City officials are gearing up for the search to replace lame-duck school Superintendent Richard C. Hunter, but have not yet gotten to the point of discussing specific candidates.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and members of the Board of School Commissioners met at City Hall yesterday to discuss the Hunter situation and leadership questions involving the school system.
Further details on the search process are expected to emerge at next week's regularly scheduled board meeting.
The mayor decided three weeks ago not to offer Hunter a new contract when the superintendent's current pact runs out July 31, capping months of mayoral dissatisfaction with Hunter's tenure.
Hunter has said he intends to serve out the remainder of his contract.
Though the board is still working out the details, interviews for a new superintendent could begin in 30 to 45 days, said board President Joseph Lee Smith, speaking after yesterday's meeting.
The board would hope to have a new superintendent on board by the summer, when planning gets under way for the next school year, he said.
Schmoke and Smith both said that they hope to avoid a nationwide search, looking instead at candidates within the region or even within the school system itself.
Though Smith said that the board does not have a specific list of candidates yet, Schmoke said that he has some names in mind and will pass possibilities along to the board as they come up.
"I've been impressed with the talent that has emerged thus far in this process within the state," said Schmoke. "I believe we should focus in on talented people in this region."
Schmoke said once again that he is interested in a candidate who is not necessarily a professional educator. Possibilities could include private sector individuals with management experience or candidates with a university background.
But Schmoke added, "I sure don't want to exclude people who are in this system who may have been overlooked in the past." He said, however, that Deputy Superintendent J. Edward Andrews is not a candidate.
The mayor also said that he wants a candidate who is strongly committed to the school-restructuring process, which gives individual schools more authority in setting their educational strategies.
In response to a question, Schmoke acknowledged that race is likely to be a factor in selecting a new superintendent to preside over the predominantly black school population.
"If we're realistic about this process, race may be an issue, but I don't think it's going to be . . . the overriding issue," he said. "We all know that we're going to have to address this issue."
But the mayor also said that there is "an awful lot of talent out there" of all races, and said, "This community wants the best superintendent they can get regardless of race."
Schmoke rejected the suggestion that Hunter's lame-duck status could hurt Baltimore in its lobbying before the General Assembly.
Schmoke said he met with legislators yesterday. "The General Assembly knows that our priority is to support . . . the Linowes report" on state tax overhaul, which would funnel millions of new dollars into local education and other projects. "There is no uncertainty about that and who speaks for the public school system."
The mayor also side-stepped questions about whether he and the board discussed ways of getting Hunter to leave before July, saying that the city's Law Department has advised him to be careful in his comments on the sensitive personnel matter.
Schmoke said the board at its public meeting next week will give details about the recruiting process and discuss the management of the system between now and the end of the school year.
In a related matter, Schmoke said he has decided to reappoint to the school board Commissioners James E. Cusack and Doris M. Johnson, whose terms expired last month.
Board member Warren N. Weaver, whose term also expired, has moved to Baltimore County and was not reappointed. Schmoke has not yet named a replacement.