Leaders of the Baltimore County NAACP said yesterday they vehemently oppose the candidacy of interim schools Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione as the next chief of the 102,000-student district.
Chapter Vice President Bernetha George criticized Dr. Marchione -- a 40-year veteran of the county's public schools -- as part of a system that had long neglected black children and produced persistent achievement gaps along racial lines.
"The record of African-American students during his tenure is dismal," Dr. George said at a Catonsville news conference.
The school system's own studies have put the spotlight on racial inequities. Black students, who make up 28 percent of the student body, consistently score lower than their white peers on the Scholastic Assessment Test and the functional and statewide school performance tests, according to a district self-evaluation last year. That report also said that black students are underrepresented in advanced courses, and are in special education classes and on suspension lists at a higher rate than their white counterparts.
Dr. Marchione declined to comment on the NAACP's statements yesterday.
"He has said all along he's not going to comment on the superintendent search. He's made it clear that he wants the job," said school district spokesman Donald Mohler. "He's going to let the process play out."
Dr. Marchione, 64, is among 25 candidates from across the country who have submitted applications for the $121,000-a-year post. The job came open in August when the school board ended the tempestuous tenure of former Superintendent Stuart D. Berger and bought out his contract for $300,000. Dr. Marchione, a former deputy superintendent who was a candidate for the superintendency four years ago, was appointed to the job until a permanent replacement was chosen. By law, the school board must have the new chief in place by June 30, but members expect to make the decision this spring. The Teachers Association of Baltimore County has endorsed Dr. Marchione.
Over the past 40 years, Dr. Marchione rose through the ranks as a math and science teacher, a junior high assistant principal, a high school principal and an administrator. Supporters say he has brought a welcome calm to a district weary of controversy.
The local NAACP, with 500 members, is the second African-American group to indicate opposition to Dr. Marchione.
In December, the Coalition of Concerned African-American Organizations did not name Dr. Marchione specifically, but called for a leader who had served a full term as superintendent, which he has not.
The group, which represents 35 county organizations, also called for someone who "understands the political make-up of the county and someone who has an understanding of multiculturalism."
Dr. George, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, took issue yesterday with recent school district practices, such as a zero-tolerance disciplinary policy that brings police in when children fight in school. She also questioned a proposed $5 million program that would place veteran teachers as mentors in schools with a disproportionate number of inexperienced teachers, many of them predominantly black schools.
Dr. Marchione has allowed such schools to have a "high proportion of new teachers who are incapable of teaching where they have been assigned," she said in a prepared statement at the Banneker Center.