay, that both Dallas and Renee were also being considered by Baltimore County," Dyer said. "So I brought that up and asked whether they had made any decisions, and he said that they were still looking at candidates"
Jack April 02, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Here is the kicker....... "A couple of hours later, Schmidt received state approval to hire Dance. He called Dance in his hotel room at 11 p.m. and made him a formal offer, which he accepted." "French said the board chose Foose over Dance about midnight after weighing scores of questionnaire responses, blogs and email messages from residents. She said the board's decision was unanimous" "Board members would not say whether Dance called Howard County to tell them he had taken the other job, which would have left Howard with Foose as its only finalist. Dance returned to Houston early Tuesday and did not reply to requests for an interview."
Jack April 02, 2012 at 03:39 AM
I think Baltimore appears, albeit behind the public's back, to have a better grip on what they were doing then Howard and chose a relative youngster over one of their own. It appears from the shallow stagnet cess pool of education Howard county's bungling BOE was able to dredge up the scraps which is a far cry from what our children need unless their interest is in continuelng the charade and teaching to the overwhelming tests common core will bring to us. With the hiring of Foose it is very likely we will loose another generation being taught to the test instead of recieving a quality education. My advice, abandon the public education system and seek a private education.
edb April 02, 2012 at 12:49 PM
@Jack....I think that a large majority of parents in HoCo already know of the situation in our classrooms and as a result they choose to pay for tutoring after school hours. Private schools are EXPENSIVE (well over $20,000 per year per child...I've looked). The only thing that most middle income parents can afford is to supplement with the tutoring. I think this is Howard County's dirty little secret. Fortunately the recession hasn't hit HoCo as it has the rest of the nation and we are insulated because of all the government work in the area, therefore resulting in parents being able to afford that private tutoring to keep those test scores high. You are correct in that we are the Best of the Worst, but Private Schooling is not the only way to go.
Jack April 02, 2012 at 03:06 PM
There are a lot of unsuspecting parents too and by the time they realize what is going on their children have missed out on an education. You are absolutely right, we can not afford to pay for their education twice. What makes this worse is the people who were supposed to educate them did inferior work and were paid for it. The vast majority of them never said a word and now they believe they can be retrained to do what they should have been doing all along. They blame the laws and act like their solution of teaching to the test and silence is justified. We paid for a quality education and we were mislead leaving many of our children cheated out of an education and many of us who paid twice feeling the reality of their theft.

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