Balto. Co. schools chief is retained Board votes 9-2 to appoint Marchione to four-year term

March 06, 1996|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

In a sudden and surprising move, Baltimore County's school board last night named interim Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione to lead the nation's 24th largest school district.

After a week of criticism from community groups, residents and politicians about the search, the board emerged from a two-hour closed meeting and voted 9-2 to appoint Dr. Marchione to a four-year term.

Board members Dunbar Brooks and Robert F. Dashiell dissented. "Dr. Marchione has earned our respect, our confidence and our support," board member Sanford V. Teplitzky said. "I wholeheartedly support his appointment to a full term as superintendent."

Mr. Teplitzky preceded his praise of Dr. Marchione, a 40-year veteran of the 102,000-student school system, by defending the fairness of the search.

The search has come under fire in the past two weeks, with some board members and community leaders charging that it was fixed to favor Dr. Marchione, 64. They called on the board to interview more candidates and to open up the process to the public -- especially after the names of three finalists were published in The Sun.

The NAACP and other African-American groups opposed Dr. Marchione, calling him a fixture in a system that has long neglected black children. Teachers and administrators groups, meanwhile, endorsed Dr. Marchione.

Others criticized the board for choosing the superintendent in secret, particularly with wounds still festering from the tenure of former Superintendent Stuart Berger, who was hired -- and fired -- in secret. The board bought out his contract in August for $300,000.

Board members maintained that guaranteeing confidentiality was the best way to attract qualified candidates.

Neither Mr. Dashiell nor Mr. Brooks would discuss last night his reason for opposing the appointment.

Mr. Dashiell said he first wanted to explain his reasoning to Dr. Marchione.

Mr. Brooks, signaling weariness from losing a debate, shook his head and said, "I'm not a happy camper tonight. I don't want to talk about it."

The board's action came just hours after a delegation returned from the Chester Upland school district outside Philadelphia, where they were examining the credentials of Superintendent JoAnn B. Manning. Although 25 candidates from across the nation applied for the position, in the end she was Dr. Marchione's last competitor.

A third leading contender, Jeffery N. Grotsky, superintendent of the Grand Rapids, Mich., school district, withdrew from the contest last week. He criticized the board for breaching a pact of confidentiality after his name appeared in The Sun, and he also cited the controversy over the search.

Board Vice President Paul S. Cunningham said the board still must work out details of Dr. Marchione's contract. The job now pays $121,000 a year, but the salary will be negotiated.

In response to the expressions of public distrust in the selection process, Mr. Teplitzky began last night's announcement by repeating assertions that the process had been fair, thorough and complete.

He said that he and the board had taken numerous calls and reviewed many letters, using those documents in choosing finalists and in the ultimate decision.

"I want to make it clear that the process the board has followed over the past couple of months has been fair from the start to the finish," he said. "We have listened to the community and to what it wants in a superintendent." Search consultant Maureen Steinecke of Laurel told the few residents who were still in attendance for the announcement that of the 25 candidates, the board had selected seven for reference checks, then three for interviews.

Dr. Marchione was not in attendance as the board reached its decision last night, but he scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. today.

In anticipation of a decision, a small group of teachers and student council representatives camped out in the board room as the board deliberated behind closed doors down the hall.

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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