The flower baskets, telegrams and cards streamed in yesterday to congratulate Walter G. Amprey on becoming Baltimore's 22nd superintendent. But the new leader of the city's schools had no time to appreciate them.
"It's been kind of fast," Dr. Amprey, 46, said of his first day on the job, which began with an 8 a.m. physical. "But very informative."
Already, unions, business and civic groups and reporters are clamoring for his time. Dr. Amprey spent most of his first day in meetings, left to attend the AFRAM luncheon at the Baltimore Convention Center where Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke introduced him to the crowd, then returned to school headquarters at North Avenue for more meetings.
The schedule for the afternoon included a conference with Dr. Amprey's two school board-appointed deputies, Lillian Gonzalez and Patsy Baker Blackshear. Dr. Gonzalez is to start Aug. 12. Dr. Blackshear has already been working for the city as an associate superintendent.
Both were among the finalists for the top job, which will continue to pay $125,000 under the contract negotiated by the city solicitor's office and Dr. Amprey's attorney, Dr. Amprey said.
The contract will run four years, he said -- roughly parallel to the term of the mayor who will be elected in November. The former school superintendent, Richard C. Hunter, who came on board nine months into Mr. Schmoke's first term, had a three-year contract that was allowed to lapse Wednesday.
On Dr. Hunter's last day, he and his successor met for two hours at North Avenue. They spent most of the time talking about staffing and programs Dr. Hunter had tried to put in place and about what needed to be done to follow through.
"We just talked about issues of the school system," Dr. Amprey said. There was no talk of politics or the mayor, Dr. Amprey said. Earlier Wednesday, Dr. Hunter had issued an emotional denunciation of Mr. Schmoke, saying the mayor had undermined his administration.
Mr. Schmoke said Wednesday that he was "excited" about the new superintendent. The mayor introduced Dr. Amprey at the AFRAM luncheon and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke welcomed him back to Baltimore, where he had started his teaching career.
Dr. Amprey said one of his first tasks will be reorganizing the school bureaucracy to reflect the addition of the two new deputies -- who Mr. Schmoke said will each be paid $92,000 a year.
Then, starting Aug. 23, the school board plans to hold a two-day retreat with the superintendent to talk about plans and priorities.
In between, Dr. Amprey will have to spend most of his time playing catch-up, said the Baltimore Teachers Union president, Irene Dandridge.
"I'd say that from Jan. 1 to Aug. 1, just everything has been put on hold," she said. "From Aug. 1 until school opens, he's going to have to pretty much deal with what has piled up since Dr. Hunter left."
Ms. Dandridge, for one, hopes Dr. Amprey's plans do not include a systemwide convocation like the one that Dr. Hunter held in Memorial Stadium when he kicked off his first school year.
"It was a waste of time," she said. "We want some down-to-earth educating of children now. We've had enough fooling around."