Parents and students will begin today to participate in the selection of six people who will serve as regional superintendents in the District's public school system. Candidates for the high-ranking jobs will be considered in a series of six meetings.

When the District school system was decentralized into regions in July 1974 six superintendents, who each supervise about 30 schools, were appointed on a temporary basis. The board of education late last year approved a selection process that includes parent participation.

Four of the incumbent superintendents - Dr. Dorothy Johnson of Region 2, Napoleon Lewis of Region 3, Gilbert A. Diggs of Region 5 and Dr. Gary Freeman of Region 6 - have applied to be returned to the jobs they now hold. William Rice of Region I plans to retire at the end of the school year and Dr. Margaret Labat has said that she will take another job.

The selection process is another effort to give citizens a voice in school personnel decisions, according to Conrad P. Smith, board of education member from Ward I.

Community groups such as PTAs and the D.C. Citizens for Better Public Education Inc., a non-profit watchdog agency, generally have applauded these attempts. The system for selecting regional superintendents has drawn criticism however, for not providing for enough parent participation.

"This system is fashioned after the principal selection system" at individual schools, said Robert D. Boyd, executive director of D.C. Citizens for Better Public Education. "The proportion of parent-school system membership in the principal selection has worked quite well. . . . The problem comes when the regions have about 30 schools and you apply the same formula."

Education board member-at-large Elizabeth C. Kane agreed that "the impact of any individual school is diluted," but added that "I don't know how we could do it more representatively than through the PTAs. If it doesn't work wecan change it."

Five-member panels, including two members chosen by PTAs and Home School Associations, will rate the applicants and send the names to D.C. Schools Superintedent Vincent Reed.

Reed "is expected" to forward the top-ranked candidate for each region to the board of education, according to an official in the schools personnel office. Reed can choose the second- or third-ranked applicant, however, if he does not agree with a selection panel's first choice. The board, which can accept or reject the superintendent's recommendation, is expected to make the appointments in mid-June.

About 100 persons have applied for the six jobs, according to the personnel office.

PTAs or Home School Associations at each District school met early this year to choose candidates for the screening and selection panels. These candidatesmet in February to elect delegates and alternates from their number to the six regional screening and selection panels.

Each Screening panel was composed of a high school senior student, two parent representatives, an educator with administrative experience and a member of the school administration. The job of each screening panels was to choose up to 15 candidates for consideration by the selection panel.

Selection panel meetings are scheduled for today and tomorrow for regionl; April 20 and May 2, Region 2; May 3 and 4, Region 5; May 9 and 10, Region 6; May 19 and 10, Region 4, and May 24 and 26, Region 2.

It is unclear whether the selection panel meetings, at which applicants are to be interviewed, will be open to the public. A school personnel office spokesman said they would be closed.

Board member kane said, however, that she believes the panels can open meetings if they wish to. "I think they should all consider" opening their sessions to "give the community a view" of the applicants.