School board to hire firm for superintendent search

1 of 5 companies to be chosen soon

September 06, 2001|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Members of the Anne Arundel County school board agreed yesterday to hire a private search firm to find a replacement for Superintendent Carol S. Parham, who is stepping down in December.

The board has heard pitches from five national firms and will choose one in the next few weeks. Board members hope to have a new superintendent by next summer.

"We're looking for someone who's a proven commodity," said board member Joseph H. Foster of Linthicum. "We're not looking for someone who sees this as an opportunity."

Foster, the board's point man for the search, said the Anne Arundel superintendent's post should draw top educators from across the country, partly because of the county's location on the Chesapeake Bay and near Baltimore and Washington, he said.

But there are other reasons, he said.

"This is a very stable school system," Foster said, noting that Parham has served in the top job for eight years.

"The superintendent is leaving of her own accord. There's no conflict with the board. And this is a large system," said Foster.

With 75,000 students, Anne Arundel is the fifth-largest school district in Maryland and one of the 50 biggest in the country.

Once hired by the board, the search firm will have several months to assemble a list of candidates. Then, probably early next year, the school board will winnow the list down to a handful of finalists and bring them in for interviews.

Closed process

The process will be closed to the public.

The names of candidates and finalists will not be made public.

But Foster said the search will be "very open and inclusive of every section of the community."

Parents, teachers and students will have a chance to express what they want in a superintendent, perhaps through public forums.

The board will appoint an interim superintendent by December to take over when Parham leaves for a professorship at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Parham was interim superintendent for a year before officially getting the job in 1994.

The board voted unanimously yesterday to hire a search firm.

Details of the search, such as how much the search firm will be paid, have not been worked out.

The five search firms competing for the job are Harold Webb Associates of Austin, Texas; Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates of Glenview, Ill.; McPherson & Jacobson of Kearney, Neb.; Proact Search of Milwaukee; and Ray and Associates Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Though Parham announced her resignation from her $141,000-a-year job three months ago, Foster doesn't think the delay in starting the search will keep the board from hiring a superintendent this school year.

"We have plenty of time to complete the process in an orderly manner," he said. "This will not be rushed."

Construction budget

In other action yesterday, the school board received Parham's recommended construction and maintenance budget for next year. Parham recommended 30 projects totaling $67 million.

She left out money for Ferndale Elementary School, one of the county's oldest schools and, with 155 pupils, its smallest.

The leaky, deteriorating school needs $9.3 million for renovations.

Two years ago, Parham recommended that the school be closed. The board refused.

Last year, Parham recommended that the school get the money it needs to rebuild. The board refused.

Yesterday, Parham was out of options.

She told the board, "At this time, it is up to the Board of Education to decide on the future status of Ferndale."

Board members did not indicate how they want to proceed. But if they don't put money in the budget for Ferndale, they are likely to face a painful vote on closing the 76-year-old school.

They will hold a public hearing on the construction budget at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at school district headquarters in Annapolis.

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