Joe Hairston, superintendent of Baltimore County schools for over a decade, announced this week that he’s leaving. Are you interested in his job?

The pros:  while teachers in the County have some of the lowest salaries in the state, the superintendent’s salary last year was the highest in Maryland. (Last year, Hairston made $303,000, thanks to his long tenure.) And Baltimore County schools consistently rank near the top of statewide assessments of test scores and graduation rates.

Not so fast, though:  The job is tough, and getting tougher. Here are a few of the challenges the next superintendent will have to face:

  • Pockets of wealth — and pockets of poverty. Being charged with a district that draws from such a diverse economic pool means that the next superintendent needs to be sensitive to issues of equity.
  • The recession. According to Hank Gmitro, whose firm helped several Maryland counties search for new superintendents, districts like Baltimore Country are looking for “candidates who want to make a difference and understand the issues around equity: ‘How do you get everyone the resources they need?’ And it has become more difficult in hard financial times.”
  • Drop-outs. Last year, Baltimore County schools had more drop-outs than public schools in the City (although they also have a higher enrollment). And while the City (and Maryland in general) has seen graduation rates rise in recent years, Baltimore County’s graduation rate dropped by 3 percent last year, while its dropout rate increased by half a percentage point.
  • English language proficiency. Much of the total population gain in the County over the past decade was due to immigration; the county has the second-largest number of Russian speakers in the state. Addressing the needs of an increasingly foreign-born population will be crucial for the next superintendent.