School board votes 4-1 to eliminate residency requirement for superintendent

ROCK HALL — At a specially scheduled meeting Monday night devoted to the search for the next superintendent of Kent County Public Schools, the Kent County Board of Education finalized the application and job requirements for a successor to Karen Couch.

The application will be published Friday, March 8.

The new hire will assume office July 1.

In January, Couch announced her retirement; her last day is June 30.

As part of the Monday, March 4 meeting, the school board met in closed session to discuss the salary and benefit package for the superintendent position.

In open session, William Middleton of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, which has been hired to serve as the search consultant, reviewed results of the survey that was completed by various stakeholders — staff, students, parents, guardians and community members — to gather input on what they want in a leader of the public school system here.

There were 189 survey responses. The breakdown, according to lead consultant Middleton, was 27% coming from parents/guardians; 20% from students; 19% from KCPS employees; 14% from business/community members; and 18% who identified as “other.”

Using the responses, Middleton crafted the five characteristics that were deemed most important for the new KCPS superintendent. The list of characteristics will be published with the job application.

Middleton reported that the number-one characteristic is an experienced leader with broad K-12 experience within the classroom, administration and central office who is familiar with Maryland education law, including the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

Number two is an educator who has successful, measurable experience in the classroom.

Rounding out the top five are: an innovative visionary who is passionate about the education of all students in Kent County; a consensus builder who will communicate openly and honestly with staff, students and the community; and a decisive administrator, a decision maker who has strength of conviction and promotes accountability throughout the system.

After some discussion about the wording, the board agreed to move forward with these five characteristics.

The biggest debate of the meeting centered around KCPS policy CBB: Recruitment and Appointment of the Superintendent that requires the superintendent to live in Kent County.

The majority of the board members were concerned that the residency requirement would narrow the application pool.

“All that we are looking to do is open the net a little wider right at the start so we don’t eliminate potential candidates to come to Kent County. We want the best to come here and if we don’t do that (change the policy) and close the scope, then we may miss out on someone that our kids, staff, teachers, parents and community needs,” said board President Joe Goetz.

Board member Frank Rhodes agreed that he wanted the best to come to Kent County, but he felt that by requiring the superintendent to live in the county they would be more invested in the community.

“For me it’s important that they live here and be part of the community,” Rhodes said.

Board member Aretha Dorsey said that a person can support a community without living in it.

“We want what is best for Kent County, and just because you live here doesn’t mean you’re more qualified for the job than a person who doesn’t,” Dorsey said.

To change the policy, the board had to make a special exception.

Under its current operating procedures, the school board must wait two meeting cycles, or four weeks, between the introduction of a new/revised policy and the vote.

Because the job application for a new superintendent is being published on Friday, the board had to do everything in one meeting so the application could be updated.

This falls under the “unusual urgency” criterion in the board’s existing procedure regarding policy changes because of the tight turnaround for the KCPS superintendent job application.

Board Vice President Francoise Sullivan made the motion to remove the residency requirement from Policy CBB; board member Trish McGee seconded the motion.

The motion passed, 4-1. Rhodes cast the dissenting vote.

The deadline for applications is April 8.

The board will conduct interviews in April and May.

More information about the superintendent search can be found on the KCPS website,

Trish McGee, owner and publisher of The Evening Enterprise, is an elected member of the Kent County Bard of Education. She did not contribute to this reporting.

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One Response

  1. I think it is a mistake to not require the new superintendent to move to Kent County within a year of being hired. I agree with Mr. Rhodes that a person who lives here will be more connected to and understanding of the community. The new superintendent should at least live on this side of the bay.

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