New school chief labeled man of confidence, drive

June 30, 1991|By Gelareh Asayesh

After spending an hour recently listening to Walter G. Ampre talk about the kind of school superintendent he would be for Baltimore, Coppin State College Professor Delores G. Kelley came to this conclusion: "He will be a follower, not a leader."

Dr. Amprey wasn't specific enough about his plans and seemed to have no vision for the city's troubled schools, thought Ms. Kelley, one of 21 community leaders who interviewed the five finalists for superintendent. Like many other interviewers, she preferred candidates who offered detailed ideas on solutions and programs.

But Arthur Boyd, another interviewer, saw it differently. He thought Dr. Amprey showed an understanding that long-term change is a function of people, not programs. Instead of a "silver bullet," Mr. Boyd said, Dr. Amprey offered the promise of a school system with drive.

"He instilled a sense of confidence in himself and confidence in his ability to actually make changes and not simply pronounce them," said Mr. Boyd, of the Metropolitan Education Coalition. "Many people can pronounce changes, but urban school systems have shown their intransigence to mere pronouncements."

Mr. Boyd concluded that Dr. Amprey was the best person for the job. Friday, the city school board and the mayor agreed, and the board announced that Dr. Amprey would be the next superintendent.

Board members said they were impressed with two other leading candidates -- Lillian Gonzalez of the District of Columbia schools and former Maryland school Superintendent David W. Hornbeck. But in Dr. Amprey, they saw someone with the ability to distill consensus and mobilize the city.

"He impressed me from the very beginning as someone who was charismatic leader," said board member Stelios Spiliadis, who led the search, "someone who was very committed to building consensus and working with stake-holders in kind of moving them ahead."

Along with naming Dr. Amprey, who is associate superintendent for the Division of Staff and Community Relations in the Baltimore County public schools, the board chose as deputy superintendents two other finalists, Dr. Gonzalez, an assistant superintendent in Washington, D.C., and Patsy Baker Blackshear, an associate superintendent in the Baltimore schools.

They ruled out Dr. Hornbeck -- though they hope to use him as a consultant -- and a fifth finalist, former Montgomery County schools Superintendent Charles M. Bernardo.

Dr. Amprey and Dr. Blackshear have accepted the jobs offered them. Dr. Gonzalez said through a spokeswoman Friday that she is giving the offer "serious consideration."

A graduate of the city schools who started his education career as a social studies teacher in the Baltimore school system, Dr. Amprey will replace Superintendent Richard C. Hunter, whose three-year contract will expire July 31.

Dr. Hunter was told last December that his contract would not be renewed, after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he had lost confidence in the superintendent. Mr. Schmoke has been active in the search for a new superintendent and approved the proposal to hire Dr. Amprey, Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Blackshear.

"I thought it was an excellent choice," Mr. Schmoke said yesterday.

Asked about his role in the search, the mayor said, "The board and I were in constant communication on this matter. I didn't want another situation to develop where it was said he was a hand-picked candidate. And that didn't happen."

Board members said Dr. Amprey was their choice. Dr. Hunter was selected three years ago by a board that favored another candidate but yielded to the mayor's preference.

Dr. Amprey, board members said, was selected for several reasons: a familiarity with the school system and its politics; a background as a teacher and a principal; a range of administrative experience; a knack for communicating with a variety of people; and a commitment to community involvement.

"We interviewed his employers, we interviewed the PTA representatives in Baltimore County, some of the principals, we interviewed board members," said board member Linda C. Janey. "And the thing that they all said about him was how he made them all feel included and how he was able to get them to go the second mile in working. And that to me showed leadership. Everybody that we talked to said, 'Please don't take him.' "

Ms. Janey said that Dr. Gonzalez had more limited experience and was unfamiliar with the city and the state. Dr. Hornbeck, she said, lacked hands-on experience in schools.

"There's no doubt about it, he [Dr. Hornbeck] is an educational genius and very well respected, and that came out," she said. "He had very specific ideas about what he wanted to do, and he had his nine-point agenda, which was good. I think what swayed me toward Dr. Amprey was that he had actually been a principal, been a teacher."

Board member Phillip H. Farfel said he thought Dr. Amprey was (( "the person who could best fit within the direction that we were headed in."

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