The Last Lessons of Jerry Weast
A question and answer session with the retiring superintendent of Montgomery County Public School.
(page 2 of 2)
Jerry Weast lists the top 10 accomplishments of his tenure*
- MCPS has the highest graduation rate among the nation’s largest school districts, according to Education Week.
- Nearly 30,000 Advanced Placement exams were taken in 2010, more than three times the number of exams taken in 1999.
- The class of 2010 scored an average of 1,653 on the SAT, an all-time high and well above the state and national averages.
- More than 90 percent of kindergartners last year met or exceeded reading targets, narrowing the achievement gap by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
- Last year’s graduates earned $234 million in college scholarships, an immediate 10 percent return on the MCPS budget.
- A collaborative relationship with our staff, which includes having our employee associations at the budget table. Over the past three years, the associations that represent more than 20,000 employees have helped us cut more than $300 million from the budget and have voted to forgo cost-of-living increases for the past two years.
- An increased focus on early education, including the expansion of prekindergarten programs for our neediest students.
- A focus on parent and community outreach to all the citizens of Montgomery County at the district and school level.
- High levels of employee satisfaction. In 2009, MCPS had a teacher retention rate of nearly 95 percent, much higher than other large districts around the country.
- Our organizational excellence has been recognized recently with two prestigious national awards. In October, MCPS was named a finalist for the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education, which recognizes large school districts that have raised student performance while narrowing the achievement gap. MCPS is the first school district in the Washington area to be chosen as a finalist. And in November, MCPS was a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which recognizes institutions that improve student outcomes, engage and empower staff and the community, carefully allocate resources and demonstrate leadership and social responsibility. MCPS is just the sixth school district to be an award recipient.
* in no particular order
What others say about Jerry Weast
Jay Mathews, Washington Post education columnist and blogger: “Jerry Weast was one of the most energetic and effective school superintendents I ever encountered. He is certainly in the Top 10 nationally in terms of raising the achievement of low-income students, which to me is the most important measure of an educator. The only reason I would not make him No. 1 is that he has not yet taken on one of our distressed urban districts, but if he did so, I think he would be very good.
“There was an advantage for him in running a district with voters, parents and school board members as smart and as generous as those in Montgomery County, but there are other similarly affluent districts that have not seen such gains for their most disadvantaged students.
“He was a good politician, a good publicist (he would come all the way to my office in Alexandria to explain his latest program) and a very good analyst of what worked and what didn’t with kids. I hope he writes a long book explaining it all in his characteristic clear and vivid way.”
Michelle Rhee, former D.C public schools chancellor: “Jerry Weast took the Montgomery County schools to a new level. His work and leadership made MCPS a model for the nation.”
Rosanne Hurwitz, activist with the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County: “My kids got a great education, but there was a lot of work to advocate on their behalf. The system is designed for the great middle. If you are at the ultra-top or ultra-bottom, then the school system does not care. …I would hope that the next superintendent is more open to all parents and meets their needs.”
Valerie Ervin, Montgomery County Council president, Education Committee chair and former Board of Education member: “At the end of the day, he was a masterful politician who had the right idea at the right time. I think for the most part our students have benefited.
“…But one could say that the achievement gap is as big as it has ever been. Montgomery College has said that students coming from Montgomery County have to be remediated in math and reading. So even though the story that we were told was a hopeful one of great success for individual students, there is still a persistent achievement gap in Montgomery County Public Schools. …He is leaving at the right time because we now need some fresh ideas from a new visionary leader who can take us to the next level.”
George Leventhal, Montgomery County Council member: “Jerry Weast has accomplished a great deal, and he put an appropriate focus on outcome disparities between the kids from more fortunate families versus kids from less fortunate families. …He was a very successful superintendent during the time of rising revenues, but I think he is less well equipped to deal with a climate of shrinking revenues. [And] I think that he is too involved in political campaigns. I do not think that is the role of a superintendent.”
Potomac writer Carin Dessauer, a former executive with CNN and CNN.com, is a regular contributor to Bethesda Magazine.