It's quality over quantity in schools' applicant pool


As of yesterday, 20 people had applied to be the next superintendent of the Anne Arundel County public schools.

Though the number of applicants is lower than for other recent superintendent searches in the state, it's the quality of the applicants that matters, said Bea Gordon, who is conducting the search for the county's next schools' chief.

"There have been comparisons with some searches that had 60 or 20. ... What we're looking for are people who meet the qualifications," Gordon said. "There is a difference between anybody that sends in a resume and somebody who completes the screening."

The job is technically "open until filled," said Gordon, the lead consultant for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, but she said she thinks the applicant pool is probably as large as it is going to get.

The school board is scheduled to get a list of qualified applicants from Gordon on March 25 in a closed session.

Though Gordon would not discuss in detail about who had applied for the job, which will pay at least $200,000 a year, she described the candidates as more than capable and said the search was national in scope.

School board Vice President Tricia Johnson said she is unconcerned about the number of candidates.

"That's fantastic news," she said of the 20 applicants, though board members haven't been told who they are. "We're excited to have a good candidate pool."

When Superintendent Eric J. Smith abruptly announced in August that he would be resigning in November, just after the start of the last year of his four-year-contract, some parents wondered whether the public acrimony between Smith and the board would affect the search for his replacement.

That hasn't been the case, Gordon said.

"It certainly hasn't been a deterrent," she said. "We're looking for the right match. Because that wasn't the right match with Eric Smith, it doesn't mean there's something wrong with the Anne Arundel board or with Eric Smith. ... It just wasn't a great match."

Nancy Mann, a longtime Anne Arundel educator who retired last year, has been serving as interim superintendent for the 75,000-student system.

Gordon said there was a time when 60 to 80 candidates would apply for a vacancy, and she said she's conducted searches in Maryland where as many as 40 people applied for a superintendent position. But times have changed, she said.

"Nationally, there's a lot more that superintendents are required to do. They have [the federal] No Child Left Behind [law], they have much more accountability ... and I think there are a lot more pressures and a lot more opportunities outside of being the superintendent," Gordon said.

"It just depends ... on timing, and what the board is looking for and whether people are at a point where they want to make a change," she added.

Gordon and her staff are in the process of making sure applicants meet state requirements to be a superintendent, conducting telephone interviews and checking references.

After the board gets information on all of the applicants on March 25, the members will decide whom they want to interview, Gordon said.

Those interviews will be done in closed sessions and afterward, the board will narrow the field to three or four finalists who will meet with the public and spend a day visiting the school system.

Those visits are scheduled for the week of April 24.

"We anticipate by the second week of May the board should be able to identify their selection," Gordon said.

The new superintendent will start in

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