Thursday, Dec. 5
LTM Editorial: The next Hatrick
This is the last school year for Edgar Hatrick, who has served as superintendent of Loudoun County schools since 1991. The search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates are currently looking for candidates to replace him.
As you might imagine, we have a few thoughts on the matter. With the loss of a county institution like Hatrick, it’s important to reflect on the benefit his type of continuity provided during our growth these past decades and consider what we should be looking for in our next superintendent.
Whoever enters the post will almost certainly have less experience in Loudoun. That means the operating system needs to change with more interdepartmental communication and a stronger reporting system. In addition to being a fine school system, LCPS will likely need to start operating and reporting more like a corporation. No one person can know everything, so strong organization is the way to go. A good candidate for superintendent will need to understand that.
While that superintendent has to be educator first, they need to understand local businesses and be able to grow the number of school-business partnerships.
That candidate will also need to be a futurist. As much change as we’ve had already inside the classroom in terms of technology, this change pales in comparison to the changes new technology has wrought on the working world.
Whoever is hired as superintendent will need to start looking at the way kids are taught in our schools today and consider how well school is preparing them for the future. The changes we can imagine today are probably only the first step. A county like Loudoun can’t be anything but state-of-the-art.
This same type of vision will be needed to match the growth in the county. Hatrick’s biggest victory has been keeping one step ahead of what has been the most rapidly growing counties in the nation. During Hatrick’s tenure, the county opened 49 new schools to serve more than 50,000 new students. Having added more than 100,000 new residents to the county in the last 10 years, the Department of Planning estimates that another 100,000 new residents will settle into the county by 2025.
The new superintendent will need to plan how the county will be able to provide a quality education to these residents, preventing egregious overcrowding and ensuring that we maintain and improve the level of education in our community.
And it’s harder than it sounds. One of the recurring pieces of criticism Hatrick has received over the years related to the amount of county funds spent on the schools. It is a lot, but there is a deficit when looking at some of our eastern neighbors.
Even so, Loudoun lags behind Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Manassas City in cost per pupil. Loudoun is also the only school system in the commonwealth without full-day kindergarten.
Moving forward, the new superintendent will need to spearhead an initiative to create a Thomas Jefferson-like school in Loudoun County without dismantling the successful part-time program at the Academy of Science.
Working with the School Board, the superintendent will have to find a way to articulate the needs of this school system and win allies and support with the board of supervisors – who control the purse strings for the system – all the while winning support for more capital improvements as more schools need to be constructed.
Balancing fiscal responsibility with fighting for the best for our students has to be job one and it isn’t always easy to balance.
It’ll be a tough job, but there is a bedrock of excellence that it’s built upon. The challenge will be to add to it without losing any of that base. In Loudoun, our neighborhoods are built around schools and it’s important that they continue to serve as part of that community building.
Hatrick’s 23-year tenure as superintendent – and his 47 years in the school system – certainly aren’t the norm. Many school districts regularly turn over their superintendents with one or two four-year terms not uncommon.
But in Loudoun, we’d like to see a candidate who’s able to make the commitment for something longer – someone who plans for the future because they know they’ll still be here to see the results.
Friday, Nov. 29
Guest Opinion: Mental health and heartache
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Monday, Nov. 25
Guest Opinion: JFK
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LTM Editorial: A new look and a new challenge
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Guest Opinion: Achieving “The Real Spirit of Democracy”
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Thursday, Nov. 14
LTM Editorial: Who’s election was it anyway?
Wednesday, Nov. 6
LTM Editorial: What next for the tea party?
Thursday, Oct. 31
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