- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

One of three finalists for the Prince George's County schools superintendent position said yesterday he would encourage teachers to communicate with parents not only when their children are doing poorly, but also when they're performing well.
John J. Keegan Jr. said the best results for children in the school system come when the adults around them put aside their differences and concentrate on what works to improve students' performance.
Mr. Keegan, who is the superintendent of the Sioux Falls, S.D., school system, said he would work to rebuild trust and working relationships among school officials, parents and the community.
"We need to look at the child and not what we ourselves want as adults," he said at a meeting with reporters at Prince George's Community College in Largo. "The best results are going to come from people working together."
Mr. Keegan referred to a Web site his school district uses that allows parents look up student grades and teachers' comments on students' behavior. He said while the Web site is helpful, it can't be the only line of communication between parents and teachers.
As chief of Sioux Falls public schools, he helped implement the nationwide Reading Recovery program, which allows one-on-one reading instruction for first-graders. He also began programs to deter crime and curb drug and alcohol use among students. Prince George's may see the same kind of programs, he said.
The Sioux Falls school system has 19,500 students, compared with Prince George's 134,000 public school students. But, Mr. Keegan said that the same problems come up in large and small districts, and that the disparity in population won't detract from his ability to lead.
"Once you've got certain techniques, you can find your way around," he said.
Mr. Keegan acknowledged it could take a while to see a large-scale shift in test scores and student accomplishment because of the size of the Prince George's student body, but he said improvement is evident with even a small increase in test scores year by year.
"Real [improvement] is three points, real is four points, real is bringing them up to average," he said.
Mr. Keegan, the only finalist who is white, said being a white leader in a hWith lingering doubts over whether a strapped state budget will provide enough money for education, it would be important for the school system to look at where the funds are going and reprioritize if necessary, Mr. Keegan said, adding that administrators will also have to fight the legislature for more.
"It's about focusing existing resources on those ideas," he said. "It's not always about money."
Mr. Keegan is the third and last finalist to speak to the board and reporters this week. The two other finalists Andre J. Hornsby, former superintendent of Yonkers public schools in New York, and Barbara Moore Pulliam, superintendent of St. Louis Park schools in Minnesota met with board and press members Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
The county's outgoing public schools chief executive officer, Iris T. Metts, took a position with an education group in the District instead of reapplying for the job. Her contract expires in June.

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