Larger list for schools chief

Hammond of Colorado joins field of candidates for county superintendent

`Remarkable woman, exemplary'

Educator drew praise for tackling safety issues after Columbine attack

Anne Arundel

April 19, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

A top Colorado educator who won praise for her skillful handling of the Columbine High School tragedy has told the Anne Arundel County school system that she is a "viable candidate" for superintendent, her spokesman said yesterday.

Jane Hammond, who heads the 88,000-student school system in Jefferson County, Colo., sent word in the past week to the private firm looking for Anne Arundel's new superintendent that she is interested in the job, said her spokesman, Rick Kaufman.

"Jane has given permission for the search firm to present her name to the Anne Arundel board as a candidate for the position," Kaufman said yesterday. "She is certainly interested in hearing more about what the school district has to offer."

Anne Arundel County is nearing the end of its superintendent search. An announcement of a new schools chief could come as soon as next week, as the board has finished interviewing a field of five or six candidates, said sources familiar with the search.

"We're very, very close," said Joseph H. Foster, the school board member leading the search. "We have a good pool of candidates. We don't have one person who is the only viable candidate. There are several."

But, he said, "The process is ongoing. These things can take strange turns unexpectedly."

Hammond, who has not been interviewed by the Anne Arundel board, confirmed last week that she was approached by the county's search firm.

Although Hammond has been recruited for top positions throughout the country, her interest in the Anne Arundel job has stirred talk because of her ties to Maryland.

She worked for the State Department of Education from 1979 to 1987 and has degrees from Frostburg State University. Her parents live in Montgomery County.

Hammond, who has been superintendent in Jefferson County for nearly five years, won praise for quickly addressing the safety issues posed by the Columbine High shootings in 1999, and for improving academics and student performance.

The Jefferson County school board is "working diligently to see that she doesn't leave," said its president, Debra Oberbeck.

"She's a remarkable woman, exemplary. ... I'd love to be able to give you a list of rotten things she's done so nobody would be interested in her, but I can't," Oberbeck said.

Hammond, 53, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Anne Arundel board has not released its list of candidates, saying it wanted to let people apply without risking any backlash in their home districts.

But the secrecy of the search - conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates of Glenview, Ill. - has been criticized by community groups, the teachers union and county politicians who say they have a stake in the decision and would like to know what's going on.

County Executive Janet S. Owens said she has been kept almost entirely out of the search process.

"I've had no contact," she said this month. "It's been so closed, I can't tell you anything."

Owens said she hopes that she will be allowed to meet with, or at least review the resumes of, the board's top two or three candidates. Residents should have the same access, she said.

"It does concern me because [the superintendent] is one of the top two or three positions in the county," she said. "I would like the process to be more open."

Sun staff writer Lynn Anderson contributed to this article.

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