Walter G. Amprey's vision for the Baltimore schools is to develop a plan that will outlast him.
Dr. Amprey, selected Friday to be the new superintendent of the 108,000-student school system, says his goal is to bring stability to a system where the average tenure of a superintendent is four years and where programs typically come and go with superintendents.
"I would like to see, in the long range, a clear, definitive direction in place for the schools," said Dr. Amprey, 46. "Rather than focus on the leadership and the personality, we need to focus on a long-range plan that the city itself and all of us together can put together and then follow."
The board's announcement Friday took Dr. Amprey by surprise, he said. "There have not been any negotiations or anything," he said. "Nothing has been discussed."
But, though contracts and salaries have yet to be negotiated, and he has yet to meet with the two finalists selected by the school board to be his two deputy superintendents, Dr. Amprey said he plans to take the job and believes the "troika" could work.
"I believe it can work," he said. "I definitely think the concept is workable. It's really a matter of what people's roles are. It's not a matter of the boxes and where the X's are; it's a matter of defining roles and goals."
An associate superintendent in the Baltimore County school system,Dr. Amprey will replace Richard C. Hunter, whose three-year contract expires July 31. The new superintendent hopes to start August 1 -- and plans to begin with studying the school system and how it works and what it needs.
"I can't imagine that taking any more than a couple of months," he said. The next step, he said, will be "people changes," which he hopes to accomplish mostly through attrition and changes in responsibility. He wants to meet regularly with principals -- though without disrupting schools.
And by the time six months have passed, he said, he hopes to see the development of a long range plan describing where the school system should be by the year 2000.
"I think we can begin right away in the first two years to see change in the attitudes and feelings in the school systems and about the schools," he said. "I think we right away will see change in how we see ourselves and how we see our mission."
But for now, Dr. Amprey said, he's adjusting to "the numbness of the newness."
"I'm happy," he said. "It's in a way kind of a dream come true for a person who has decided to give his life to education. . . . It's an opportunity to see if I can really make a difference.
"It's kind of scary too. There seem to be a lot of expectations that seem to hinge on the top leader. But the way I'll deal with that is try to involve as many people as possible."