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City starts process of hiring superintendent search firm

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Baltimore school union leaders questioned the need for an outside firm to conduct a national search for the next permanent superintendent Thursday as the school board began the process of hiring a consultant.

Neil Duke, chair of the city school board, said the district issued a request for proposals for an executive search firm Thursday, and it plans to select a company by July. Once the firm is selected, Duke said, the district will solidify a timeline for a national search.

In the email, Duke said that "the stakes are high" in looking for the next permanent superintendent given the progress under city schools CEO Andrés Alonso, who will step down June 30.

"We know we need a leader who appreciates Baltimore's opportunities and challenges," Duke said. "We need a leader who will seize the momentum we have built together and take it to the next level. We are not just seeking the best, big-city schools superintendent, but the best leader for city schools."

But leaders representing Baltimore's teachers and school administrators questioned whether the school board needed outside help to find such a candidate.

Both unions have thrown their support behind Tisha Edwards, Alonso's chief of staff since 2009, who will begin serving as interim CEO on July 1, to become the district's permanent leader. She will serve as interim CEO for the 2013-2014 school year.

"We think the community and organizations that work for the district [should] be a part of a search committee," said Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union. "I don't think there needs to be a consulting firm hired to do this. I certainly think we are capable. We are the stakeholders. This is critical to us."

Jimmy Gittings, president of the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association, agreed, saying that he believes the board is repeating a mistake it made in 2007 when it recruited from outside the system with the help of a search firm.

"It disturbs me immensely that the school board, again, is going outside the system, which holds individuals who have the qualifications to become the CEO of the Baltimore City school system," Gittings said.

"It is quite obvious when we go outside of the system, it causes major problems not only for the children but for the entire community. Individuals from outside the system have no idea what the needs of our children and communities are."

The union representing the Baltimore City School Police Force also issued a letter of support for Edwards this week.

"Upon the news of the departure of Dr. Andrés Alonso, our membership flooded our office with calls of support for Mrs. Edwards," Sgt. Clyde E. Boatwright, president of the Fraternal Order of Police No. 5, wrote in a letter to the school board. "In Mrs. Edwards, we collectively feel that we have one of the best candidates in the nation already here in our system."

erica.green@baltsun.com

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