Wicomico Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Fredericksen Announces He Will Depart When His Current Contract Ends
Wicomico Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Fredericksen, who has led Wicomico County Public Schools since 2008, announced at the June 23 Board of Education meeting that he will not seek a renewal of his current four-year contract when it ends next June. The Board voted unanimously to accept his resignation effective June 30, 2016.
“During the past seven years our teams have worked hard and have had wonderful successes with our students and schools,” Dr. Fredericksen said as he prepared to make the announcement. “I have been glad to serve Wicomico students, families and staff as part of a dedicated and effective team. I look forward to continuing this work for the next school year, but will not seek to extend my time as superintendent beyond next June. At that point in my life, and after a very long and satisfying career in public education, I will be ready to relocate along with my wife Renee closer to our children and grandchildren. I wanted to give the Board plenty of notice so it could begin a superintendent search.”
Dr. Fredericksen began serving July 1, 2008, and received a second four-year contract in 2012. His tenure is among the longest in the state of Maryland. He has been highly visible as superintendent, eating lunch in school cafeterias two to three times a week to chat with students, attending athletic events and performances to show support, and bringing together groups of parents, administrators, teachers, and community members to help guide the school system’s planning and operations.
More than a year ago, after participating in a retirement planning seminar, he began to consider retiring as superintendent of Wicomico County Public Schools, and discussed his plans with the Board President and other Board members.
“Dr. Fredericksen has faced the most challenging economic crisis in regards to funding the needs of our schools during his time as superintendent. Throughout this time, his focus has remained on addressing the needs of all students, from the homeless to the most affluent,” said Board President Ron Willey. “This Board understands the weight of this responsibility and appreciates his service. I can certainly appreciate his desire to relocate nearer to his children and grandchildren.”
During Dr. Fredericksen’s time with Wicomico County Public Schools, the school system has:
- Enhanced communication with families through tools including the automated calling system, for which Dr. Fredericksen records messages in English, Spanish and, in the past year, Korean, in an effort to communicate important information with as many families as possible.
- Launched the Family Portal for students in grades 3-12 and their families, for easy access to grades, assignments, attendance, and other information.
- Worked consistently and conscientiously on closing the achievement gap between different subgroups of students, such as students qualifying for Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) and students not qualifying, and students from different racial subgroups. Small but significant strides have been made with the goal of ensuring success for every student.
- Ranked slightly above average for school systems of comparable size and statistics on many measures including graduation rate, attendance, and test scores. This success has come despite years of funding challenges, a rise in the FARM rate from around 40% to nearly 60%, and an ESOL population that has tripled in recent years.
- Opened two new school buildings (James M. Bennett High and Bennett Middle), completed extensive improvements to two other buildings (Northwestern Elementary, Pittsville Elementary and Middle), and began James M. Bennett High Phase 3 to complete that school project.
- Reduced the number of schools without full air conditioning and effective HVAC to two: West Salisbury Elementary, which is in the pipeline as the next replacement school project, and East Salisbury Elementary, which has some air conditioned instructional areas.
- Hybridized the school bus transportation system to ensure the availability of transportation for students even as contractors began to turn in some shorter, in-town routes because they were not profitable.
- Focused on important goals including reducing student absenteeism, planning for administrative succession, revising the Magnet Program criteria to identify students best suited for this highly challenging opportunity, and growing the availability of academic challenges through Advanced Placement and dual enrollment classes.
- Introduced lots of fresh fruits and vegetables into its school lunch program, and expanded breakfast participation through initiatives like “Grab & Go.”
State Rules for Superintendent Contracts
Maryland education law requires that by Feb. 1 of the year a superintendent’s term ends, the superintendent notify the school board if the superintendent is a candidate for reappointment. The school board can appoint a new superintendent between Feb. 1 and June 30 for a term to begin July 1. (In cases of reappointment, the school board must act on the reappointment by March 1.)
The early notice of Dr. Fredericksen’s intentions gives the Board of Education time to plan for finding the next superintendent to lead Wicomico County Public Schools. One of the most important jobs of the school board is the selection of a superintendent. The Board’s choice for superintendent must receive the approval of the state superintendent of schools, who is charged with ensuring that the candidate meets the state qualifications for the office.
Dr. Fredericksen’s Career in Public Education
In 2007-2008, a national superintendent candidate search was conducted by a consulting firm. The search involved many local stakeholders. Dr. Fredericksen emerged from a field of 34 education leaders from across the country due to his focus on student achievement and expertise in community engagement, finance, technology and instruction.
Prior to the seven years he has served as superintendent of Wicomico County Public Schools, Dr. Fredericksen, 64, had a full career in public education in Minnesota. He began his career in education as a music teacher in St. Michael-Albertville, Minn., from 1972-1978. From 1978-1982 he served as the community services director for ISD 138 in North Branch, Minn. He was superintendent-principal of ISD 262 in Barrett, Minn.,from 1982-1985. He then became superintendent at progressively larger Minnesota school districts: The 600-student district in Gaylord (1985-1989), the 1,050-student district in Jordan (1989-1995), and the 1,650-student district in International Falls (1995-2001).
He was assistant superintendent-administration for Osseo Area Schools (2001-2008), leading a number of successful campaigns including the state's second-largest school bond project. Improving the school district's operations, equipment and facilities, transforming the system from 30 percent air-conditioned facilities to 100 percent, making districtwide improvements in student learning and technology tools, and creating teams of financial experts from the community to advise the school system.
Dr. Fredericksen received a bachelor's degree in music education from St. Cloud, Minn., and a master's degree in community education from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. He received his doctorate in education administration, with a minor in public policy, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He put his musical talents to work at Wicomico schools by forming The Edgeucators, a rock group that performs at district, community, and state events to share messages about education through original lyrics with local flavor, sung to familiar tunes.
In Wicomico County, Dr. Fredericksen has been active as a volunteer with the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and the Pemberton Hall Foundation, where he often dressed in period costume to help educate visitors. He has recently volunteered with MAC Inc. Area Agency on Aging and Meals on Wheels. He is active in the Rotary Club of Salisbury.