Candidate for Arundel schools chief set for visit

Meetings scheduled with officials, parents

May 05, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

The school board's choice for superintendent will make his first public trip to Anne Arundel County this week to meet with elected officials, principals, teachers, parents and students.

They're likely to have plenty of questions for Eric J. Smith, superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school system, who has been offered a compensation package worth $300,000 to become the Anne Arundel schools chief.

That package will be Topic No. 1 for some people, including County Council members who are wrestling this month with the school system's budget for next year.

"I don't think there's any question people are concerned about the salary and benefits package, especially when there are concerns about funding in the classroom," said Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican.

But for her colleague, John J. Klocko III, the money will be worth it if Smith lives up to his billing as a nationally acclaimed superintendent.

"I think it is a heck of a lot," Klocko, a Crofton Republican, said of the salary, "but we expect a heck of a lot."

The council will have lunch with Smith at 12:30 Tuesday at school board headquarters in Annapolis. That session will be open to the public, though only council members will be allowed to speak.

The public will have a chance to question Smith at a community forum at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Severna Park High School, 60 Robinson Road. Arts supporters in the county said they want answers from Smith about his record in Charlotte.

This year, as part of budget reductions, Smith eliminated fifth-grade band and foreign language courses in some magnet elementary schools. That had led some to worry that Smith puts too much emphasis on subjects tested by the state and not enough on electives.

"We'd like to hear his assurances not only that he values art but specifically what he'd do in certain situations" when arts programs are on the line, said Terra Ziporyn Snider of Severna Park, chairwoman of a county education advocacy group. "It's a question of priorities."

Snider and others said they are pleased that the school board managed to find such a qualified candidate in Smith.

"We're aiming for the top, which is what we should be doing," she said.

Tomorrow, Smith will meet with County Executive Janet S. Owens, who has strongly criticized the compensation package, and tour Annapolis High School, Severn River Middle in Arnold and Windsor Farm Elementary in Annapolis.

On Tuesday, he will meet with Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, the county's state legislative delegation and school system staff, teachers and students. At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Smith will meet with the county's PTA and Citizen Advisory Committee groups in a session open to the public at the board headquarters.

Next week, the Anne Arundel school board will make a two-day trip to Charlotte to see firsthand what Smith has accomplished in his six years there. A contract could be signed soon after that trip.

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