Board seeks schools chief

Lawson, interim superintendent, wants the job permanently

March 14, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Kenneth P. Lawson, who has been the county's interim schools superintendent for two months, said yesterday that he wants to take on the job permanently.

A popular 32-year veteran of the Anne Arundel schools, Lawson submitted his application to be superintendent last month. He is the first publicly announced candidate for the job.

"I've really enjoyed the opportunity to be interim superintendent," Lawson said. "I find it challenging and rewarding. I feel good about what I've been able to do, and I would like to have the opportunity to continue."

The school board is interviewing candidates for the superintendent's job and plans to announce the new superintendent next month. Lawson would not say whether he has been interviewed.

The board is conducting its search in secret, with the help of a private search firm, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates of Glenview, Ill. The firm is being paid $35,000 plus expenses.

Late last month, the firm provided the county school board with a list of about 25 candidates. The board, which is narrowing the list, would not disclose the names of the candidates or whether Lawson is one of them.

School board member Joseph Foster, who is leading the superintendent search, said the process is "moving along very well." He would not say where the job candidates were being interviewed or how many will be interviewed.

"I'd rather not get into the details of it, except to say that things are on schedule," he said.

Lawson, 54, became interim superintendent Jan. 1, replacing Carol S. Parham, who took a professorship at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has spent his entire career in the Anne Arundel schools, as a teacher, principal and, most recently, associate superintendent.

Lawson grew up in Anne Arundel County and is a 1965 graduate of Severna Park High School.

His work as interim superintendent in the past few months has won praise from many in the community, as he has negotiated tricky situations such as the middle school schedule overhaul and a $14 million budget deficit.

"I think he's been doing a fine job," said Susie Jablinske, president of the county teachers association. "He has a lot of the attributes [the board] is looking for: He knows the system, understands the community, has been an administrator and teacher, and works well with people."

Jablinske said she wishes the search were more open to the public so that people could evaluate and question the candidates.

"I'm disappointed it's such a closed process and we don't have any clue at all who's applied," she said. "Each of us employed by the school system has a vested interest, and the community has an interest as well."

School systems often conduct searches in secret because some top candidates won't apply if they know their interest in the job will be made public, Anne Arundel board members have said.

But other systems have conducted successful searches that were more open to the public. When Howard County hired a superintendent two years ago, the names of several finalists were announced, and they met with parents and teachers in public forums.

"It was a way to make us on the board more responsive to our constituents in the county," said Jane Schuchardt, chairwoman of the Howard school board. The finalists had no objection to the public nature of the search, she said.

"They knew they would meet with people, and they had no objections to it," Schuchardt said. "It wouldn't have scared anybody away."

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