Schools Chief Interviews End In Consensus
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Key Prince George's County school officials, politicians and civic activists are lining up behind superintendents from Kansas and Southern California as their top choices to become the next county schools chief.
The third finalist, an administrator of Brooklyn public schools, appeared to falter during her audition this week in Upper Marlboro.
School board members, who have the final call, said they are weighing equally their three top contenders: Superintendents W.L. "Tony" Sawyer of the Topeka Public Schools, John E. Deasy of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and Regional Superintendent Marcia V. Lyles of the New York City Department of Education.
After a three-day rollout of the finalists ended yesterday, board members were hearing little enthusiasm for Lyles from dozens of influential players invited to grill the candidates, according to interviews with participants.
"I think there's two good candidates here," said state Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), praising Deasy and Sawyer. "Both impressed me." Pinsky said Lyles "may not be the right match for the county at this time."
Pinsky's views echoed those of others. Several school officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they said they feared retribution said Lyles had not impressed them or union leaders in closed-door meetings. None said she had gained ground.
One school board member who was asked about those assessments did not dispute them. Lyles could not be reached last night for comment at a telephone number she provided to reporters.
Yet it was still possible that Lyles could emerge with the prize: leadership of the 133,000-student system, a job paying a minimum of $250,000 a year, answerable to an entire county hungry for higher-performing schools.
"The only thing I can say for the record is that the decision is open," board member Judy Mickens-Murray (Upper Marlboro) said yesterday. "The board will over the next few days make a decision."
Board Chairman Beatrice P. Tignor (Upper Marlboro), asked to handicap the contest, said she was still trying to gauge community reaction.
Sawyer, 53, had a series of public and private appearances yesterday after Monday's introduction of Deasy and Tuesday's of Lyles.
Born in Harlem, Sawyer spent most of his career as a teacher and administrator in New York. From 1999 to 2003, he oversaw 41 schools with 46,000 students as the superintendent of Manhattan high schools. He handled crises including the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which he said forced him to instantly reorganize two schools.