With the next Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO expected to be named in June, officials in the district are hoping prospective candidates prioritize several issues facing the school system as it tries to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

After current CEO Monica Goldson announced her planned retirement in January, the school system launched its first CEO search since 2019.

Goldson, who was appointed as the interim CEO in 2018 before being named the permanent CEO in 2019, navigated the school system through the COVID-19 pandemic, where staff and students wrangled challenges including a technological divide that led to academic inequities among students.

While county educators both commended and criticized Goldson’s leadership during the pandemic, both parties acknowledged the importance of selecting the perfect CEO to lead the school system in the post-pandemic era.

District 2 board of education member Jonathan Briggs hopes the next CEO prioritizes addressing the systemic issues that have widened the achievement gap in the county.

“It is really going to be important that the next superintendent has a philosophy that really aligns with what the unique challenges are in Prince George’s County … which includes closing the academic achievement gap, particularly for math,” Briggs said.

Briggs’s emphasis on improving math scores in the county comes amid a significant decline in student performance in math, according to data released by the school system.

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Recent findings suggest several schools in the county have less than five percent of students meeting grade-level expectations in math, according to District 1 school board member David Murray.

To address the dip in student performance, some educators highlighted the importance of using a data-driven approach to both pinpoint weaknesses in the school system and form educational policy.

At-large Board of Education member Curtis Valentine acknowledged the value of traditional policy-making through community involvement, but also said the next CEO must be able to take advantage of the readily available data collected by the county, including a newly designed equity dashboard.

“I am looking for someone who is really going to … learn the community, but also know the ins and outs of what it means to make an education policy change, which is using data and having the right leaders in the right place,” Valentine said.

The Prince George’s County Educators’ Association echoed Valentine’s sentiments about taking a data-centric approach.

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In a statement to The Diamondback, the teacher’s union added that the use of data in the next administration must extend beyond traditional assessment and include metrics that may assist with other issues, such as teacher retention.

“[The next CEO must have] demonstrated experience and transparency using longitudinal data, from multiple sources, not solely assessment data, to inform and enhance education outcomes,” the statement read.

In addition to concrete policy initiatives, others hope the new superintendent offers a fresh perspective in their decision making process, rather than relying on older ideas.

To prevent complacency, the county must prioritize building upon the accomplishments of past administrations through trying new ideas, Valentine said.

Briggs reiterated that the county is facing problems that it has never seen before as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted that strategies that have been successful in the past may no longer be effective.

While uncertainty lies ahead in the CEO search, Valentine remained optimistic about the system’s next leader and future of PGCPS.

“You have to take risks. You have to be bold,” Valentine said. “I think if we have someone who does that, we will be in good shape.”