Time for Superintendent to go Back to School

By Maya Rosenberg and Rebecca Jackson

Jack Smith: your average American name, or MCPS Superintendent? According to a poll of 29 CHS students, 100 percent wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference.

Smith, who was appointed as interim superintendent in Sept. 2015, after former superintendent Joshua Starr’s resignation, and was given tenure in July 2016, is apparently using an invisibility cloak when visiting MCPS schools.

While the job of superintendent is demanding, frequent interaction and contact with the students who they serve should be priority, not simply an opportunity to gain brownie points with the Maryland Board of Education (BOE). The more connected the student body is with not only their school’s administration, but with higher up MCPS officials, the more progress and cooperation can be achieved within the county.

By increasing the time he spends in schools with students, Smith could set an important precedent for superintendents to come: listening to students. Being a superintendent is not just paper-pushing: Smith’s decisions impact students directly. Choices that look good on paper may not always benefit students.

If Smith were to spend more time in schools, he would be able to hear the concerns that MCPS students have about their education, and truly be able to enact change that would directly benefit students.

According to an article in the May/June 2016 Bethesda Magazine, Smith believes that the job of the superintendent is to be a calm, steady and stable administrator while building a genuine urgency around meeting the needs of all students.

Smith, while excelling in the administrative portion of his job, is not attending school every day as a student, and therefore is not seeing problems through the eyes of students. The more often Smith goes to schools and is immersed in the ever-changing environmIf Smith were to spend more time in schools, he would be able to hear the concerns that MCPS students have about their education, and truly be able to enact change that would directly benefit students, the easier it will be for him to attain a better grasp on how to effectively improve student’s educational experiences.

In addition, if students become better acquainted with Smith, they may feel more comfortable voicing their opinions to him through an email, phone call, or in person, and thus feel as if their opinions can be heard and they can make a difference.

According to MCPS’ March 2016 Executive Summary and District Level report, MCPS is the nation’s 17th largest school district, and the largest in Maryland, with more than 156,000 students. Every one of those 156,000 students is unique, and if Smith wants to achieve his goals of meeting the needs of all of them, he must increase the amount of time spent in schools, speaking directly to students and hearing their perspective.

With the multiple life altering events that occurred in 2016 both within MCPS and nationwide, such as the termination of final exams and the presidential election, we need a superintendent to help build the best school environment possible, not only for now, but for the future as well. However, if the community does not even know who their superintendent is, this task is seemingly impossible.

According to the survey, one hundred percent said that they had never met Smith and are not aware of his policies. One hundred percent also wish that MCPS had formally introduced Smith to students.

While students may not be aware of his policies, the MCPS BOE voted unanimously to hire Smith as the official superintendent. It is apparent that they are confident in his abilities and vision for MCPS. Smith is evidently capable of creating real, impactful change for students, but in order to do so, student interaction is essential.

The BOE does not provide how much time Smith spends in schools, but increasing that time could only be beneficial. Increasing time spent directly with students may be as simple as visiting one MCPS school per week, or scheduling monthly town halls for communities. These activities will allow Smith to be more integrated with his students while still leaving most of his time for consuming administrative duties.

It’s time for Smith to step out of the office and head back to school.