The Baltimore school board has narrowed the search for a new school superintendent to a group of leading candidates -- including the former head of the Los Angeles schools, the first black president of the Maryland State Board of Education, and high-ranking school administrators from Baltimore, Baltimore County, Prince George's County and the District of Columbia, candidates and sources close to the selection process said.
The candidates were among a pool of 18 applicants interviewed by board members over the telephone in the past week and a half. That group of 18 included at least two non-educators and five Baltimore educators as well as the ousted former superintendents of Boston and Selma, Ala.
The board is searching for a replacement for Superintendent Richard C. Hunter, whose three-year contract ends July 31. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke decided in December that the contract would not be renewed. Dr. Hunter receives $125,000 a year for running a district of 110,000 students.
The board hopes to further narrow the field to four or five candidates by the middle of next week in an attempt to select a new superintendent by May 1, said Robert G. Wendland, the city's deputy personnel director.
The finalists' names will be made public, and they will probably visit the city for a day of interviews with union and community leaders, the full board and Mayor Schmoke, Mr. Wendland said.
The city will also conduct criminal background checks and physical examinations of the finalists, he said.
In a private meeting Monday, board members decided on a list of about 10 leading candidates who will now be investigated by board members before the next cut, Mr. Wendland said. Board members debated for two hours over the 18 who were interviewed. The city received a total of 105 applications in response to newspaper advertisements and letters.
"Part of the problem was that not all the commissioners heard all of the interviews," Mr. Wendland said. "They're going to be spending a lot of this week listening to tapes, and in the meantime they're going to be calling around to get some references and appraisals."
Mr. Wendland declined to identify the finalists and said new names may be added to the list even now.
But a partial list has emerged in interviews with some of the candidates and with school, City Hall and community sources close to the selection process. Some of those under consideration in Baltimore are reportedly candidates in other districts as well -- about 20 school districts are in the market for a new superintendent nationally, including Prince George's County and Washington.
Of the 18 candidates, at least 11 are black. Baltimore's schools are majority black, and Mayor Schmoke has said that race may be a factor in the decision.
According to the sources, front-runners include:
* Walter G. Amprey, associate superintendent for physical facilities in Baltimore County. Mr. Amprey said in an interview that his interest in the position has grown since he discussed it with Mayor Schmoke in early February. Mr. Amprey is among a handful of candidates who Mr. Schmoke personally contacted in an effort to line up applicants for the school job.
* Charles M. Bernardo, who was ousted from his position as Montgomery County's school superintendent in 1979 after a shift in the makeup of the school board. Dr. Bernardo now lives in Florida.
* Leonard M. Britton, former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second largest. Dr. Britton's contract was bought out in 1990, after he announced he would not seek a renewal following a massive teacher strike. He is now an educational consultant. Dr. Britton confirmed in an interview that he is a finalist.
* Jerome Clark, associate superintendent for personnel in Prince George's County.
* Lillian Gonzalez, an assistant superintendent in Washington.
* William G. Sykes, who in 1979 became Maryland's first black state school board president. Mr. Sykes has a background in business and public administration, and runs a consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. He confirmed yesterday that he is a finalist.
In addition to those identified by sources as finalists, the other candidates interviewed by the board include:
* Samuel L. Banks, director of instructional support for Baltimore.
* Patsy B. Blackshear, associate superintendent of management services, human resources and labor relations in Baltimore, who is reportedly one of seven finalists in Washington.
* Robert L. Clinkscale, Baltimore's assistant superintendent for vocational and adult/alternative education.
* Leonard D. Wheeler, Baltimore's assistant superintendent for elementary schools.
* Hawthorne Faison, superintendent of city schools in Durham, N.C.
* Chester F. Preyar, Baltimore's assistant superintendent for labor relations and human resources.
* Robert Rice, who resigned as superintendent of Anne Arundel County schools in 1988 after losing support of the school board. He is now a vice president at First National Bank of Maryland.
* Norward Roussell, ousted in December 1989 from his position as the first black superintendent of Selma schools, prompting months of demonstrations by his supporters.
* Laval S. Wilson, ousted from his position as Boston's first black superintendent in February 1990. Mr. Wilson still lives in Boston and does educational consulting.
Board member Meldon S. Hollis Jr. said the list included "some strong local candidates" -- a priority for board members.
He added that the board wants "someone with a good community image, who would come to you without a lot of negative press and political baggage."