Arundel board to meet on school-chief search

Panel seeks to appoint interim replacement soon

September 18, 2005|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,SUN STAFF

As part of the effort to replace outgoing superintendent Eric J. Smith, the Anne Arundel County school board will hear a presentation Tuesday on finding a new superintendent.

The board has had two executive sessions - meetings not open to the public - in recent weeks to discuss its options and consider whom they will appoint in the interim to take over for Smith, who abruptly announced two weeks ago that he would step down Nov. 23, seven months before the end of his four-year contract.

Smith, who pointed to public disputes with the school board as his reason for leaving, has said he plans to work with the Urban Superintendents Academy at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education from his home in Annapolis, while he seeks consulting jobs.

No decision has been made about an interim appointment, said Tricia Johnson, vice president of the board. But board members want to fill the position as soon as possible, she said, and after that, the board will begin its search for a new superintendent, though no timeline has been put into place.

More important, she said, is finding someone who will be a good match.

"We need someone to steer the ship straight, she said. "We've made great improvements over the last few years; we need someone to keep things steady.

"We're going into a budget cycle, going into negotiations with the unions. We need a strong interim who can handle those things and prepare us for a new superintendent," she said.

The board has a number of possible choices. Kenneth P. Lawson, who recently retired as deputy superintendent of the 74,000-student school system, was a candidate for the top job in 2002. Bill Wise, the interim assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum, retired in 2001 as superintendent of the Nashville, Tenn., school system.

Johnson said the board wants community input as it embarks on selecting a superintendent.

The presentation at Tuesday's board meeting will be made by a representative of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, which provides assistance to local boards searching for new superintendents, according to the association's Web site.

But the board may hear from other experts and search firms, as well.

"We hope to explore as many options as we can," Johnson said.

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