Continuing Research

Carol S. Parham, Ph.D.

From 1993 to 2002, Carol Sheffey Parham, Ed.D. was the first African American and first female superintendent of the Anne Arundel County, Maryland Public School System. She was appointed as acting superintendent in 1993 and later in 1994 officially appointed to the position of superintendent.

Dr. Carol S Parham

Dr. Carol S Parham

During the eight years of her superintendency, she is credited with restoring the school system’s credibility following a particularly difficult period. Parham established a widely praised employee record-keeping system, addressed problems in school construction, and pushed for money to clear a multi-million-dollar maintenance backlog. Test scores improved, and two schools were named Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. She also improved relations with the teachers’ union through a friendlier method of collective bargaining. Furthermore, she was the Maryland Superintendent of the Year for 1996.

Carol was born in Baltimore to Powell and Margarie Talbot Sheffey. She came from a family that instilled in her a great appreciation for others. Her great-grandfather was born a slave in Calvert County. Nevertheless, he became a sergeant in the Union Army during the Civil War. Parham’s father, Powell Sheffey, the oldest of 12 siblings, was a high school dropout. He later returned to school and earned his high school diploma. Not satisfied, he went on to college and became a teacher. Along the way, he married Parham’s mother, Margarie Talbot, who was also a teacher. Early on, Carol Parham and her three siblings learned that education was a vehicle for creating opportunity.

Carol was a 1966 graduate of Forest Park High School in Baltimore and earned her bachelor’s degree in social studies education cum laude from the University of Maryland College Park. She began her career as a social studies teacher in her hometown. The teaching experience led her to pursue a master’s degree in school administration, with advanced studies in guidance and counseling from Johns Hopkins University. After graduation, she accepted a supervisory position in the personnel office of Howard County Public Schools. After earning a Doctor of Education from the University of Maryland, Parham, with her husband William Parham, who she married in 1970, and a son and a daughter, came to Anne Arundel County in 1989 where she became the head of the Anne Arundel Public Schools personnel division. In 1993, she was appointed the school system’s acting superintendent and was officially appointed Superintendent in 1994. When she left the system at the end of 2001, she cited the closing of the achievement gap and ensuring this school system was always child-focused, as opposed to adult-focused, as the guiding principles of her tenure.

After leaving the Anne Arundel County school system, the University of Maryland recruited Parham to join the education department in College Park. Among the positions she held at the university was Professor of Practice—Organizational Leadership & Policy Studies, where she worked to prepare graduate students for careers in administration. She also served as Chair of the University’s President’s Commission on Women’s Issues (120), focusing on making the university a better place for all women.

In addition to being selected in 1995 as the Maryland Superintendent of the Year for 1996, Parham has numerous other awards, including the Martin Luther King Peacemaker Award and the Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Maryland Women in Government Service award. The Anne Arundel County Board of Education Building is named in her honor.

Audio: Dr. Carol S. Parham

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