NEWARK — Education officials announced Friday afternoon that Worcester County native Lou Taylor will be the school system’s new superintendent.
Taylor, who is currently the school system’s chief operating officer, was selected over Michael Martirano, the superintendent of schools for the state of West Virginia. Taylor will replace Superintendent Jerry Wilson, who is leaving Worcester County at the end of October.
Taylor said he was humbled by the opportunity.
“It is my responsibility to live up to the trust you’ve displayed in me,” he said. “We have the most dynamic employees and outstanding students and this is the opportunity of a lifetime to serve as your superintendent of schools.”
Though a formal announcement was made by school board president Jonathan Cook, the crowd at the board of education office made it clear that Taylor had been chosen. Along with Taylor’s family, the county commissioners, local mayors and a bevy of educators filled the board’s meeting room.
Taylor thanked his supporters and said he was looking forward to working with both educators as well as local leaders.
“I am a firm believer that a dedicated group of people working toward a common goal can move mountains together,” he said. “That is what we’re going to do. We’re going to move them together.”
Cook described the lengthy search process, coordinated by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, that led to the announcement that Taylor would be the next head of the school system. What started as two dozen inquiries into the position resulted in 12 applications. Five candidates made the first round of interviews. Four returned for a second interview. In late September, Taylor and Martirano were named finalists.
Both spent a “Day in the District” being interviewed by various stakeholders this past week. They spent hours meeting with the county’s state representatives, commissioners, community leaders and even the press. In his interview with reporters, Taylor spoke of his love for the school system.
“I bleed Worcester County,” Taylor said. “It’s part of my fabric, it’s who I am. In my 33-year career, I would say I don’t know of many people that have put in the number of hours, the commitment that I have to this school system.”
Cook stressed that the selection of Taylor was made based on his qualifications, not the fact that he’s a longtime school system employee.
“This board had a tough decision,” he said. “We had outstanding candidates. Mr. Lou Taylor was the right candidate for this position … Mr. Taylor won this and has earned it in his own right.”
At Friday’s special meeting, the board made a motion first to accept the resignation of Wilson Oct. 31. A second motion, made by Sara Thompson, was to appoint Taylor as interim superintendent Nov. 1 to June 30. Both passed with 6-0 votes. School board member Bob Rothermel was not present.
Cook explained that the state would only permit boards to appoint superintendents to four-year terms in February. He said the board fully intended to appoint Taylor to a full term when the time came.
Many of those in the crowd for the announcement took the opportunity to congratulate Taylor.
“There’s no doubt the right candidate has been selected,” Delegate Mary Beth Carozza said.
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan offered candid congratulations.
“I know each person in this room is choked up a little bit and as proud of you as I am,” he said. “When I think of Lou Taylor what I think about is the kids of Worcester County. The real winners today are the children of Worcester County.”
Taylor, a well-known local figure who has a variety of community leadership positions, is himself a graduate of Worcester County Public Schools. He’s in his 33rd year of employment with the school system. After starting as a gym teacher at Berlin Middle School, he eventually moved into administration and is best known for the 17 years he spent as principal at Stephen Decatur High School. He left Decatur in 2012 to take his current position at the central office. Taylor said this week that leaving Decatur, which became the county’s first Maryland Blue Ribbon School under his leadership, was one of the hardest decisions of his professional career.
“I struggled with that jump,” he told reporters earlier this week. “I was a fixture there.”
Nevertheless moving to the central office helped Taylor prepare for the role of superintendent. He was one of four finalists for the job in 2012 when Wilson was selected. Taylor says the past four years managing the operational side of the school system has prepared him to lead it.
“When I applied before, I was more of a school-based leader,” he said. “I didn’t have the central office piece to my resume. Now that I have that I feel I’m a more complete candidate for the job.”
Wilson, who announced in February he would not seek another four-year contract, shared his thanks to the Board of Education and the Worcester County community in the following statement.
“I want to express my appreciation to the Board and the Worcester County community for the opportunity to serve as superintendent of schools,” Wilson said. “I believe our educators have made great strides toward becoming a world class school system as evident by our students’ outstanding achievement in the recently released PARCC scores. Worcester County’s cumulative scores were higher than any other county in the state for two years in a row. I have been fortunate to work with outstanding educational leaders, and I have witnessed powerful instruction.”
Wilson continued, “My goal as superintendent is always to make the best decisions for students and to support our staff as they educate and innovate. Reflecting on the past several years, I am grateful to have served as Worcester County’s Superintendent; it is an honor I will always treasure. I wish the Board and the new Superintendent all the best in the future.”