Baltimore County school superintendent job draws about 40 candidates

An Air Force squadron commander who grew up in Middle River and graduated from Baltimore County public schools is among those who have applied to be the school system's next superintendent.

Timothy T. Tenne, 42, has no experience in education but said he believes the skills he developed in the Air Force will transfer to running a large organization such as the school system. Most recently, Tenne was a leader who helped oversee the NATO Air Operations Center's air mobility in Italy during the conflict in Libya.

Tenne is one of about 40 people to apply for the job, according to Alan Leis, senior vice president of Hazard, Young, Attea, the school board's search firm. "We are doing really well. Forty is a really reasonable number," Leis said. "While we have yet to start our interviews, there are multiple people with very strong credentials, so I am looking forward to talking to them."

The search firm will give all the names to the school board and will identify those they believe are the strongest candidates. The board will then interview candidates.

The next superintendent is expected to be chosen in April, Leis said. No other names have been made public, and Leis said some of the candidates want their names kept confidential because of their current positions.

Superintendent Joe A. Hairston is leaving the school system in June after 12 years in the job.

Maryland law requires that school superintendents have a background in teaching and school administration, so Tenne could get the job only if Bernard Sadusky, the interim state school superintendent, granted him a waiver. The former superintendent, Nancy S. Grasmick, did not approve such a waiver in her 20 years on the job.

But in recent years, nontraditional candidates have become leaders of major school systems around the nation. Gen. John Stanford became Seattle's superintendent, and Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata was made superintendent in Wake County, N.C., in December 2010. The Broad Foundation, which operates a national training program for school leaders, has had several candidates from the armed services.

Leis said nontraditional candidates have become more common in the past decade. "The issue is that each state is different in terms of certification. Maryland's requirements are very education-oriented," he said.

Tenne said in an interview Thursday that he would operate a transparent school system. "I would hope that my administrators and teachers would give me candid feedback," he said. He said the challenge for the next leader is to find a way to repair and renovate school buildings, as well as re-establish vocational programs for students that he said have been cut in the last decade.

"There is a lack of community involvement with the current superintendent," he said, adding that he would encourage more communication among teachers, school administrators and the public.

Tenne, a lieutenant colonel, will be retiring from the Air Force in the next month and said he expects to be interviewed by the search firm Saturday. A graduate of Perry Hall High School, Tenne was a star in cross country and track. He graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, but spent most of his career in the Air Force. His family settled in West Towson last summer, and he has two sons who attend Towson High School.

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