Marchione's triumph and challenge Baltimore County: Superintendent merits support, in spite of board's secretive process.

March 08, 1996

THE APPOINTMENT of Anthony G. Marchione as superintendent of Baltimore County schools should be the crowning achievement of a man who has served the system for four decades. He won the confidence of teachers and administrators, government officials and parents, for maintaining calm while pressing budget and educational reforms as interim leader after the abrupt ouster of his predecessor, Stuart D. Berger.

Yet ugly echoes of racism ring in the aftermath of the school board's decision, along with challenging criticism of the integrity of the hasty, secretive selection process.

Organizations of black residents blame Dr. Marchione for failure of county schools to reverse the long-standing underachievement of black students. Charges of Dr. Marchione's culpability are unwarranted. But unrest over education of black children is a major issue with which he must deal as superintendent for the next four years. Retaining experienced teachers in predominantly black schools is a promising approach, if no panacea.

Though not of his making, the selection process is under attack for being rigged to favor Dr. Marchione's appointment, and for lack of public information and input in the final stages.

Next time, the school board should address these criticisms, with a deliberate and more open search. It should have done so this time. Exposing the top four or five candidates to public review is recommended. That would not diminish the quality of applicants, especially as names of finalists leak out anyhow. Public comments about applicants that go unacknowledged by the board add to community frustrations. Although appointed by the governor, the Baltimore County Board of Education must be attentive to and responsive to the voices of county residents. It must act to build greater confidence in the superintendent selection process, and in the person ultimately chosen to oversee the education of more than 100,000 children. Flawed though the selection mechanics seemed, we hope that impression does not impede Dr. Marchione, who is much admired for his work in the system and who will need the community's support to address the immense challenges of a large, increasingly urban school system.

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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