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Baltimore City's Education Troika


All kinds of approaches have been tried in administering the Baltimore City public school system over the past two decades. A leadership troika has never before been among them. Yet this is what the school board has decided to try by appointing Walter G. Amprey superintendent and naming two other finalists in the search, Lillian Gonzalez and Patty Baker Blackshear, deputies.

This is an unusual arrangement. It assumes that three ambitious educators from different school systems, who only moments before were competitors for the top job, can happily co-exist with unequal rankings. It is surprising the three agreed to such a package deal. But since they did, we can only hope their #F leadership enthusiasm is matched by their spirit of cooperation.

Each of the new school executives will bring specific strengths to the troika.

Dr. Amprey adds the benefits of his 18 years of wide-ranging professional experience in Baltimore County, where he has most recently served as the associate superintendent for staff and community relations. But he also is a native of Baltimore City. He went to Edmondson High School, played football at Morgan State. A man who once considered a career in religion, he believes in charismatic leadership. "My greatest sense of power has come from giving it away, it's by getting the best out of people," says the 46-year-old educator.

That is an excellent philosophical starting point for a superintendent who will oversee Baltimore's experimentation with school-based management, the current code word for community control. If Dr. Amprey ever wanted to be a missionary, he has his chance in Baltimore City. The whole city -- from parents and pupils, teachers and school staff to businesses, ordinary taxpayers and politicians -- is ready for an educational revival.

Dr. Gonzalez, 45, will leave a job as assistant superintendent in charge of services to handicapped, bilingual and homeless children and adult education in the District of Columbia to come to Baltimore. During the search process, she impressed many with her abilities. She is a welcome addition to North Avenue.

For Dr. Blackshear, 43, becoming a deputy superintendent means a promotion and added responsibilities. She has been in the city school system since 1989, most recently as assistant superintendent for management services, human resources and labor relations. Among her strengths is her ability to deal with policy-making bodies. She herself was a member of the Anne Arundel County school board from 1980 to 1985.

During its protracted search to find a successor to Richard C. Hunter, whose contract expires July 31, the school board invited unusually broad public involvement. If the board and the new leadership team continue this openness, we are certain all segments of Baltimore will respond by extending their hands in cooperation. Good schools must be this city's common goal.

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