Alexandria parents hope for a focused, experienced new superintendent

Humble. Compassionate. Experienced. These are some of the attributes that Alexandria students, parents, and teachers said they are looking for in a new superintendent during a community forum Thursday night at T.C. Williams High School.

Some said they hope the new leader will bring focus to a system that has been overwhelmed by an onslaught of new programs in recent years. Some said they want an educator with a long history in the classroom. Others said they hope for a leader who understands how to work with diverse students and staff and who takes a collaborative approach to making decisions.

“We don’t want a top down kind of guy or gal,” said Kim Anderson, a parent who was one of about two dozen people to attend the evening meeting.

The forum was part of a “three-day blitz” of interviews, said Kevin C. Castner, an associate at B.W.P. Associates, the search firm hired by the school board.

By the end of Thursday, the consultants will have met with about 125 people, including students, teachers, parents, administrators and elected officials.

They plan to report to the school board on Dec. 19 about what they heard from the community. A new superintendent is expected to start in July.

Former superintendent Morton Sherman resigned abruptly days before the start of school. In October, the school board appointed Alvin L. Crawley as the interim superintendent.

Parents at Thursday’s meeting said they expect the tight budget and the continuing enrollment growth to be significant challenges for the next superintendent.

T.C. Williams, the city’s only high school, is already divided onto two campuses with 3,200 students, and one parent said he wasn’t sure how much it can grow and still maintain a cohesive sense of community.

Two students at the forum talked about the negative impact of “zero tolerance” policies, and the higher rates of suspensions for minority students. Such policies make students of color feel targeted unfairly, said Ana Diaz, a T.C. Williams student.

“When we go to school, we want it to feel more like a family,” she said. “I think school can be a place to learn from your mistakes.”

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.

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