School board taps Amprey as new chief Blackshear, Gonzalez named as his deputies

June 29, 1991|By Gelareh Asayesh

The Baltimore school board yesterday chose Walter G. Amprey to be the city's next superintendent of schools, with the agreement that two other finalists for the job will become his deputies.

Dr. Amprey, a 46-year-old product of the city public schools who is now an associate superintendent in the Baltimore County school system, was chosen by a unanimous vote of the board at a closed meeting at 5 p.m. His appointment was later announced at a news conference by Joseph Lee Smith, the school board president, who called Dr. Amprey "best suited to the package of things that we need."

Mr. Smith also said that two other candidates for the job would be hired as deputy superintendents. They are Lillian Gonzalez, 45, an assistant superintendent in the District of Columbia schools, and Patsy Blackshear, 43, an associate superintendent in the city school system.

Neither Dr. Amprey nor Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who was instrumental in the board's search and its final decision, were present at yesterday's news conference at school board headquarters on North Avenue. The board made the offers to the three yesterday after Mr. Schmoke approved it Thursday evening. Dr. Amprey will replace Richard C. Hunter, who was told in December his three-year contract would not be renewed after the mayor lost confidence in him. Dr. Hunter's contract expires July 31.

Board members have yet to negotiate with any of the three the length of their contracts or their salaries, but hope to have the team in place when Dr. Hunter leaves. Dr. Hunter's salary is $125,000.

Though Mr. Smith said the offer to Dr. Amprey does not hinge on his acceptance of the two deputies, "I don't think there will be other names in those spots."

The board's decision to offer top jobs to two of the other finalists in the six-month search is an unusual one. But it was advocated by several community groups, who thought no single one of the five candidates brought together all the elements needed to run the city's troubled, 108,000-student school system.

Dr. Amprey said yesterday that he had agreed to the combination "in concept," though he has yet to talk to the two proposed deputies and has never met Dr. Gonzalez. "It's new to me," he said. "The chemistry is important. . . . I don't know these people."

Mr. Smith said Dr. Gonzalez is considering the offer and Dr. Blackshear has already accepted it.

Left out of the mix was David W. Hornbeck, Maryland's former state school superintendent, an education consultant with a national reputation. Mr. Hornbeck was the top choice of a majority of 15 community groups making recommendations to the board -- including the Baltimore Teachers Union, the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association, the Greater Baltimore Committee and the church-based community group Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development.

Mr. Smith said that race was not a major issue in the choice of a superintendent to lead a city school system which is more than 80 percent black. Dr. Amprey is black and Mr. Hornbeck is white.

Mr. Hornbeck said yesterday in a phone conversation from Colorado that he wished the board and its new leadership the best of luck. He said that he believes Mayor Schmoke invited him to apply for the job "in good faith." Board members said Mr. Hornbeck will serve as a consultant to the school system in its reform plans, but Mr. Hornbeck said that remains to be seen.

"I certainly agreed to talk with them about it to determine if the agenda they envision is consistent with what I think will work," he said. Mr. Smith said the addition of a second deputy will come from a rearrangement of existing positions and will not require a budget increase. The current deputy superintendent, J. Edward Andrews Jr., has agreed to stay an extra month -- through the end of July -- to provide a transition, Mr. Smith said.

The announcement was a disappointment to those who viewed the selection of Dr. Amprey as a sign that Mr. Schmoke had yielded to political realities in an election year instead of opting for top-notch talent -- even though a mix of black and white groups supported Mr. Hornbeck.

But others hailed the decision as a recognition of the kinds of qualities the city school system needs to mobilize communities and unify diverse interest groups.

"I think it's great," said Sheila Kolman, head of the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association, which recommended Mr. Hornbeck as its first choice and Dr. Amprey as a close second. "It's a gutsy kind of move for a board to pick a team instead of a superintendent. This team of three has very diverse and varied abilities and talents and I'm just hoping that they get along real well because that's a good package."

Irene Dandridge, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said the group is "pretty pleased" with the choice of Dr. Amprey even though the union's first choice was Mr. Hornbeck, with Dr. Gonzalez as a second choice.

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