The Prince William County School Board has announced the hiring of LaTanya McDade, currently the chief education officer for Chicago Public Schools, as the next superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools.
McDade, who will become the first African American and woman to lead the school division, will take leadership of the state’s second largest district when current Superintendent Steve Walts retires June 30. This year, the division had an enrollment of roughly 90,000 students.
McDade currently oversees all academic offices for Chicago Public Schools, a school division that serves more than 340,000 students across 638 schools. According to remarks from School Board Chair Babur Lateef, she is responsible for improving teaching and learning, and has a hand in curriculum development and educational policy.
“Under her leadership, Chicago Public Schools increased academic achievement; expanded academic programming such as [advanced placement], world and dual language, implemented the largest [international baccalaureate] networking the nation, increased graduation rates, increased college enrollment and persistence, and reached record-low dropout, suspension and expulsion rates,” Lateef said.
The daughter of immigrants from Belize, McDade earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Chicago State University and a master’s degree in leadership and administration from Loyola University Chicago. She plans to complete a doctorate in educational leadership and supervision from Lewis University this spring.
“As a daughter of immigrants I understand first-hand the importance of providing students with access to rich opportunities that affirm your identities, strengthen your unique skills and talents, and support your aspirations to position you for success not just in school and in education, but in career and in life,” McDade said.
Speaking to reporters after her selection, McDade the Prince William school system is similar to Chicago’s because of its diversity.
“Chicago is one of the [most] diverse cities in the nation, and we have schools where in one school over 36 languages are spoken, and that’s similar to what we’re seeing right here in Prince William,” she said. “What it boils down to is that every single school has to have the support, resources and the staff to meet the needs of every individual student … at the local level; that’s where the work really happens. The magic happens in the classroom.”
She added that the Chicago school system is complex, like Prince William’s.
“Prince William County has about 100 schools and so size and scale is what makes the district complex,” she added. “So I think, having come from that background, this was something that I knew was a natural place for me to be able to lead.”
Currently, students whose families have selected to return them to classrooms are in their school buildings twice per week. But the school board has shown an interest in bringing students back full-time for in-person learning next fall.
At the last meeting, the board asked Walts to present a plan in May that would allow for students who opt in to be 100% in-person and those who opt out to remain virtual. Returning to in-person learning was a point of major contention between Walts and some of the school board, with Walts advocating for a slower return and voicing opposition to the plan that was ultimately decided on by a split board.