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First black schools chief in Maryland county dies at 71

December 28, 2019 GMT

TOWSON, Md. (AP) — Joe A. Hairston, who as the first black superintendent of the Baltimore County public schools pressed for achievement for students across the socioeconomic spectrum, has died at age 71, a family member said.

Hairston’s wife, Lillian, told The Baltimore Sun that he died on Friday at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore from complications related to a previous illness.

Hairston served as superintendent from 2000 to 2012. His tenure was marked by a rise in test scores and the graduation rate, as well as more participation in Advanced Placement classes.

“He was an equity leader when it came to education,” said Verletta White, a former interim superintendent who served in Hairston’s administration. “He often reminded all of us that ‘all means all,’ that regardless of a child’s zip code or socioeconomic background, our job is to ensure that they all get a high quality education.”

Hairston began his career in 1969 in Prince George’s County. He served as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. He was schools superintendent in Clayton County, Georgia, for five years before taking the Baltimore County job. Hairston later became a professor at Howard University.

In addition to his wife, Hairston is survived by two sons and four granddaughters. Funeral arrangements were incomplete.