Baltimore schools begin hunt for CEO

Interim boss undecided on whether she'll apply

November 06, 2003|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's school board has launched its third national search in seven years for a new schools chief, with one top administrator uncertain about applying and another saying she won't be a candidate.

Chief Academic Officer Cassandra Jones said yesterday that she would not apply. "That is not what I am interested in," she said.

And Bonnie S. Copeland, the interim chief executive officer since July 1, said she was unaware that the school system had quietly begun its search in mid-October by placing advertisements in major local and national publications. The new CEO will be paid a minimum of $190,000 a year.

Copeland said she will consult with teachers, principals and administrators to decide whether she wants to apply before the deadline Wednesday.

She wants to determine whether they believe she has made a positive difference in the four months she has held the job.

"I want to take a temperature check about whether people feel there is hope we can overcome all [the financial problems] and refocus on the classroom," she said.

If people don't see the system making progress, she said, "I won't apply."

Copeland, who has held several education positions in Maryland and most recently headed the nonprofit Fund for Educational Excellence, was one of three finalists for the city schools' CEO job in May 2000.

The board chose Carmen V. Russo, a Floridian, for her experience in reforming high schools. During her three-year tenure, the school system amassed a $52 million cumulative deficit.

The board would like to name a new chief executive officer in January, said school board Chairwoman Patricia L. Welch.

Welch said the hiring procedure will be similar to the last time. A panel that will include teachers, principals, parents, business leaders, educational advocates and faith community representatives will screen applications privately and gather information about the candidates.

The public will have an opportunity to discuss what qualifications the next CEO should possess at a meeting 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at school headquarters, 200 E. North Ave.

After the board has narrowed the field of applicants, Welch said, it will hold public discussions with those comfortable making their candidacies public.

Mayor Martin O'Malley, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and state Del. Howard P. Rawlings would also be given the opportunity to interview the finalists as they have in the past, Welch said.

In previous executive searches, the board has considered candidates without education experience, such as people with military or business backgrounds.

"Now we know what we are looking for," Welch said. "The person ought to know education ... and attend to the fiscal side of the house."

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