3 superintendent finalists face community grilling


The first of Baltimore's would-be school superintendents put their ideologies and experience on display yesterday, and words and coffee flowed.

Charles M. Bernardo, former Montgomery County school superintendent: "You do not need a savior complex. You need a person who recognizes he is but a part of a very talented board team and an executive team."

Lillian Gonzalez, a District of Columbia assistant superintendent: "I don't think I would have applied to a district that is looking for a traditional leader. If you are, it's not me."

Patsy Baker Blackshear, a Baltimore associate superintendent: "My management style is an entrepreneurial style. That's what I try to do. I ask myself the question: If this were my business would I do it in this manner? And I ask my staff that at times."

The three finalists came to the Liberty Campus of the New Community College of Baltimore yesterday to spend 3 1/2 hours each answering questions from community and business groups, school unions and news reporters. School board members prowled through the sessions, watching the candidates' interplay with their questioners.

The process will be repeated today with the city's two other finalists for the job: David W. Hornbeck, Maryland's former state school superintendent; and Walter G. Am prey, a Baltimore County associate superintendent. Board members hope to select a successor in the first or second week of July for superintendent Richard C. Hunter, whose three-year term expires July 31.

The upshot of the sessions will be recommendations to the school board from some groups, such as the school unions. Either way, reactions are sure to filter back to the board or to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

For those who want to put their views on paper, there were blue forms yesterday rating the candidates in the areas of management, community involvement, "concern for my issues", people skills and overall impressions. The forms are to be turned in to the board by Tuesday, said Robert G. Wendland, deputy director of the city's civil service commission.

Each candidate met first with a panel of 17 representatives of community and advocate groups -- including one from the City Council -- for 65 minutes of questioning. Then they spent 30 minutes each with those groups accorded their own interviews: the Baltimore Teachers Union, the school administrators and principals' union, the Greater Baltimore Committee and BUILD, Baltimoreans United for Leadership Development.

Finally, there was a 30-minute news conference with each candidate. The candidates are also meeting separately with Mr. Schmoke.

One panelist, Mel Butler of the Carver Vocational Foundation, questioned whether his input will mean much. "I kind of think they might have their minds made up already," he said.

That observation distressed board member Stelios Spiliadis, who has taken pains to orchestrate public input since he took charge of the search earlier this month. "That's not true," he said.

Most of the panelists yesterday were reluctant to offer their views on the candidates, wanting to wait to meet all of them first. "It's been great to be able to see them and talk with them," said Carol Reckling, a member of BUILD.

Mr. Spiliadis said, "The question is, which of the candidates brings with them the background, the philosophy and the people skills to translate what I think is a common agenda into our kids being educated in a significantly better way than they have been."

In tomorrow's Sun: The finalists' ideas and issues.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad