MCPS continues principal search process


Graphic by Rebecca Hirsh.

By Mira Dwyer

The county is currently in the process of selecting the next Whitman principal after principal Alan Goodwin announced March 19 that he will retire at the end of this school year.

The time frame for applicants to submit resumés for the position closed April 10. Of those who submitted resumés, MCPS identified three to five of the strongest candidates to complete a structured interview before a panel of community stakeholders April 27.

The panel comprised of approximately 16-24  people, with four to six people from each stakeholder group: students, parents, Whitman staff and MCPS staff.

In the interview, each candidate had 30 minutes to address five questions, three of which were presented by MCPS’ Human Resources department. The other two were based on an online survey that was filled out by community members throughout April about what characteristics they want in the new principal.

The community has been especially vocal about their desire for a continuity of Goodwin’s accessibility and warmth with students, staff and parents, said Jennifer Webster, director of the Office of School Support and Improvement of High Schools for MCPS.

“What he brings is an openness with the kids, a trust of the kids and a willingness to let them act, lead, grow and make mistakes while trying to make things happen,” Webster said. “We need someone who can continue that spirit and belief in kids but also has high expectations while still being able to be a politician.”

After the candidates presented, the panel discussed their reactions to candidates and any follow-up questions or concerns they had. There was no back-and-forth between the candidate and panel, and the panel had to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Community members were glad the process included a diverse group of stakeholders but had concerns about the rigidity of the interview.

“There are 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.”

Based on the feedback the panel offered, Webster will propose the names of the top two or three candidates to 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 BOE.

“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.”

With so much concern about Goodwin’s retirement and the selection of a new principal, there have been many questions about 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 so 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’ because everyone wants to have their voices heard in the process, but I do believe that people generally trust those who are driving that process.”

The BOE will announce the new principal during its public meeting May 21 at 6:00 p.m.