NEWARK — The June Board of Education meeting was a bittersweet event, as it was the last time both Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes and Assistant Superintendent for Administration Ed Barber will be a part of the proceedings.
Both long-time school system leaders were met with a huge amount of praise in their final meeting, with the board going so far as to rename a scholarship in Andes’ honor.
The scholarship came as a surprise to Andes as it was not on the agenda. State Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38B) made an appearance during the meeting to present the newly christened Dr. Jon M. Andes’ Scholarship, which was previously known as the Teacher Scholarship Fund.
“Our most valuable asset is right here,” said Mathias of Andes, Barber and the Board of Education.
The scholarship seeks to address an ongoing lack of teachers in “critical shortage” areas such as mathematics, science, technology education, foreign languages and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). It does so by offering graduating Worcester seniors scholarships as long as they seek a degree in any of the critical shortage fields and agree to apply for a teaching position in the county once they have graduated college.
The scholarship began during Andes’ 16-year tenure as superintendent.
Mathias reminded the room of how far the school system has come under Andes and Barber. He admitted that while Annapolis is not always popular with counties on the Eastern Shore, especially Worcester, that distaste has never held up cooperation or discussion.
“Regardless of what the state faces, we face it best when we work together,” he said.
Even with Worcester’s perennial dissatisfaction with the state-based wealth formula, which penalizes the county with less funding for having high real estate values even with significant poverty evident, Mathias pointed out that Maryland has been rated as having one of the best public school systems in the country. Even more impressive, he added, is that Worcester has been placed at the top of the list for Maryland schools for several years running.
“All of a sudden, we realize we’re the best,” he said.
According to Barber, any contributions he’s made to the schools in his time on the Board of Education have come about because he knows when to simply get out of the way of progress.
“A lot of the time the magic is just letting them do their job,” he said of the school employees and leadership.
Barber was also quick to shine a spotlight on the efforts of teachers and students. Everything the board does, he said, is only possible because of the strides taken by educators and students eager to learn.
“If I have to retire, I’m glad it’s from Worcester County schools,” he said.
Andes final remarks followed a similar vein.
“The success of our school system is because of the folks in this room and those not in this room,” he said.
Andes asserted that the goal of the Board of Education is to make sure that “every day, every child is learning.”
“The agenda here is all about kids,” he said.
While it may have been the last official time Andes and Barber participated in a Board of Edcuation meeting, Tuesday also marked the first time that the new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jerry Wilson, unofficially attended. Andes was quick to express confidence in his successor as well as talk up the county.
“You’re taking over a wonderful school system,” he told Wilson. “You’re making the best decision you’ve ever made by coming to Worcester County.”
Wilson will officially take over the reins on July 1.