Community gathers to discuss principal selection process

By Mira Dwyer

Dozens of community members gathered in the media center April 9 to discuss the process for selecting Whitman’s new principal, who will replace current principal Alan Goodwin after his retirement at the end of this school year.

Jennifer Webster, Director of the Office of School Support and Improvement of High Schools for MCPS, led the meeting. The goal of the event was to explain the principal selection process and answer parent questions, she said.

“It’s an opportunity for the parents to see someone in person, which is really the main thing,” Webster said. “I’m the one leading the process, so I can answer any questions they have about it and just provide information overall.”

Webster also held a meeting earlier in the day with a select group of students that represented some of Whitman’s largest clubs and organizations to voice the characteristics they want in a principal.

The county’s principal selection process requires input from school staff, community members and students. Many community members answered an online survey over the past few weeks about desired leadership characteristics for the new principal. Webster will use the surveys to develop interview questions for the candidates, she said.

The timeframe for applicants to submit resumes closed April 10. Of those who submitted resumes, MCPS will identify three to five of the strongest candidates to complete a structured interview April 27 before a panel of selected students, school staff, parents and MCPS staff.

Each candidate will have 30 minutes to address five questions, three of which will be presented by MCPS’ Human Resources department while the other two will be based on the community surveys. After the candidates have presented, the panel will discuss the candidates and address any follow-up questions or concerns. There will be no back-and-forth between the candidate and panel.

“At the end of that, it’s my job to listen to which of these candidates resonated,” Webster said. “If people feel strongly about one candidate or another, positive or negative, it becomes very apparent, and when there’s division over a candidate, that can be easily seen.”

Webster will propose the names of the top two or three candidates for MCPS superintendent Jack Smith, deputy superintendent Kimberly Statham and Associate Superintendent of Secondary Schools Darryl Williams to interview. They will select the final candidate and present the decision to the Board of Education, which will announce the new principal during its public meeting May 21 at 6:00 p.m.

Parents were glad there was a meeting to address questions, but some had concerns about the principal selection process, they said.

“A positive that I saw is that there are going to be a lot of people at that preliminary interview, a lot of different folks, which strikes me as good,” Whitman parent Jim Kretz said. “But the fact that there isn’t interaction between the panel and the candidate strikes me as bizarre.”

With so much parent concern about Dr. Goodwin’s retirement and the selection of a new principal, there have been many questions regarding the makeup of the panel and the identity of the candidates, executive vice president of the PTSA Mercedita Roxas-Murray said.

“There is certainly lots of deep sadness that Dr. Goodwin is leaving because he has some much respect from this community, not only from the parents, but also from the students and staff,” Roxas-Murray said. “I’ve heard a lot of parents asking ‘how are we going to select’ and ‘who is going to select’ becuase everyone wants to have their voices heard in the process, but I do believe that parents generally trust those who are driving that process.”