For 18 years, Kenneth K. Muir, the public information officer for Montgomery County's schools, never quite knew what he would find when he walked into his office in the morning. A television crew, maybe. Members of the PTA would not be unlikely.
Telephone messages from three or four reporters were as expected as the delivery of the morning paper.
But come February, Muir -- the county's first information officer -- is taking a job that won't be as concerned with the here and now. He has been named coordinator for long-range planning, a new job approved in August by the Board of Education. The board plans to advertise nationally for a replacement in the public information office.
"It's been a job where other people set your priorities," Muir said about the information post. "From that point of view, long-range planning will be a breeze."
Muir holds an undergraduate degree in accounting and education and master's and doctoral degrees in education. He and two other planners in the department he will be heading will track the school system's educational programs, their successes and their impact on facilities.
The new department was proposed by Superintendent Wilmer S. Cody, who said he needed someone to coordinate budget plans, staff development and curriculum for the 90,837-student system.
Whether it was the teachers' strike that lasted nine days in 1968, a month of public hearings leading to the closing of 28 schools in 1981, or simply alerting radio stations when snow forced school closings, Muir has been the voice of the system.
"He always took the people's point of view," said Pally Ondrasic, an information specialist who worked with Muir for 15 years before her retirement last year. "He might have a short fuse when something would go wrong with a computer or machine or something like that, but with people, Ken always took their side and tried to help," said Ondrasic.
"The county has grown an awful lot since I first took the job," Muir said. "The sophistication of the school system, the county and the people in it have grown and put a lot of pressure on education.
"Now, there's more focus, more push toward improvement that any time before."