Schools finalist begins blitz

Balto. Co. candidate for superintendent set for key meetings

March 07, 2000|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Joseph A. Hairston, the Baltimore County Board of Education's top choice to head the public school system, begins a weeklong public relations blitz today that is designed to build support for his appointment.

In a schedule that might be devised by a politician hunting for votes, Hairston will hold a series of meetings with union officials, lawmakers and PTA leaders. As other groups clamor for an audience, more sessions are likely in his campaign, which is highly unusual for a Baltimore County superintendent search.

The school board had planned to hire Hairston at a meeting Feb. 29, but decided to wait two weeks after County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and the County Council asked that the public be given time to meet with him. The board would not reveal the names of finalists for the job, but news reports had identified Hairston as the top choice four days before the scheduled vote.

A tentative schedule for the tour has Hairston meeting with top members of the teachers union today and with legislators in Annapolis on Thursday, said Charles A. Herndon, spokesman for the school system.

A chat session with PTA leaders has been scheduled for tomorrow, he said. More meetings could be arranged between Hairston and several African-American groups, members of which are eager to meet him.

Phone calls logged

School system employees and parents are taking a wait-and-see attitude on Hairston, 53, who is described by former colleagues as a passionate and sometimes confrontational educator.

To gauge public sentiment on the appointment, secretaries at school system headquarters in Towson are keeping track of the number of pro and con phone calls they receive, sources said.

"We'll be skeptical until we get a chance to talk to him," said Robert Anzelc, executive director of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County. Still, union leaders gave Hairston a cautious thumbs-up after an hourlong meeting Feb. 29. They don't intend to grill Hairston during the meeting today, he said.

Although Hairston's discussion with TABCO leaders will be private, a reception at 4: 30 p.m. Thursday at the Sheraton Hotel in Towson will give general members a chance to meet him, said Mark Beytin, TABCO president.

Three groups on deck

Hairston -- who is expected to be appointed superintendent by board members March 14 -- will likely arrive in Towson this afternoon and meet with Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione, Herndon said. He will be in town through Friday.

Groups eager to meet with the educator -- who was a teacher and administrator in Prince George's County for 27 years before he became superintendent of the Clayton County, Ga., school system in 1995 -- include the African-American Advisory Group, the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Baltimore County Alliance of Black School Educators.

Hairston resigned from the Clayton County job in January.

The three groups might team up to interview Hairston at a meeting Thursday evening, said Ella White Campbell, chairwoman of the African-American Advisory Group.

"We have requested a meeting but we haven't been given any verification yet," said Campbell said.

Campbell's group has made phone calls to educators in Georgia and Prince George's County. "People are saying he does get the job done," she said.

Another group eager to meet with Hairston is the Baltimore County PTA, said President Linda Olszewski.

The PTA gathering, at Perry Hall High School, could be one of the largest Hairston faces during his tour. Olszewski and her executive board are sending meeting notices to 155 PTA presidents, who could invite any number of local PTA board members.

"There could be at least a couple hundred people there," said Olszewski. "But then, he's been the hot topic of the week."

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