The Alexandria School Board unanimously selected Dr. Morton Sherman as the citys new superintendent of schools at a special meeting Monday night, ending a tug-of-war search that required two separate consulting firms and a scratched list of finalists in April.
Sherman, the current superintendent for the Tenafly, N.J., public school system, has more than 25 years of experience as an academic administrator. On Tuesday, he pledged to be as accessible as possible to community stakeholders namely the students while working toward a school system as transparent as possible.
I dont sleep much, Sherman said on the phone from New Jersey. If you send me and email at three or 3:30 in the morning theres a better than even chance youre going to get an answer within a half an hour. I take a great deal of pride in leveling the organization so that you have access in a very personal way to me.
At 58, Sherman will take the place of Interim Superintendent Dr. Bill Symons who filled the gap left by former superintendent Rebecca Perrys sudden and rocky departure midway through the school year. He will replace Symons on August 15.
This is an exciting day for the students of Alexandria City Public Schools and our entire community, said outgoing School Board Chairwoman Claire Eberwein, who recently announced her plans to move to Austria after finishing the school year. Dr. Sherman comes to Alexandria with impeccable credentials and a wide range of experiences that will strongly impact the future of our school system.
Sherman said that he was unaware of Eberweins pending departure until she called him Tuesday, after he was hired.
Shermans ideas revolved around education in a holistic sense as he spoke of strategic planning for the long term, emphasizing an alloyed relationship between the school system and the community in order to shrink the achievement gap permeating education nationally, as well as in Alexandria.
The achievement gap, specifically in Alexandria has to do with another conversation thats also very tough in America which is looking at race, looking at achievement and being candid about that, Sherman said.
Alexandrias size and diversity appealed to Sherman, influencing his decision to leave Tenafly, a school system of about 3,500 students though not a homogenous one racially or economically. Alexandria currently has about 10,500 students enrolled.
In Tenafly, Sherman instituted leadership councils, intermittent meetings between school officials and stakeholders to bridge the schools with the community. Its a practice he hopes to replicate here in Alexandria to find out what we have in common the school system and the community and how can we move together hand-in-hand always with the mentality that we as a school system cant address all the issue of society by ourselves, he said.
Im very, very optimistic, School Board Member Scott Newsham said. People are going to want to move to Alexandria because of our schools.
School Board members said that Shermans experience with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, an educational strategy and curriculum with an international focus, influenced their selection. Alexandria is considering implementing IB, which Sherman applied to schools during his tenure at Cherry Hill in New Jersey successfully, though no imminent plan is in the works.
For me, Im not an iconoclast that says you absolutely must have IB, Sherman said. I always put it in the context of what is the very best available for Alexandria students.
I think its the beginning of something exciting, School Board Member Yvonne Folkerts said. We have a lot of high expectations and we want to be ready.
Sherman will make $250,000 annually and has a multi-year contract, an ACPS press release stated. His hiring is expected to aid in stabilizing a school system that has been without a permanent superintendent since January and which, most recently, saw Chairwoman Eberwein and T.C. Williams High School Principal Mel Riddile resign.
Im hoping that Im going to be in Alexandria eight to 10 years. Thats really my goal, Sherman said. Im really excited about being there, but Im not there 30 years; thats just not going to happen so [I intend to put] programs into place that are sustainable well beyond my time there.