Helping students become good, well-rounded people is equally as important as guiding them toward academic success, says incoming Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr.
About 80 people attended a community forum at in Rockville on Tuesday night, the first opportunity for the public to meet the new superintendent. Starr's first official day on the job is July 1.
“Whatever kids do, they need to have more options when they leave us than when they came in ...,” said Starr, who has three children of his own with wife Emma. “You need to try different things and there’s not one way of looking at it.”
The county should use a variety of criteria for assessing student success rather than relying solely on standardized tests, which often show what’s not working but fail to demonstrate what is, Starr said. Creating an innovative, collaborative and supportive school environment is essential, he said, and when students are engaged in the classroom, strong performance on tests will follow.
“If you focus on what’s good for the kids, good things are going to happen,” Starr said.
Starr, who earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, comes to the county from the Stamford (CT) Public School System, where he has served as superintendent since 2005. He began his career as a special education teacher in New York City and eventually became the district’s director of school performance and accountability.
As superintendant in Stamford, Starr said he frequently looked to Montgomery County Public Schools for strategies that could be applied in the Connecticut school district, which is smaller than MCPS but has similar demographics.
“This is not a reform job. That’s not the situation here,” Starr said. “You should be so proud of the schools you have.”
Starr pledged to meet frequently with parents, students and staff throughout his tenure.
“I don’t really have plans yet other than to learn what’s happening,” he said. “I’m going to spend a lot of time in my first six months, year, getting out to the schools and in the community and learning what the issues are.”
Jodi Gershoni, a mother of three from Rockville, said she was impressed with Starr.
“I thought he was great, very dynamic, open to hearing and listening, developing an understanding of what the issues are before he jumps in,” said Gershoni, who asked Starr to look into how much teachers should tailor their instruction to improving performance on standardized tests.
Sareana Kimia, a seventh-grader at in Rockville and president of the Montgomery County Junior Councils, said her biggest concern is maintaining and expanding the school system’s magnet program, especially its technology curriculum.
“I think he’s going to be a good superintendent. He’s very nice,” said Kimia, 12, of Bethesda, who gave Starr a Parkland T-shirt.