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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 1:31 PM

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Community weighs in on PGCPS superintendent selection process


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Photo by Alexis A. Goring. Dr. Alvin Crawley currently serves as interim superintendent of schools for Prince George's County Public Schools.

Photo by Alexis A. Goring. Dr. Alvin Crawley currently serves as interim superintendent of schools for Prince George's County Public Schools.

Published on: Friday, March 22, 2013

By Alexis A. Goring

Parents, principals, students and community members voiced concerns and heard from the three candidates for Prince George’s County Public Schools’ next superintendent on Tuesday.

The search for a new superintendent launched in fall 2012 upon the departure of William Hite Jr. to the Philadelphia school district. School district officials intend to conclude the search this spring.

The field of candidates was narrowed to Dr. Eric J. Becoats, superintendent of schools for Durham Public Schools; Dr. Alvin L. Crawley, interim superintendent of schools for Prince George’s County Public Schools; and Harrison A. Peters, chief of schools for Chicago Public Schools.

Each candidate brings an extensive background of on-the-job experience, a wealth of knowledge and their own vision for the county to the table.

Photo by Alexis A. Goring. Eric J. Becoats, superintendent of schools for Durham Public Schools, is a finalist for PGCPS superintendent.

Photo by Alexis A. Goring. Eric J. Becoats, superintendent of schools for Durham Public Schools, is a finalist for PGCPS superintendent.

“Prince George’s County Public Schools is looking for a leader who will enhance our record of achievement, provide every student with a world-class education and strengthen our connection to the community,” stated a release from the PGCPS Communications Office.

Crawley, 54, brings insider knowledge. He has lived in the local area for 18 years, worked in the school district as the current interim superintendent and has gotten to know the “inner working of our school district.”

“One of the things that we know as it relates to sustainability is that stable leadership does make a difference in the school district, and I’m committed to be here,” Crawley said. “I’m not interested in staying a short while then moving on to another district. My plan is to stay here.”

However, Crawley is willing to leave his interim superintendent without contest, if not selected for the job.

Photo by Alexis A. Goring. Harrison A. Peters, chief of schools for Chicago Public Schools, is also a candidate for PGCPS superintendent.

Photo by Alexis A. Goring. Harrison A. Peters, chief of schools for Chicago Public Schools, is also a candidate for PGCPS superintendent.

“I went into the process with the understanding that the Board (of Education) would go through a search process and that my term would go until July, and then the board would appoint a new superintendent,” he said. “Certainly, I know that things happen and whatever decision is made is in the best interest of the students.”

Crawley’s passion for the children of PGCPS centers on closing the achievement gap. He authored a book about cultural competence and providing training and professional development to school faculty in an effort to raise awareness of this issue.

According to Crawley, his research worked in Maryland school systems in terms of narrowing gaps in achievement between black, white and Hispanic students, but there is still much work to do. He hopes to bring some of that work to Prince George’s County.

If hired, Crawley would start working on three focus areas.

“Going forward, these specific areas of focus would be to strengthen instructional program allowing more rigor for our students as aligned to the common core standards,” he said.

Crawley’s second priority would be “revising professional development so that we are providing differentiated professional development based on the skills and support that staff need in schools and central office, and then the third priority would be to get our capital improvement projects back on track to make sure that our buildings are conducive to learning.”

Prince George’s County and its school system receives negative press — a problem Becoats, 45, would like to fix if he is selected.

“I think one of those things we have to do in Prince George’s County is we have to talk about the successes that the county has because there are some good things that are going on in Prince George’s County,” he said “And I think where we know that we may not be making the mark, I think what we do is that we identify what the shortcomings are, we talk about what we’re going to do to address the specific plans, the strategies that we’re going to put in place to address those issues, and then I think we galvanize this community around those strategies and around those core structures to ensure that we have different outcomes for our children.”

Peters, 38, is passionate about not letting society and the streets raise children, and he believes in the African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child.

“Schools can’t do it by themselves,” he said. “The schools, we do have a higher calling and if we don’t step up to the plate, we see what happens when the streets raise our children. So somebody has to step up, and, traditionally, the school hasn’t because our role is to educate children, but now we can make the argument that our job is to educate the whole child and part of that is a social responsibility. … And, we just can’t do it by ourselves.”

Harrison believes his competitors are “very impressive in dedicating their lives to the children” and he respects their work, but he is clear that he wants to be the one selected for the job.

“I just ask people to look at who I am and also look at the body of work. … If you look at the body of work against the work that they’ve done and if you feel like there’s a match, then I’d love to have the opportunity to be your next superintendent,” he said.

Members of the community expressed appreciation for the opportunity to have their voices heard before the Board of Education which, by law, will choose the new superintendent. But some, such as Charmelia Smith, a principal’s secretary at a local high school, wish they had more power in the selection process.

“I wish that they would open it up just a little bit more to give us the opportunity to vote and the final vote not come from them and it not be a political thing,” Smith said. “Let us read the bios and let us read what is on paper and let us make a decision about it because we don’t have a political agenda. We just have real, raw natural feelings about commitment and what our needs are with no political agendas, no favors, none of that. We just know exactly what it is we want, so the community, I think, would be a better indicator.”

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