The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Weast’s Retirement: Looking Forward

In 1999, Jerry Weast accepted the appointed position of MCPS superintendent, determined to make sweeping changes in the curriculum as well as the county’s expectations of students. 12- years and many system-changing decisions later, he has officially decided to step down on June 30, 2011.

“It’s kind of a giant leap,” said Weast. “It’s very much like graduating from high school. But I know if I fail at retirement, I can always go back to another superintendency somewhere.”

According to social studies teacher Steve Miller, this leap has come about 10 years after many had expected it to. Miller blames this laughable prediction on Weast’s initial reputation as one who planned on making vast changes to the MCPS system.

These plans were not merely empty promises. Principal Christopher Garran has felt first hand the impacts of Weast’s 12-year leadership.

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“I think that Dr. Weast has completely focused our system on the achievement gap and on making sure that we are honest about how our students are doing in school,” he said. “I would say that he has helped us to accelerate our focus on honors and AP work, making sure that students have opportunities to be challenged. Not just some kids; all students have that opportunity.”

According to an Ed Week study,MCPS now has the highest graduation rate in the country. Weast adds that the race, socioeconomic position and zip code of any given student are not as predictable as they were 12 years ago.

Miller, who was working at WJ for one year before Weast became superintendent, has found that over the course of those 12 years the curriculum has also become more standardized and controlled on the county level.

Weast’s leadership style has played a large part in his successful implementation of county-wide changes.

“He is a fairly plain talker,” said Miller. “I’ve been in some teacher’s union meetings where he’s been talking, and he doesn’t beat around the bush.”

Garran finds this tendency refreshing and important in a superintendent.

“He’s not going to come in and sugar-coat anything with you, and I appreciate that honesty,” he said.

Looking ahead, it seems Weast’s departure will not mean the reversal of many years of hard work. While Miller admits that he does not know who the next superintendent might be or what he or she might plan to do, he suspects that the Board of Education will not be interested in changing many aspects of MCPS.

“On the one hand, I’m very appreciative of what Weast has done for the school system,” said Garran. “On the other hand, I’m excited about the next step that the system will take under the next superintendent.”

Weast does not leave MCPS in June without parting words.

“I think MCPS will go on and continue to climb to the stratosphere of education,” he said. “Success would be if we could get every child to envision a future that had them in it and that builds upon their strengths and what they like to do. We’re on the pathway to success.”

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