Public opinion to help pick superintendent

Search firm gathering input from many sides

November 01, 1999|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

In the search for Baltimore County's next superintendent of schools, community members, administrators and teachers agree: No candidates without classroom experience, please.

That's one of the many tips offered during meetings organized by Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the firm hired by the Board of Education to seek qualified candidates.

Board members asked the firm to solicit the opinions of custodians and secretaries, teachers and parents, in an effort to conduct a fair and open search to replace Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione, who will retire in June.

When board members hired Marchione four years ago, some community groups blamed them for making up their minds without community input. This time, board members are trying to be more sensitive.

And so -- although board members have told consultants to seek applications from retired business people, military personnel and other nontraditional candidates who might never have set foot in a classroom -- they'll consider everyone's concerns, said board President Donald L. Arnold.

Arnold said school systems in Chicago and Seattle have chosen successful superintendents who did not have education experience. But he said the board has not "set any criteria at this point as to the type of individual we want. We did that on purpose so that no one could say we didn't listen to the general populace."

During three meetings Wednesday at Loch Raven High School, consultant Roger Garvelink talked with small groups of administrators, teachers and parents and took lots of notes. Other meetings were held at Milford Mill Academy and Cockeysville Middle School and at school system headquarters in Towson.

Garvelink passed out questionnaires that participants could mail or send by fax to his office in Glenview, Ill.

He told groups that the board hoped to have a candidate profile by Nov. 8. At that point, the firm will place an advertisement in Education Week, the nation's largest education publication.

By January, the board should be ready to meet and interview a group of semifinalists. Members hope to announce their decision by Feb. 22, Garvelink said.

"That's really fast," he said of the superintendent search time line. "But that's what the board wants."

Besides their lack of support for nontraditional candidates, administrators, teachers and parents agreed in many ways on the kind of person they want to lead the county's 106,723 students.

Charismatic, versatile, energetic, visionary and business-oriented were a few adjectives offered.

"I think that the next superintendent should be open to looking at what has made this system successful, that they should do their homework before they make changes," said Daisy McTighe, the school system's art coordinator.

At a meeting of teachers, some educators complained that state curriculum requirements are sometimes difficult to decipher. Several said they would like a superintendent who knows what it's like "in the trenches."

Parents are looking for a superintendent with backbone, able to manage administrators who "do whatever they want," said Mary Schaefer, 44, whose daughter attends Carver Center for the Arts and Technology in Towson.

Anne Libis, 72, whose adult children attended Baltimore County schools, wants a superintendent who will improve the educational quality of the school system so that young families won't place their children in private schools or move away.

Pub Date: 11/01/99

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