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Baltimore schools chief says he's here to stay


Once again, Baltimore schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said he's here to stay -- at least for now.

About six months after pulling out of the race for New York City schools chancellor, Dr. Amprey said yesterday that he had withdrawn from the running for top schools posts in Philadelphia and Fort Worth, Tex.

His explanations for the withdrawal of his applications sounded familiar.

He spoke of his commitment to the city where he grew up and attended public schools.

He spoke of the need for continuity.

He spoke of concerns -- his own and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's -- about sowing doubts about the stability in the school system's leadership at a time when the city is undertaking numerous reform efforts.

"In all honesty, this is very difficult . . . and I guess everybody wants to be wanted," said Dr. Amprey, announcing his withdrawal, made formal in letters sent this week.

"It's also very clear to me that Baltimore is my hometown. It's where I live, and it's the system that educated me. I don't think one can be more fulfilled than to have this opportunity and to serve the system that educated him.

"One of the decisions I had to make personally was: 'Where do I really want to be?' And I want to be here. I want to be in Baltimore."

Still, he would not go so far as to say he won't seek other jobs.

"I've lived long enough to know that you just never say never. So I can't look down the road, and I'm not going to tell you that I'm always going to feel the way I feel now. But this is how I feel now, and I think it's how I'll feel for at least the immediate and foreseeable future, and we'll just have to see what comes as a result."

News of his latest applications came two weeks ago, as Dr. Amprey, in his third year as superintendent, continued negotiating a contract with the city.

Dr. Amprey, 49, who is paid $125,000 a year, is in the final stages of renegotiating his contract.

He was criticized by some who viewed the applications as attempts to gain leverage for a more lucrative contract. Others said his actions heightened the sense of urgency to sign a contract that has been in negotiation since early September.

But Dr. Amprey said his decision to apply had nothing to do with the contract negotiations.

Rather, he said, he sent the resumes to explore possibilities after being contacted by search firms and school officials for the two cities.

"Obviously, like anyone else, I like to be paid appropriately," he said yesterday. "And I like to make as much money as I can as we all can, but the important thing to me and has always been is to do the right thing with my life."

The superintendent acknowledged that Mayor Schmoke had urged him to withdraw his applications.

"I'm convinced that he was concerned about the confusion," Dr. Amprey said. "I think it was important to get this cleared up."

In a statement, Mayor Schmoke said: "Dr. Amprey has made it real clear to me that he loves our children, and he wants to devote all of his time to our children, and I couldn't be more pleased."

His press secretary, Clinton R. Coleman, said the mayor wanted Dr. Amprey to withdraw "to put this issue [of his possible departure] behind us."

Mary Pat Clarke, the City Council president, welcomed news of Dr. Amprey's decision and praised his commitment to the city.

"It's good to complete the work we begin," she said. "We have a lot of work to do in the Baltimore City public schools."

During Dr. Amprey's tenure, the school system has launched several highly visible reforms, including turning over the operation of nine schools to privately run Educational Alternatives Inc., bringing in the Sylvan Learning Centers to provide tutoring, and giving much more decision-making authority and budget control to individual schools.

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