Amprey is a candidate for N.Y. job But schools head says he'll stay here


Though he is a candidate for New York City's top school job, Baltimore school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said yesterday that he intends to remain in Baltimore -- at least for now.

"I don't want to go anywhere, I'm happy with what I'm doing, this is my home. . . . There's not a lot of motivation for me to go," said Dr. Amprey, who confirmed that he is one of the candidates for the chancellorship of the New York system, the nation's largest with 1 million students.

"I've made it very clear to them that I'm much happier here. It's been arm-twisting to keep me involved to this point," Dr. Amprey added.

But the superintendent, who this month starts his third year as Baltimore's $125,000-a-year superintendent, added that he has not asked the New York search committee to take his name out of contention.

Dr. Amprey said he has been advised that "it's certainly an opportunity that I shouldn't turn my back on, I ought to at least go through the process and see what's available."

At this point, however, "I've made it clear to . . . New York that I'm not specifically interested -- and they may not be interested in me, let's be realistic about this," he added.

New York is seeking a replacement for controversial former New York City Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez, whose $195,000-a-year contract expired June 30. Dr. Fernandez had angered opponents with his support for condom distribution to students, AIDS education and curriculum changes that included material on homosexuals and lesbians.

Despite their difference in size, Baltimore and New York schools have a number of similarities and challenges typical of large urban school systems.

Both have large minority populations, for example, 81.2 percent African-American in Baltimore in the 1990-91 school year, and 81 percent black, Hispanic or Asian-Pacific Islander in New York.

That same year, nearly two-thirds of the students in both systems came from low-income families, as measured by the number who qualified for free and reduced-price meals.

And both systems wrestled with serious educational problems, including daily absentee rates of nearly 15 percent, and large numbers of students with serious math and reading problems.

Dr. Amprey said his name was passed to an executive search firm by Seymour Lachman, dean of the City University of New York, who got to know Dr. Amprey at a CUNY forum on on urban education last fall.

Dr. Amprey said the search firm first contacted him in May about the New York job and said he "made it clear that I wasn't interested."

In a July 20 telephone call to Dr. Amprey, however, Dr. Lachman told the superintendent he had submitted Dr. Amprey's name to the search committee, and it was listed among active candidates being considered.

This week, New York media reported that the search committee had drafted a list of 10 possible candidates, out of more than 20 presented by the search firm.

That list could change, however, as candidates are added and dropped, with the search committee aiming at the selection of a new chancellor by September.

Dr. Amprey said he has had a pair of hour-long telephone conversations with the search committee, but no face-to-face interviews have been set up. "I plan to be here for sure Sept. 1 to open schools in Baltimore," said Dr. Amprey.

In addition to the New York job, Dr. Amprey said he has been told that his name also has been placed in contention for the superintendency in Philadelphia, but he did not know the status of that search.

Local officials see New York's interest as a compliment to Dr. Amprey's Baltimore efforts.

"The mayor was aware that Dr. Amprey is being considered for the position in New York and believes it is the best kind of compliment on the quality of superintendent we have in Baltimore," said Clinton R. Coleman, spokesman for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

He said Mayor Schmoke and Dr. Amprey have talked, and "it is the mayor's understanding that Dr. Amprey fully intends to see the job through here, to finish the job in Baltimore."

And Dr. Phillip H. Farfel, city school board president, said the board hopes to keep Dr. Amprey in Baltimore, saying, "we have complete and total confidence in his leadership."

But City Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, who heads the council's education committee, urged Dr. Amprey to decide quickly whether he wants to remain in the running for the New York job.

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