The Montgomery County Board of Education has identified Andrew Houlihan as the forerunner candidate for the next Superintendent of Schools, according to an official statement that Board President Patricia O’Neil released Thursday afternoon.
Houlihan is the chief academic officer at the Houston Independent School District, the seventh largest school district in the nation by enrollment. Previously, Houlihan served as the assistant director of the Leadership Development Center at the Austin Independent School District as well as the director of the Education Leadership Institute at the International Center for Leadership in Education in New York. Houlihan has not previously served in the position of a superintendent.
During his tenure at the Houston ISD, Houlihan pioneered several innovative academic programs in the hope of alleviating the impact of severe poverty on student performance. A strong comparison can be drawn between his initiatives and those of the former Superintendent Joshua Starr.
In her statement, O’Neil noted that Houlihan met Thursday afternoon with a community panel representing key local stakeholders, including employee unions, the countywide PTA, and the countywide high school student government. The Board will also communicate with constituents in Houston in the near future to garner more input before making a final decision.
A total of 25 candidates from 17 states were considered for the position. Kimberly Statham, MCPS’s Deputy Superintendent for School Support and Improvement, who many expected to succeed Starr, was not interested in the superintendent position.
O’Neil did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Houlihan and Terry Grier, the Houston ISD Superintendent of Schools, were not available for comment.
Many MCPS students expressed hopes for the new superintendent to reform current policies.
“I think he needs to focus on reform of required classes like IED and health. They should have a curriculum more oriented around practical and useful knowledge. Right now, they ignore the issues that are relevant to our lives, send bad messages to students, and emphasize trivial details,” said Richard Montgomery Sophomore Alex Haddad.
Lou Sall, a sophomore at Walter Johnson, stated that she would like to see a superintendent who is practical. “He needs to care about the students and place an emphasis on their wellbeing, but without being too gratuitous in his spending,” she said.
“I would like to see someone whose more engaged with schools as well as the students because sometimes it feels that all you know about the Superintendent is their name and if they personally put something forward,” said Richard Montgomery senior Madeline Winstel.
In addition, many students voiced concerns that only one student representative was on the community panel for the superintendent search.
“It seems ridiculous to me that only one student would be involved in the process of picking the person in charge of our own education. The system is built for us and we should have a say,” said Haddan.
Winstel added that she would feel more confident if there is more transparency about the selection process for the student representation. “Was it volunteer based were they chosen by the other members of the panel through a democratic process with lots of options or were they just “chosen”?” She inquired.
A formal decision will be made by July 1st of this year.
More to come…