Schools chief kept secret Board has delayed announcing selection until meeting June 10


It's been two weeks since the Carroll County Board of Education selected a successor to replace Superintendent Brian L. Lockard, who will retire at the end of June.

The county's education community is buzzing about who his replacement might be. But the identity of the person who will hold the county's top public education job remains unknown, as do the applicants.

Board members are expected to name the new superintendent at a meeting June 10.

"It's a well-guarded secret," said Ken Pool, dean of graduate affairs at Western Maryland College, which has worked on programs with county schools. "I wish I knew. There are a couple of initiatives I'd like to get going on."

The school board has always maintained strict confidentiality in the selection of superintendents, and most boards in Maryland adhere to the same procedures, according to the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

Despite the intense public interest, school board members in Carroll and other jurisdictions say that choosing a superintendent is a personnel matter and therefore confidential. Keeping the process out of the public eye protects applicants who don't want their employers to know of their interest in a job and candidates who are passed over, board members say.

"The folks who are unsuccessful have to go on with their lives, and that continuation shouldn't be hampered or encumbered by the fact that they applied for or were considered for the post of superintendent," said C. Scott Stone, Carroll school board president.

Susan R. Buswell, executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, said that Florida is the only state she is aware of that requires a school superintendent search to be public.

"I understand it has severely affected their pool of applicants," said Buswell. "I have spoken with candidates who indicated they arrived in Florida without the full understanding it would be a public process and withdrew."

Maryland candidates

In choosing a superintendent, the Carroll school board focused on candidates from Maryland. Board members said they wanted someone familiar with state education reform initiatives.

From a pool of 11 applicants, the board interviewed five. The candidates were asked the same questions, including: What is your vision for Carroll schools? What is the appropriate method for staff evaluations? How do you deal with people who don't agree with you?

Until the announcement of the appointment, Buswell said, the board could be negotiating the superintendent's contract. She also suggested that the board might have scheduled the announcement for next month so that it wouldn't interfere with the end of the school year.

"In some ways it keeps the system moving ahead because they're not creating a lame-duck situation for the current superintendent who has to get through the rest of the school year," Buswell said.

Parents seek role

Parent groups say they understand the board's reasons for keeping the superintendent applicants confidential, but would like a more formal role in the selection process.

Linda Murphy, president of the Carroll County Council of PTAs, said she's confident the board took parents' concerns into account during the selection process. But she said she would like to see the board meet with parent groups before beginning a search or include PTA representatives in the screening and interview stages.

As part of the most recent Baltimore County superintendent search, Dunbar Brooks, president of the Baltimore County school board, said the board interviewed community organizations, including PTA groups and the NAACP, to gain a better understanding of what they wanted.

"It seems to me that you'd want to have some representative from the community to at least be a part of the interview process, just to get questions or concerns on the table," said Carmela Veit, president of the Maryland PTA.

Although the Carroll school board has not included parents in an official capacity in the selection process, board members say they are sensitive to and aware of parent concerns based on information from public forums and informal communications.

"I think the public is involved through their elected representatives -- the board members," said Carolyn L. Scott, a Carroll school board member for 10 years. "The superintendent is our delegate for running the school system on a day-by-day basis, and it's our responsibility to make sure we have the best person we can work with."

Pub Date: 5/31/98

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