Md. school superintendents leaving the job at an accelerated rate

During the course of the coronavirus pandemic, five Maryland school superintendents said they were stepping down when their contracts expired. This week, the head of the Anne Arundel school system said he will be leaving, too. One school administrator said it’s part of a worrisome national trend.

Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent George Arlotto said he will be leaving at the end of the current school year because the board of education opted not to renew his contract.

Dan Domenech is the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. Domenech was visiting with state school administrators in Georgia, where he’s been informed that there has been dozens of departures in a single year.

“Already, 45 superintendents in Georgia are indicating that they’re leaving their jobs, whereas in a normal year, it would only be 12 or 15,” Domenech said.

Leading a school district has always been a challenging job, Domenech said.

Over the past several decades, superintendents have had to add things, such as public safety drills and managing trauma to their duties.

Domenech said the coronavirus pandemic, “which we’re still in, by the way,” has exacerbated the level of stress carried by superintendents. He describes the job of balancing public health requirements with the desire to keep schools open as a “no-win” proposition.

“If they close schools, parents who had to go to work yelled at them. If they opened schools, parents who said it was too dangerous for their kids to go yelled at them,” Domenech said.

While he said top school administrators were accustomed to being targets of criticism, the increasingly heated rhetoric that’s erupted on school boards over topics, such as mask mandates, has also generated threats to school personnel, elected school board officials and district leaders.

In October, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo that directed the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s offices to coordinate responses to threats targeting school officials.

The pattern of top school administrators leaving their jobs represents “a huge turnover with huge implications for education,” Domenech said.

“Who’s going to take the place of these leaders?” asked Domenech. “They’re going to be replaced by individuals that really are interested and certainly want to do the job, but they just don’t have the experience particularly in these very difficult times.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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