AASA's Superintendent of the Year Betty Morgan
Washington County Public Schools, Maryland
Betty Morgan grew up as first-generation American who spoke three languages at home. When she became superintendent Washington County in 2001, she understood the kind of challenges her students faced. Nestled between two mountains, the area’s high poverty and low expectations negatively influenced the district’s 22,000 students. One in four adults have less than a high school diploma and more than half of the elementary-age children qualified for free- or reduced-price lunch. But Superintendent Morgan set the bar high and the district has surpassed all her goals. She was recently named the AASA’s National Superintendent of the Year.
When she started, the district had no magnet schools. Now, there are four at the elementary level. Morgan and her team (“I have to be honest, this is not an I, it’s a we,” she says) have also started an International Baccalaureate program and a brand-new arts school that is getting raves not only for its offerings but its push to help renovate the downtown area where it is located. “It cost a lot of money and was very controversial,” Morgan says of the school, but its first major production went from a curiosity to standing-room only in two days.
Perhaps nothing reveals more about a superintendent than how she makes decisions. Morgan says she tries to make each one practically, not politically or bureaucratically. “I spend a lot of time talking to people,” she says. “But sometimes, members of the public are never going to agree—so you have to believe in yourself and the goals you set.”