As the search for Anne Arundel County's next schools chief begins in earnest, it's already clear that whoever gets the job will make more money than current Superintendent Carol S. Parham.
Parham, who will step down Dec. 31, is paid $141,170 - far less than the salary for superintendents in many counties of similar size and wealth. The district should expect to pay at least $60,000 a year more than that to get a top-drawer superintendent, said Bill Attea, managing partner of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the Illinois-based firm conducting the search.
The firm will go before the school board Wednesday night for direction on what kind of superintendent to look for - and how much to spend.
"The market has just gone crazy because of supply and demand," Attea said. "To attract an experienced and highly proficient superintendent who can deal with a school district the size of Anne Arundel, the going rate is $200,000."
Anne Arundel County, with 117 schools and 75,000 students, pays Parham considerably less than other superintendents across the state. Baltimore County pays Superintendent Joe A. Hairston $180,000 for presiding over 107,000 students in 162 schools. Montgomery County's Jerry D. Weast gets $257,000 for running 190 schools with 137,000 students.
Even smaller Howard County, with 68 schools and 46,000 students, pays schools chief John R. O'Rourke $191,000.
"Personally, I think we will have to pay more," said Anne Arundel school board member Joseph Foster. "The other superintendents hired in the state over the last four or five years have escalated the salaries, and we have to be competitive to get someone of the caliber we're looking for."
Anne Arundel is the fifth-largest school system in Maryland and the 43rd largest in the nation.
Attea, whose firm has conducted 350 superintendent searches, said Anne Arundel should not have trouble attracting good candidates.
"It's a quality school district," he said. "It's got a good reputation."
When Attea's firm goes before the school board Wednesday, it will also present the results of a community canvass conducted during the past month.
Five forums were held to get the public's input on the search. Thousands of surveys were also distributed through schools and libraries, and hundreds were returned.
The search firm met with each board member individually and with the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils, a group representing students.
"We want somebody who will be aware of student opinions and get out and see what's actually going on," said Shavonne Shorter, the group's 2nd vice president and a sophomore at Old Mill High School. She said the students also want a superintendent who will focus on improving minority student achievement.
The search firm placed its first advertisement for Anne Arundel superintendent in Education Week last week. Two more ads will appear in that publication. The job will also be advertised in regional newsletters and industry publications.
By Feb. 20, the search firm will narrow the field to five finalists. The school board then plans to narrow the list to a couple of candidates and conduct interviews. Board members hope to choose a new superintendent by the end of March.
Parham, after eight years as superintendent, is leaving to take a professorship at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Next month, the school board will appoint an interim superintendent. The most likely choices are Ken Lawson, associate superintendent for instruction, and Gregory Nourse, associate superintendent for business and management services.