The Baltimore school board hopes to start interviewing candidates to replace Superintendent Richard C. Hunter within the next 30 to 45 days and expects to put in place a transition team of administrators who will run the schools in the meantime, board President Joseph Lee Smith said yesterday.
What duties will be left to Dr. Hunter, who has insisted he means to fulfill the remaining seven months of his contract, is still under discussion, Mr. Smith said. "I just don't see how he could be a member of the group," he said of the transition team. The members of the team -- which is expected to include the current deputy superintendent, J. Edward Andrews -- will be announced at the board's meeting Jan. 17, he said.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced Dec. 19 that he had lost confidence in Dr. Hunter's ability to turn around the city's deteriorating school system and said he did not want the superintendent rehired when his three-year contract expires July 31. The board complied.
Now, Mr. Schmoke, who summoned members of the school board to City Hall yesterday for an hourlong closed-door meeting, is trying to combat a sense of disarray in the school administration at a time when the 108,000-student system must adopt its budget and lobby the General Assembly for more state aid.
"They [board members] stated to me they're doing everything in their power to make everyone understand our school system is not on hold," Mr. Schmoke said.
But he declined to elaborate on Dr. Hunter's role in the remaining months of his contract.
"The only thing I can say about his status at this point is that there are enough complicated legal issues about this outstanding contract that the law department has advised us to be careful about our comments about that status," Mr. Schmoke said last night after the meeting with the board.
Mr. Smith, the board president, said he did not know whether Dr. Hunter, who has not yet been contacted regarding the plan, would cooperate with the transition team. Among the names being mentioned for the team, besides Mr. Andrews, were two other top city school officials, Leonard D. Wheeler, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, and Gary Thrift, director of senior high schools.
"That's a question that has to be dealt with in terms of whether programs are moving effectively" during the lame duck period, Mr. Smith said. "We're going to try to make this an effective team so that no one person can stop it from being effective."
Dr. Hunter's spokesman, Douglas J. Neilson, said the superintendent could not comment because he had not been informed about the discussions.
"His full intention was to continue with the day-to-day operations and his job as the superintendent of public instruction," Mr. Neilson said.
Mr. Schmoke called the meeting to make sure the school system continues with programs such as the restructuring of 20 schools, Mr. Smith said. "He felt that he needed to be reassured that we had a leadership system," Mr. Smith said.
"I'm hoping Dr. Hunter is having conversations with whatever sources of future employment that he is seeking," Mr. Smith said. "I can't imagine he wouldn't be."
Dr. Hunter is on leave from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is a professor of educational administration. The school of education's dean, Donald Stedman, said yesterday that he had not heard from Dr. Hunter about when he plans to return to the school, which starts its spring semester Friday. He said Dr. Hunter's leave, which expires this summer, cannot be renewed.
Mr. Schmoke and Mr. Smith refused to set a deadline for choosing a successor, but Mr. Smith said the board hoped to have a superintendent in time for the planning that traditionally takes place during the summer months. Nor would they elaborate on names of possible candidates that Mr. Schmoke said he plans to pass on to Mr. Smith "from time to time."
The mayor said he wanted to avoid the impression that he had established a list of preferred candidates.
In other action, Mr. Schmoke reappointed two members of the nine-member board -- Doris M. Johnson and James C. Cusack. He is seeking a replacement for Warren N. Weaver, whose term has expired and who is ineligible for reappointment because he moved to Baltimore County.