Alice Pinderhughes '80s city superintendent: She brought stability to a school system in need of it.

November 20, 1995

WHILE OTHER URBAN superintendents were trying to hide the depths of the problems inflicting their school systems, Alice Pinderhughes, who passed away last Thursday at age 74, was at least honest. With a disarming straightforwardness, she told the truth about the Baltimore City school system she led from 1983 to 1988.

The city's first and only female school superintendent, she made the case that a school system could not be all things to all people. And she implored all segments of the community -- the business sector in particular -- to help.

At times, Mrs. Pinderhughes' honesty even got her in trouble with her chief benefactor, then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer. Her biggest crisis came at the hands of then-school board Chairman Robert C. Embry, who felt she moved too slowly to solve the system's problems and wanted her out. Stunned by the experience, she nevertheless marshaled all her political skills and prevailed.

When the end of her tenure finally came and she was asked to resign by the newly elected mayor, Kurt L. Schmoke, she departed without bitterness, saying "for everything there is a season." Publicly, she reacted with grace; privately, she cried.

If she suffered any indignity, it was the criticism that she did not hold a doctorate, something she attributed to the fact that a segregated University of Maryland would not allow her to take graduate courses until 1954. Through it all, she presented herself as someone impeccable, self-possessed and full of pride.

She never had any grand plans to improve things. At times, she might not have been as hands on as some would have liked. But she was a stabilizing force at a time when things could have easily gone awry. Who could argue that the city's school system has improved since her departure?

"For everything, there is a season," as she said, and Alice Pinderhughes melded perfectly with her's. She will be missed.

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