A wide range of community, business and political leaders hailed the decision yesterday by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to seek the ouster of schools Superintendent Richard C. Hunter.
Critics of Dr. Hunter said that he had made scant progress toward improving the troubled school system in his 2 1/2 years on the job, and that the community was eager for a sign that the mayor would move decisively to put the system on a course that would bring success.
"It's very clear to me as a parent that it is worse than it has ever been," said Jo Ann Robinson, president of the Western High School PTA, who was had children in the school system since 1976.
"I think it was time that the mayor be decisive, and I'm glad he was so decisive," said Ms. Robinson, who said she was speaking for herself and not the PTA.
Interviews with people across the city indicated that Dr. Hunter had lost the confidence of the parent groups, legislative leaders and business organizations.
"I don't think there was a feeling in the GBC that the school system was improving," said Arnold J. Kleiner, chairman of the education committee of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
However, there were some who questioned the mayor's decision to replace Dr. Hunter -- among them, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.
She noted that under Deputy Superintendent J. Edward Andrews,appointed at the mayor' insistence to manage day-to-day operations, the school system was beginning to show signs of progress.
"Can we afford now to pause again and devote the next several months for another search for another superintendent?" Mrs. Clarke asked.
George N. Buntin, director of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said his organization had come out this week in favor of extending Dr. Hunter's contract.
"Well, it's disappointing," Mr. Buntin said yesterday. "While we don't agree with the mayor's decision to replace the superintendent, we respect his right to have someone he can feel comfortable with, because ultimately he is responsible for the success or failure of the school system."
And the mayor needed to take action, said political leaders, including Delegate Kenneth C. Montague Jr., D-Baltimore, if his efforts to draw more state school aid were to have a good chance of winning support in the General Assembly.
"I think this will play very well in Annapolis," Mr. Montague said. "From what I've seen around the state, accountability is very important."
A ranking member of the school administration, Samuel L. Banks, said the seemingly endless uncertainty over the fate of Dr. Hunter had led to a partial paralysis among employees at the school system headquarters on North Avenue. The mayor's decision, he said, was greeted with a sense of relief.
Although some people attributed Dr. Hunter's troubles in part to an unwillingness among some white media and business leaders to give a black man time to succeed, Mr. Banks said he did not believe such pressures led to the mayor's decision.
"Racism is alive and well in Baltimore, as it is across the country, but racism did not bring on his demise," said Mr. Banks, an active member of the NAACP. "It was his performance. He was found wanting."