Board mum on search

January 30, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Three months after the resignation of Superintendent C. Berry Carter II, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education has made no visible moves to find a replacement, leaving parents and others increasingly curious as to how the search will be done.

"I think the national search should begin immediately," said Carolyn Roeding, president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs. "Knowing full well a permanent superintendent has to be in place by July 1, I don't know why a national search wasn't begun immediately. Have decisions already been made?"

Carol S. Parham, the director of personnel, has held the title of acting superintendent since July 31, when Mr. Carter was placed on leave while under investigation for allegedly mishandling child abuse cases. Mr. Carter resigned in late October after a report sharply criticized his actions in cases in which teachers were accused of abusing students.

Board members had promised an announcement on the status of the superintendent search would be made at their Jan. 26 meeting, but that event was canceled due to an ice storm. They have been mum on the issue since.

"You will be told what we're doing," Thomas Twombly, the school board president, said Friday from Howard County General Hospital, where he was recuperating from a car accident. "We have five months before a superintendent must be appointed, and there are a lot of things that can happen in five months."

Mr. Twombly, who suffered a broken sternum in the accident Thursday, said his physical condition probably would not keep him from attending the board's next meeting, set for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

So far, the board has not hired a firm to conduct a national superintendent search and has not placed ads in educational journals, a spokeswoman for the school system confirmed.

But Mr. Twombly noted that the last search for a superintendent -- conducted in 1992, after Larry Lorton elected to quit before the end of his term -- did not begin until March of that year.

"Everybody's concerned about whether we're procrastinating, but we may be debating the specifications of the job and other issues," he said.

Legally, the school board could not appoint a new superintendent until Feb. 1. One must be appointed by June 30.

The law says an interim superintendent must be appointed between the time a vacancy occurs and the time of a new appointment. The Anne Arundel board has not done so, however.

Ron Peiffer, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said the agency stays out of the search for local superintendents, although state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick's blessing is required once the contract is signed.

State law does not specify how any school system must conduct the search for a superintendent, though it does set minimum qualifications and salary, he said.

"We have 24 very diverse systems and political structures. Some [school boards] are elected, and some are appointed," Mr. Peiffer said. "We have a long-held tradition in local autonomy that we uphold in procedures like this. It's not peculiar to Maryland."

Mr. Peiffer said there is no difference between the authority of an interim and permanent superintendent.

"The title interim has no functional meaning," he said. "The person has the same authority as a permanent superintendent."

An acting superintendent, however, operates under more constraints because the job is only temporary, he said.

Questioned last week, Dr. Parham refused to comment on whether she had been offered any position other than acting superintendent.

"You'll have to ask the board president," she said.

Mr. Twombly and other board members have refused comment on any issue related to the superintendency.

In an interview this month, Mr. Twombly said he wanted to see someone in the job who can "communicate with people, who can take the vision and sell it to the entire school system and community."

"We need someone who can take the education system where it has never been before," he said.

But many, including County Council President Edward Middlebrooks, are watching the board's search process closely.

Mr. Middlebrooks said Friday that he felt Dr. Parham has done a good job and deserves a shot at the permanent position.

"There are people thrust into positions at the worst possible moment," he said. "Leaders are determined when people step forward when they're needed. That's how you find leaders. If they said they were going to do a search, they should do one. But just because you do a national search, are you going to tell me that of 440,000 people in this county there's not one who would qualify for superintendent?"

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