UPPER MARLBORO – Frederick Douglass High School parents and students gathered at the school gymnasium Thursday to discuss who will take over after Principal Rudolph Saunders Jr. accepted a promotion from the school system.
Saunders, the principal since 2006, notified parents of his resignation and subsequent acceptance of a position as development coach for high schools for Prince George’s County Public Schools in a letter dated on July 1.
“Serving as the instructional leader for this community for the past eight years has truly been rewarding and has enriched my life in many ways,” wrote Saunders in his letter. “We have accomplished so much as a school community, holding to our commitment of creating a culture where students are college and career ready.”
Parents and students split into five groups and brainstormed the different qualities they would like to see in the future Frederick Douglass principal. Most groups came up with similar ideas, such as a strong support of the PTSA, experience with dealing with high school students, instructional leadership, and support of teachers and staff.
The discussion was led by PGCPS Instructional Director Mark Fossett.
Fossett said the parents’ recommendations would be typed up and sent to PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell and the Prince George’s County Board of Education. Fossett said he could not say how the parents’ recommendations would influence the school system’s choice.
“Dr. Maxwell has done a very good job, so far, of appointing principals,” said Fossett.
The Office of Talent Development sent out a survey to the parents on July 1 to gather more information about the kind of attributes parents are looking for in the future principal. The survey closed 11 a.m. Thursday.
Each group presented their different findings and ideas at the end of a 30-minute brainstorming session.
“It is so imperative that we have the parents involved in the schooling of our children,” said parent Rodney Dyer. “[We need] someone who has vision and someone who will allow us to be well received in our community.”
Another parent, Linnette Harris, said she wanted to see a principal similar to Saunders in the future.
“He had a father-figure, stern approach to students but could also laugh with them and get along with them,” said Harris. “He was highly involved with the PTA, as well.”
Harris said Saunders’ departure came as a surprise.
“It was a shock to me,” said Harris. “The school did an all-call explaining he received a promotion. I’m assuming he got promoted because he was good. When you get promoted, it’s a good thing.”
Prince George’s County Board of Education Member Sonya Williams (District 9) sat in on the brainstorming session to see what kind of results parents and students came up with. Williams said she was glad to see the parents, students and teachers working together to improve the community.
“Is this person committed to being involved in the community long term?” said Williams when addressing the parents. “Those are the kind of questions I’m going to ask myself when choosing the new principal.”
Williams said she would take the parents recommendations into consideration when making her choice.
“I’m a product of Prince George’s County education,” said Williams. “I believe in what we’re doing here.”