The school superintendent in Durham, a chief of schools in Chicago and the interim superintendent in Prince George’s County have been selected as finalists in the competition to lead the Washington region’s third-largest school system, Prince George’s County school officials said Tuesday night.
Eric J. Becoats, Harrison A. Peters, and Alvin L. Crawley were chosen from a field of 10 candidates after a national search. They were interviewed by the board last weekend.
“We set out an ambitious timeline for our superintendent search and we are happy we attracted these qualified candidates,” School Board Chairman Verjeana M. Jacobs said in a statement.
“During the next few weeks, the public will have an opportunity to interact with the three candidates and provide their input to the Board as we select the next leader who will further the mission of our school district,” Jacobs said.
The chosen candidate will replace former school superintendent William R. Hite Jr., who left the school system last summer to become the schools chief in Philadelphia.
Hite was the fifth superintendent to run the 123,000-student system in a permanent or acting capacity since 1999.
His departure caused upheaval and raised questions for many residents about a lack of stability in the system. Within months after Hite departed, several top administrators left, including the chief financial officer, general counsel and director of student services. In the past several weeks, the director of transportation and director of procurement also have resigned.
The selection of a permanent superintendent is considered to be pivotal to the county’s future.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who has made improving the schools one of his top priorities, has said the quality of the school system and efforts to improve economic development in the county are intertwined. The county cannot become an economic powerhouse in the region if the schools are not successful, he said.
Last year, the board selected Crawley as interim superintendent, signing him to a $215,000, one-year contract that ends in June.
The board is expected to announce a permanent superintendent by July 1.
Crawley, who spent most of his 32-year career in Arlington County, took over in Prince George’s at a crucial time.
Hite left a school system that was making significant strides, including improvements on state test scores, but it continued to lag behind others in the region. Enrollment has declined, trust in the public schools continues to remain low and the number of low-income families has risen.
The board tasked Crawley, who went to Prince George’s after serving six months as the deputy chief of programming in the office of special education for the D.C. public school system, with addressing such areas as human resources, information systems and finance. Previously, Crawley served in Arlington for 16 years as director of special education and then was assistant superintendent of student services.
Becoats has served as superintendent of Durham schools since 2010. Peters, who has worked as a chief of schools in Chicago, responsible for 37 public schools since 2011.
Becoats has some roots in Maryland, having worked as chief of planning for Baltimore City schools. He has spent the rest of his career in North Carolina, including working as chief administrative officer for Guilford County Schools in Greensboro and assistant superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte.
Peters has worked as a principal in Orlando and Charlotte. Most recently, he served as a chief area officer for Chicago Public Schools before taking on his current role as chief of schools in the city.