As the new school year begins, Montgomery County Schools will have to look for a new leader.
Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast has announced he will retire at the end of this school year when his contract expires.
Weast has been a superintendent for 35 years, serving the last 11 in Montgomery County, and has been named Superintendent of the Year in Maryland and North Carolina. After years of 16 hour days and long meetings, Weast said he's ready to retire.
"So I'm eager to take a break and maybe think about things for a while and then see if I can have as much passion as I've had for education in some other areas," he said. "Hopefully I'll get to see my family a little more."
“This is a very bittersweet day for Montgomery County Public Schools,” said Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill. “Over the past 11 years, Dr. Weast has provided this district with unwavering leadership, vision and passion. Working collaboratively with the board, the community and our employees, he has guided us through one of the most comprehensive and successful school reform efforts in the nation, the results of which will have a positive impact for generations of children and adults.”
During his 11 years at Montgomery County public schools, Weast has overseen a comprehensive strategic overhaul that has resulted in the highest graduation rate of any large district in the nation.
"He certainly led our schools for a number of years in the right direction," said Kristin Trible, president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher's associations. "He certainly had a strategy, a mission in mind, and we'll miss that. But there's also looking forward to change."
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"We really appreciate the work Dr. Weast has done over the last 11 years, in particular his outreach to the union in terms of being partners in the school system," said Montgomery County Education Association President Doug Prouty.
Weast has made the search for his replacement a difficult task, O'Neill said.
"Well, I believe Dr. Weast deeply cares for the children of Montgomery County and wanting to make our school system as great as it could be," she said.
Weast will retire with an impressive list of accomplishments, including these recent wins:
- MCPS has the highest graduation rate of any large district in the nation, according Education Week.
- The class of 2010 had the highest SAT score in the history of the district and earned more than $234 million in college scholarships, an all-time record.
- MCPS students took 28,575 Advanced Placement exams in 2009, a new record, and 72 percent of those exams received a “college-ready” score. African American and Hispanic graduates at MCPS greatly exceeded the national participation and success rates on AP exams.
- More than 90 percent of MCPS kindergartners have met or exceeded reading targets each of the past three years, essentially closing the achievement gap by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status at this grade level.
“The success our students have achieved over the last 11 years is a testament to the leadership of the Board, the amazing dedication, talent and professionalism of our staff, the unyielding support of our parents and the hard work of our students who, each time we raised the bar, always met or exceeded our expectations,” Weast said in a memo to the County Board of Education.
Weast began as a business major and got in to teaching so he could coach kids in sports. A needle point slogan in his office reads, "Here is a test to find out whether your mission on earth is finished. If you're alive -- it isn't."
Weast said he doesn't know exactly what he'll do next, but it will include his passion for education.