The Montgomery County public school system has opened its doors a little wider for community participation in the selection of principals.

Under a pilot program approved last week by the board of education, parents will be given the opportunity to help select principals in their children's schools. If the principal's post becomes vacant and is slated to be filled by transferring an experienced principal from elsewhere in the system, parents will participate directly in the process of establishing criteria for the job and selecting among applicants. Students will be allowed to take part in the process at the senior high level. The new program will be in trial operation until Aug. 31.

The school system already provides for parental involvement in selection of principals when persons are being promoted - but not transferred - to that position.

Under the pilot program, when there is a position for which experienced principals are to be considered, the school system's personnel department will ask the school staff, parents for suggestions on the criteria to be used in selecting the principal. After the personnel department identifies candidates who match the criteria, a community-staff committee will interview those candidates and assess their qualifications. The personnel department then will consider the committee's opinions, as well as other factors, in making its recommendation to the superintendent, who then will make his recommendations to the board.

Should any candidate object to the pilot program, that candidate will be exempt from the process.

Sandra King-Shaw, president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-teacher Associations, which spearheaded the move for the new program, noted that it does not guarantee community satisfaction with the final choice since the superintendent and school board retain the power to make the final decision.

"But that's their preprogative and their obligation," she said. "As long as the system has listened to what the community has said, then we're satisfied."

The parent-teacher council first became concerned about the matter about a year ago, she said, when one community wanted to take part in selecting its elementary school principal but was told it could not do so because a principal was being transferred, rather than promoted. "This is a community that prides itself on community involvement," whe said, "and we felt the community also ought to be involved when a principal is transferred."

Originally, the parent-teacher group wanted community involvement to be mandatory when a principal was being transferred, but some of the associations representing principals and teachers opposed that requirement. The Montgomery School Principals continues to oppose the new program but says that any member wishing to participate may do so.

"We felt the law gives the superintendent the prerogative to transfer principals and we support that prerogative," said Anson Wilcox, president of the group.

Elsewhere in the metropolitan area, neither Prince George's County nor Fairfax County provides for community involvement in principal selection or transfer. The District of Columbia provides for such involvement in both situations.

Representatives of the community, students, principals and the school system as a whole will be asked to review the Montgomery County pilot program in September and recommend to the board whether the program should be continued.