Amprey Leaving Schools Post

Superintendent Joins Tci's Education Unit As A Vice President

Juggling 2 Jobs Until June

Buyout Agreement Approved, But Details Yet To Be Disclosed

April 28, 1997|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey has joined an education subsidiary of the cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. and will have eased away from the helm of city schools by June.

He leaves behind a career in public education as he becomes national vice president for urban education at TCI's Education, Training & Communications, which sells electronic teaching tools, computer connections and training services to school districts, businesses and government agencies.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to build on what I've done in urban education," said Amprey, 52, who rose to superintendent after having started teaching in 1966 in Baltimore as a social studies teacher at what was then Calverton Junior High. Later, he left city schools to go to Baltimore County, where he rose to associate superintendent.

Going to the private sector, he added, "is strange, it's new and it's different."

"I think what I was doing as superintendent is what I should have been doing with my life -- it is something that I would have enjoyed continuing and that I wanted to do," he said. "But it's time to go, and, maybe in a spiritual sense, too, it's time to go."

He declined to answer questions about his severance with the city. He has been superintendent for six years and his current contract expires in June 1998. He began months ago negotiating separation terms with city solicitors.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke declined to comment.

People familiar with the Amprey situation yesterday offered conflicting explanations of the deal the superintendent has worked out to leave the city school system, suggesting that the matter remains unresolved, and also that a buyout agreement of significant size has been approved but that all parties have agreed not to discuss it. Through the remainder of this school year, unless negotiations with the city change the arrangement, Amprey said, he will juggle the two jobs. The last day of school is June 16, and Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Schmoke are expected to name a new city school board by June 1.

The new school board will be appointed as one of many management reforms created when the Maryland General Assembly agreed this month to allocate $254 million in financial aid for city schools. The new board will name an interim superintendent and search for a chief executive officer to run the city system.

"I really have my feet on two different stones, but I want to make sure there is a smooth transition for the children," Amprey said. "I don't want to be in the new school board's way, but I do want to be available if they say they need my assistance in any way."

Amprey already has an office at the company's Washington base, and his photograph appears in a glossy new brochure touting the stable of professional development and education experts who work for the TCI subsidiary.

He's carrying a computer and learning to use it and the lingo of the technology trade.

A charismatic speaker, Amprey recently taped a professional development seminar for distribution by the National School Conference Institute, an Arizona-based company that is owned by the Education, Training & Communications arm of TCI.

It became his electronic calling card: He joined the institute's "All Star" lineup of professional-development speakers and is taping a series of lectures on dealing with challenges in urban schools.

Anticipating the day this summer that management reforms backed by state lawmakers would sweep away his $140,000-a-year superintendency, Amprey has been job hunting and working on a variety of national campaigns to improve urban schooling in recent weeks.

Reached at home late yesterday, Charles Maker, vice president of the city school board, would say only, "I think everyone in the system wishes him well."

Launched in February 1996, Education, Training & Communications (ETC) combines a number of projects begun by its parent, TCI, including the career development seminar company; its training center in Washington; an online daily news magazine for youngsters; high-speed Internet services for schools; and the Lightspan Partnership, which provides software and take-home equipment so schoolchildren can use interactive video on their televisions.

According to company news releases available online, ETC aims to lead the drive to equip the nation's classrooms with electronic tools by customizing packages for school districts and providing computer training for teachers.

The company's lineup of advisers includes big names in education: national teacher unions -- the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers -- and professional associations such as the National School Boards Association.

Amprey said his contacts in the education industry will be assets: He is a former president of both of the nation's professional associations for big-city school superintendents, the Council of the Great City Schools and Large City Schools Superintendents.

In recent weeks, he has helped build a partnership between ETC and the National Science Foundation, which gives money to Baltimore and other urban school systems, to improve science education.

TCI is the nation's largest provide of cable television services.

Pub Date: 4/28/97

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