Baltimore schools could be left without a superintendent this summer just as the system is gearing up for the next school year, says the head of the city school board.
"It's quite possible" the panel won't pick a new school chief by the time the current superintendent's contract runs out July 31, Joseph L. Smith, board president, said after last night's school board meeting.
If that happens, "you keep going on," with existing administrative staff in charge of the system, Smith said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Superintendent J. Edward Andrews, whose contract expires June 30, said he has been approached to remain beyond that date if the search is still going on.
"I've been asked to think about that," said Andrews, who runs the daily operations of the 108,000-student school system. "I would work July and August."
But Andrews, a retired Montgomery County superintendent of schools, added that he still intends to return to a teaching post at the University of Maryland this September.
Smith's comments came a day after Mayor Kurt Schmoke told the board to take its time in picking a successor to Superintendent Richard C. Hunter.
Just two weeks ago, board members had stepped up their selection process, naming a "short list" of five candidates for superintendent and pushing toward a selection of a finalist sometime this month.
But Wednesday, the mayor told Smith the selection committee should not set an arbitrary deadline for picking the new school chief.
"He said we should not rush, we should take our time and get the best possible candidate for superintendent," said Smith. As a result, "We don't have a deadline," he said -- even if that means letting Hunter's contract expire without naming a successor.
Smith stressed that the board is still looking at the five people who have been officially named as candidates, although he pointedly refused to call them "finalists."
Board members continue to insist that the list is fluid. Some of those who are on the list could be dropped, or others added as names are passed along, said Smith. However, Smith said, he has not received any additional names and refuses to speculate on who might be added.
The mayor has suggested names to the board in the past, including that of Walter G. Amprey, an associate superintendent in Baltimore County, who made the search committee's short list.
And Smith refused to rule out as possible finalists any of those who remain on the list.
Besides Amprey, candidates on the board's short list are:
* Leonard M. Britton, former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
* Jerome Clark, associate superintendent for personnel in Prince George's County.
* Lillian Gonzalez, assistant superintendent for special populations in Washington, D.C.
* Alfred D. Tutela, former superintendent in Cleveland, Ohio.
The mayor's go-slow strategy for selecting a new school chief drew support from Irene Dandridge, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, who criticized the qualifications of those on the short list of five candidates.
"I see no reason to rush and appoint a superintendent," said Dandridge. "There's nobody on the list that I would find acceptable."
Dandridge said the school system is functioning quite well despite the current superintendent's lame-duck status. She said she would prefer to see an interim superintendent running the school system than to have a rushed decision.