It is also a pivotal moment for Prince George’s County at large, as parents, elected officials and civic and business leaders have pinned much of the county’s future on the turnaround of its schools.
“This is a crucial decision,” said David Harrington, the president and chief executive of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce. “If we are going to lure businesses that will uplift Prince George’s County . . . we’re going to have to hit a home run with this decision.”
The school board narrowed the field of 10 candidates last week to Crawley; Eric J. Becoats, the superintendent of Durham (N.C.) Public Schools; and Harrison A. Peters, a Chicago Public Schools chief of schools.
People with knowledge of other candidates who applied for the position have privately questioned why some candidates did not make the final cut. Saying they could not speak publicly because it is an ongoing search, they said some school board members have been lobbying for Crawley to get the job.
Board members did not respond to requests for comment.
County residents, who will have a chance to meet the finalists Tuesday night, said they want a superintendent who plans to stay in Prince George’s long enough to implement plans and see them through.
“We need someone who has a full commitment to the Prince George’s County Public Schools,” said state Sen. Joanne Benson (D), the education liaison to the county’s Senate delegation. “It shouldn’t be someone who is here for the short term.”
Many said rapid turnover at the helm — five superintendents in 10 years — has been detrimental to the system.
“It’s going to take time for a superintendent to turn the system in the right direction,” said Howard Stone, a former member of the board.
“I don’t want a superintendent that will say yes to everything [school board members] want,” said Del. Carolyn J.B. Howard (D), the education liaison for the county’s House delegation.
Other stakeholders said the school system needs a schools chief who is an adept manager, politically savvy and able to engage with the community. He also should have a proven track record of success in running a diverse school system with a growing population of students receiving free and reduced-priced meals, some said.
Eric J. Becoats
Becoats worked as an administrator for the Baltimore public school system from 1992 to 1997, first as director of planning and student placement and then as the chief planner for strategic planning and student placement.