Baltimore school Superintendent Richard C. Hunter may be persona non grata in some quarters here, but Detroit thinks he's hot.
A search committee there has named the outgoing Baltimore superintendent as one of five finalists for the top job in Detroit public schools, which now pays $109,000. Dr. Hunter makes $125,000 a year in Baltimore.
The group culled the five from a list of 35 candidates from around the nation. The finalists must now be interviewed by the full school board, which intends to make a decision by April 1.
Lawrence C. Patrick Jr., board president of the 180,000-student Detroit public schools, said Tuesday in a press release that the five finalists have each "achieved excellence in their careers."
Baltimore school spokesman Douglas J. Neilson said Detroit approached Dr. Hunter with full knowledge of the superintendent's history in Baltimore.
"They were fully aware of his situation here before he made the final cut," Mr. Neilson said.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced in December that he had lost confidence in Dr. Hunter, his choice for school chief, and the school board voted not to renew Dr. Hunter's three-year contract, which will expire July 31.
The mayor has criticized Dr. Hunter for ignoring individual schools while focusing on a bureaucratic overhaul.
Dr. Hunter, who is on vacation, was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Mr. Neilson said Dr. Hunter, who he said has been approached for other positions, did not pursue this one but agreed to be interviewed by the Detroit group during a recent business trip to Chicago.
The consulting firm that prepared the list of 35 candidates already was familiar with Dr. Hunter, who had been a superintendent in Dayton, Ohio, and Richmond, Va., before coming to Baltimore, Mr. Neilson said. He said Dr. Hunter has not indicated whether he would accept the Detroit job.
Instead, Dr. Hunter may choose to return to his previous position as a professor of education administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"To the best of my knowledge, his plans really have not deviated from what he had pointed out at the end of last year and reiterated early this year, which is to serve out the full term of his contract," Mr. Neilson said.
If Dr. Hunter was offered the Detroit job and took it, the move would likely be welcomed by Baltimore school board members and Mr. Schmoke. In November and again in January, the city approached Dr. Hunter, suggesting that he leave but continue to receive the balance of his salary, Mr. Schmoke has said.
When Dr. Hunter said he intended to stay until the end of his contract, the city briefly considered sidelining him with the appointment of a "transition team" of administrators, only to conclude that this might violate the superintendent's contract.
Dr. Hunter has said through Mr. Neilson that he has never been approached with a buyout offer. Mr. Schmoke has said that he considered the November and January offers to pay the rest of Dr. Hunter's salary a buyout.
Baltimore's superintendent search committee is sorting through 89 applications. The city wants to have a new superintendent in place Aug. 1.
The other four finalists in Detroit are Deborah M. McGriff, deputy superintendent for Milwaukee public schools; Franklin L. Smith, superintendent of schools in Dayton, Ohio; David Lowell Snead, a Detroit school principal; and Henry P. Williams, superintendent of schools in Syracuse, N.Y.