Finalists interviewing this week Wicomico County Schools superintendent

Finalists for superintendent of Wicomico County schools have been interviewing for the top position and meeting with members of the school board and the community.

This week the candidates —  Dr. Cathy J. Townsend, Dr. Lorenzo L. Hughes and Dr. Donna C. Hanlin  — met with panels composed of support staff, retirees, business leaders, teachers, parents, community leaders, Central Office administrators, principals and media.

At the sessions, representatives from the Maryland Association of Boards of Educations gathered information and will relay it to board of education members, who are expected to make a final selection soon.

When the choice is made, it won’t be announced until a contract is signed, Don Fitzgerald, school board president, told the Salisbury Independent.

“It’s not fair if we make an offer and it falls through. Once that contract is signed, we could make an announcement sometime in the next week or so,” he said.

On July 1, the next superintendent will take over for a four-year period.  Afterward, the contract can be renewed.  The advertised annual starting salary is $175,000.

Townsend is assistant superintendent for administrative services for Wicomico County schools.

Hughes is assistant superintendent for instruction for Dorchester County schools.

Hanlin, formerly school counselor, assistant principal, principal and director of secondary education in  Wicomico County, is co-chairwoman and director of assessment and accountability for the Department of Education at Shepherd University.

Fitzgerald said he is impressed with all three candidates. One, he said, asked school board members what their five-year goal is and he replied he wants the school system to be No. 1 in the state.

“We have to see what the community input is about the candidates. This is a community school system, so we’ll get feedback. After Wednesday, we’ll weigh everything,” he said.

“It’s the citizens’ school system. We want as much input as possible. I spoke to all of them (last) Tuesday night and thanked them for participating. We want the best candidates we can get. This is a big choice for us.

“They have all been impressive. Every candidates brings something. Some bring more than others. Whoever is chosen will be a good addition to our school system,” Fitzgerald said.

He refused to say what he’s looking for in a candidate, saying it wouldn’t be fair to them.

Gary Hammer, president of the Wicomico County Teachers’ Association, said a survey of teachers showed, “the biggest thing we want is a superintendent that treats employees with respect.”

“That seemed to be an essential theme. I don’t think employees are feeling the love now. We want a superintendent who will show respect and respect what our teachers do,” Hammer said.

He said he hasn’t been involved in the focus groups, and doesn’t know the candidates well enough, or enough about their experiences, to comment, but he’s hoping for change in the upcoming administration.

“Any time you get a new superintendent there will be new, fresh, bright ideas,” he said.

“There should be a working relationship between the superintendent, the Central Office and the teachers. I don’t think that is happening as much as it could.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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