Baltimore is well on its way to picking a good school superintendent. This past weekend, finalists for the job were interviewed by representatives of community groups. The interviews were encouraging because they showed the school board's search committee had come up with five quality candidates. They were also encouraging because it allowed more extensive public input.
Public involvement is one of the school system's chief goals. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the school board feel -- correctly -- that the best chance for progress comes if the schools gain community support. It was a sign of the times that all five finalists declined to present detailed plans; rather, while offering broad outlines, all said they needed to work with "key stakeholders" to build consensus on goals. The school board, not very open to the public in the past, is to be commended for realizing that it could not move effectively toward involving the community unless it included the community in this key decision.
The choice now is a difficult one. While all the finalists are well qualified, they have different backgrounds, different strengths and different leadership styles. The board and public should be pleased with the options, but they need to keep expectations in check. No dramatic turnaround should be expected. There is no simple recipe for success.