The Worcester County Board of Education deserves praise for evaluating the big picture correctly when it came to picking the next Superintendent of Schools.
The school board had a difficult decision to make when it came to the two finalists. The school board had to choose between Lou Taylor, the native son who was the former principal of Stephen Decatur High School and current chief operating officer of the school system, and Dr. Michael Martirano, current West Virginia state superintendent of schools who has Maryland roots.
On paper, Martirano surely had the edge in executive experience as a result of holding a state leadership position in addition to being a former superintendent of schools at St. Mary’s County in Maryland. While Taylor’s resume is certainly not unimpressive, he simply did not have the experience of being a school system superintendent or superintendent of a 50-plus county state system.
That’s why it was understandable for the decision to give the school board some heartburn after their interviews and days spent with the two finalists. In the end, however, the school board made the right decision in going with Taylor by a unanimous vote.
Worcester County Public Schools needs consistent leadership at the top. We are not talking about four years or eight years. We need an individual who will buck the national trend of short leadership stints and make this area the priority. We don’t need someone who is nearing retirement or looking to use this post as a stepping stone to a larger profile. We need stability over the long term.
Taylor brings that certainty and it was not a given at all with Martirano, who would have seemingly fallen into that average tenure of four to eight years for superintendents before moving on to a higher position at some point.
Taylor is vested in this community in a number of ways (most notably, but not exclusively, as the current president of the Atlantic General Hospital Board of Trustees) and will return the public school system to a leader cut from the same proverbial cloth as former Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes, who held the position for 16 years and was a high-profile and admired leader.
The superintendent post is akin to being an elected official and with it comes accountability and a certain level of acceptance. Andes was known in the community and during his 16 years earned the respect of the diverse citizenry. He understood that part of being the superintendent of this tight-knit school community was the constant interaction with teachers, students, elected and appointed officials and parents. Whether that was on the job or at a shopping center, he was always approachable and eager to interact. There is a community involvement piece that comes with being the superintendent and Andes seemed to enjoy that aspect.
The superintendent needs to be someone who is accessible, revered and known. While understanding the financial aspects and administrative juggling of the position, the school system’s chief executive needs to be a passionate leader who gets the importance of inspiring the people within the entire system, evaluating test scores for areas of strengths and weaknesses, ensuring all students are given the opportunities to excel and being in tune with curriculum trends.
Having been raised in the public school system and spending his entire adult life working in it, Taylor is well aware of the school system’s challenges as well as strengths. He clearly has the support of a majority of our community and the school board was wise to appoint him last week after a lengthy process.