The subject of the city's next superintendent of schools attracted only two speakers at a school board hearing last night.
The tiny turnout was viewed as a possible result of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke having previously given a strong statement about the kind of candidate he wants -- perhaps a non-educator, with local ties and strong administrative skills. Knowledge of the mayor's stated position may have caused people to feel their voice would not be heard when it comes to the criteria for a new schools chief.
"I could see people believing that," said Meldon S. Hollis Jr., a member of the school board, after last night's brief hearing.
The two people who did speak last night offered varying strategies.
James Gardner, education liaison for the Oliver Community Association, said that the next superintendent should receive at least a five-year contract -- enough time to bring stability to the troubled school system. He also suggested someone for the job: longtime administrator Samuel L. Banks.
That recommendation violated the board's ground rules for the hearing, which were that the board was to listen only to suggested criteria -- but not names -- for the superintendent's job.
"I am not so concerned about who the next school superintendent is as I am about the kind of situation he will come in to," Gardner said.
The other speaker last night, Sarah Daignault, from the Leagueof Women Voters, said that the group would like to see a superintendent well-versed in the challenges of urban education and one with the political touch to bring the school system together.
Schmoke decided in December not to offer current Superintendent Richard C. Hunter a new contract when the superintendent's current three-year pact expires July 31. Hunter, who the mayor said was slow to put more power in the hands of school principals, has said he intends to serve out the remainder of his $125,000-a-year contract.
Doris M. Johnson, chairwoman of the board's personnel an credentials committee, said the board will begin advertising for superintendent applicants as early as next week. After that, an evaluation committee -- including board members, parents and community people -- will be formulated to evaluate the candidates, she said.
Johnson said that the board hopes to have a list of finalists for the job by late "April or early May." Selection of the new school superintendent should take place by mid-May, she 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.