LAUREL — The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Office of Talent Development held a community meeting to get parents’ opinions on what qualities they would like to see in the selection of a new principal for Laurel High School on June 27.
About 30 parents and community members gathered in the Laurel High School auditorium as PGCPS Chief of Human Resources Kristi Murphy and Charoscar Coleman, instructional director for Cluster 10 Area 3 high schools, went over the principal selection process and took feedback from those in attendance.
Former Laurel High School Principal Dwayne Jones announced his retirement at the end of this school year following 14 years of service, Coleman said. Jones had been heavily involved at Laurel High School for years having also been a student, teacher and assistant principal at the school.
“The principal selection process was developed to ensure there is community input into the selection process,” Coleman said. “Our new CEO of Schools Dr. Monica Goldson actually revised the administrative procedure that governs the selection process for principals to ensure that there is community input into the process.”
According to Coleman, the principal selection process began sometime in January with people who were interested in the position filling out an application.
From there, they will complete a leadership assessment where they are rated and given a profile score. They then participate in an interview with a panel that consists of human resources and talent development staff. Candidates are then narrowed down to a pool of eligible people.
Thursday’s meeting completed the community input phase of the selection process where the school district hears what stakeholders want to see in the new principal. Community members were also asked to fill out an online survey where they could share more of their opinion on what they would like to see.
Next, the school system will conduct another round of interviews to find the top candidates. According to Coleman, Goldson modified the process to add this second round of interviews.
During this interview, the panel will also include community representatives who are chosen at random to see the candidate. The two representatives were selected at the community input meeting.
The CEO will conduct the final interview and will forward her recommendation to the board of education who will confirm the choice.
“Outside of this entire process that we have just described, the CEO does have the right to select a candidate outside of this process and make that placement based on the needs of the school community,” Coleman said as he described what would happen if a principal was not chosen before the start of the school year.
Parents at the meeting took issue with the short amount of time given to fill out the survey and submit feedback on the principal search. The surveys were originally due by June 28 after being officially announced at the beginning of the week.
According to Coleman, the Office of Talent Development sent out emails to the school community, made calls, placed an announcement on the school website and asked the City of Laurel to send out a call as well.
Parents of rising ninth graders and students already attending the school said that the survey information was not widely distributed. They pointed out the small number of people attending the meeting and wished the process of communicating with parents began sooner.
“This process of the principal selection actually began in February to develop our pool. We cannot start an announcement of any kind until we are aware that the principal of the school announces they are going to retire,” Murphy said.
Coleman pointed out that it was not known that Jones was retiring until the end of the school year. However, he added that they will have a “more consistent process in place” and explore the possibility of extending the deadline of the survey.
Ironically, communication was at the forefront of what the community wanted to see in the new principal.
“I found it disheartening the lack of communication between administration to parents and I would say the students as well,” said Cosette Nusen whose daughter attends Laurel High School. “A lot of the communication goes from student emails and parents don’t get notified.”
Nusen said she came from Howard County where parents were very involved in their schools and there was a sense of camaraderie among the parents and the school administration.
“So I just think they need to put better processes in place,” she said. “In the school as far as the teachers are concerned and some administration they are here with the longevity so you know they care. I just don’t know if they have the resources to better communicate to the outside community.”
PTSA President Michael Boddie agreed that communication will need to be key with the new principal. He also said that it is essential that county officials bring in someone who is a strong leader.
“I was a substitute teacher here, I’ve seen how things work,” Boddie said. “On top of communication, be a strong leader show that they are in charge and that this is a safe but fun environment.”
During his time as principal, Jones was known for being a strong communicator and leader who engaged with the students and teachers, PTSA Secretary Sharon Boddie said. He came to school early, stayed late, connect with the PTSA and encourages teachers to become involved as well.
“That makes him more reachable,” Sharon Boddie said. “He’s not a pedestal, he’s right there. You need someone like that.”