‘Always advertisements’: Md. sees high turnover for superintendents, but is working to grow its own

In the world of education, July isn’t just a month of squeezing in beach weeks or backyard barbecues.

It’s a time of transition for school districts, when new superintendents begin the work of settling in to demanding jobs, and in Maryland, those jobs will require them to work through the implementation of a long-term school reform plan called the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

In Maryland, 12 of the 24 school districts in the state appointed new superintendents or interim superintendents in the past two years.

Douglas Anthony is the Director of the University of Maryland’s Doctorate of Education and School System Leadership program and said the issue of turnover isn’t new. Anthony, whose experience includes working as a classroom teacher and administrator in Prince George’s County schools, calls the job of superintendent “the toughest in the school system.”

A RAND report in 2022 showed 95% of superintendents surveyed agreed the job had gotten harder in the past decade, but that 85% were “satisfied” with their jobs.

Take a look at any journal or association newsletter for educators, said Anthony, “You would find there’s always advertisements for superintendents.”

It’s unusual to find superintendents who have a tenure of more than four years, he said in an interview with WTOP. Those that do, he said, are anomalies.

So developing a pipeline of talent, people who are eager to step into the role of school superintendent, is a continuing challenge. The University of Maryland’s doctoral program will begin a new cohort in the fall of 2024.

Those in the program do hear from current superintendents from across the country, and they do an externship, which gives them the opportunity to work in different districts across the state of Maryland.

Given the national debate over public education, including issues surrounding curriculum, book challenges and more, Anthony was asked what drives aspiring school leaders.

“They want to address the challenges that they see in their current school systems and hope to have influence on a larger scale,” he said.

Among those currently serving at the top levels of school administration, Anthony said he hears “the frustration around some of the national conversation in education.”

But, he said, those who remain in the field “stay encouraged, because they have phenomenal staffs, they have phenomenal teachers and they always talk about the phenomenal students that they have. So, I think that kind of continues to motivate them to do the work that they do.”

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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