Fla. system cuts Smith from its list

Arundel schools chief was finalist in Miami-Dade

April 24, 2004|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent Eric J. Smith said yesterday that he failed to make the cut for the top schools job in Miami-Dade County, Fla., the nation's fourth-largest school district.

Smith said the selection committee - which is narrowing the list of superintendent candidates for the Miami-Dade school board - wanted someone who had led a larger or more diverse school system. Still in the running are the former head of New York City schools and the superintendent in Nashville, Tenn., who is Cuban and bilingual.

"They were looking for something different than I can offer," he said in a telephone interview from Florida, where he and three other finalists were interviewed for the job yesterday morning.

With a $4.3 billion budget and more than 360,000 students, the Miami-Dade school district dwarfs Anne Arundel's system, which has a student population of 76,000 and a budget of $640 million.

The Florida district also has a large foreign-born population, and nearly one in four students is not proficient in English.

The Anne Arundel system and Smith's previous district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina, have high percentages of black students, but smaller numbers of students who lack English proficiency.

Smith, who had been asked by a recruitment firm to apply for the Miami position, sounded upbeat yesterday about continuing his work in Maryland.

"Things worked out for the best," Smith said. "There certainly isn't any regret or disappointment in the outcome."

School board members were relieved when informed of the news. "I feel somewhat bad for him, but I'm pleased for the school system," school board President Paul Rudolph said.

Smith's announcement this week that he was one of four finalists for the job came as a surprise to many in the community. He is less than halfway into a four-year contract with the school system, and he had rolled out sweeping academic initiatives in the fall.

Board member Tricia Johnson said she hopes this means Smith will stay in Anne Arundel through the end of his term. "He's a good captain of the ship," she said.

The Miami-Dade selection committee also opted not to recommend John Murphy, a former Prince George's County schools superintendent, to the school board, which has the final say.

Former New York City schools Chancellor Rudy Crew and Nashville schools chief Pedro E. Garcia are the two remaining finalists.

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