The Starr Report
After a sometimes rocky ride at his previous post, the county's new superintendent of schools hopes to continue Jerry Weast's legacy-and, oh, yeah, have a life.
A father of three, Joshua Starr worries about how a culture of overachievement is affecting kids. But he also wonders whether he should urge his 9-year-old to join a soccer team—even though she’s not interested.
The new superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools is a hands-on dad who attends his children’s parent-teacher conferences, relaxes by cooking for his family, and tweets when he sees something interesting at a school.
He replaces Jerry Weast, the longtime superintendent alternately viewed as a powerhouse and a politician who sometimes seemed aloof. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, Starr is an imposing figure, but an easy smile and a gentle voice put those who meet him at ease.
“People who know me say I’m very approachable,” he says. “People call me Josh.”
At 41, Starr is like a lot of MCPS parents: He wants his kids to be challenged academically, but worries about the price of too much pressure. And as leader of one of the nation’s top school districts, he wants to figure out how to balance those concerns.
“If I had to choose,” he says, “I’d rather have my children be great people and average students than great students and average people.”
Growing up in Larchmont, N.Y., a suburb of New York City, Starr was an “OK” student himself. But he was “really good at the things I liked doing,” he says, including reading, writing and social studies. He played on the high school basketball team and in his school’s concert and marching bands, as well as in a garage band that mostly performed rock ’n’ roll cover songs.
“We had the time to hang out,” he says. “I had time to develop a sense of self.” It’s something he hopes MCPS kids—including his own children, who are 3, 8 and 9—will be able to experience. “I realize how valuable it was,” he says.