When Ed Andrews was in college, he wanted to be a jazz musician. In 1957, he packed up his trumpet and went to New York to audition for Woody Herman's band.

He didn't make it.

Instead, Andrews returned to Maryland, and eventually became a top Montgomery County school administrator.

But what jazz giveth, it may take away. Despite pleas from all corners of Montgomery County's vast school system, Ed Andrews -- the superintendent -- is standing firm on his decision not to take the job permanently.

For 22 years after packing his trumpet and heading for New York, Andrews wants to go back to jazz. He also wants to go back to his motorcycle, his family and -- essentially -- himself.

"You are what you are," says the 44-year-old administrator, with the friendly grin that has won the hearts and minds of Montgomery County teachers, parents and students. "It may sound really selfish, but it's time to do what I want to do.

Andrews still has several years until he can retire, but he's hoping for an adminstrative post that won't require a school superintendent's morning-to-midnight schedule, and will allow him time for a life outside his work.

It's been nearly six months since Andrews stepped in to fill the gaping hole torn into the school system by the stormy departure of former superintendent Charles Bernardo. In that brief time, Andrews has patched things up so well that everyone wants him to stay right where he is.

But as the search for a new superintendent gathers momentum, Andrews has not even applied for the job.

"I may go back to music," Andrews said wistfully. He runs a hand through his gray hair and talks of his trumpet, now gathering dust in the closet, and the piano he rarely gets to play. There's also the Yamaha 400 he never gets to ride. And -- perhaps most importantly -- the wife, daughter and grandchildren to whom he feels he's become a stranger.

"I saw them Sunday night and I won't see them again till Tyursday at dinner," he said, motioning to the picture of two grandchildren on his desk.

As soon as Andrews, then associate superintendent for supportive services, took the superintendent's post on an interim basis last June, he was caught up in the whirlwind of meetings, conferences and paperwork that keep one of the largest school systems in the country running.

"I like to do things well and I can't do this job the way I'd like to do it. I like to sit and talk to people and that takes time, but there's just no damn time," he says.

But everyone think Ed Andrews is doing a swell job and they hate to see him stop now. Including his wife, Linda.

I'd like to see him take the job. He's doing such a marvelous job of pulling the school system together. But I'm leaving it up to him," she said.

Others are not quite so lenient. Nancy Walker, director of instructional resources, confides that a lot of pressure is being placed on Andrews to stay on.

"He knows the school system. He knows each of us and what we've trying to do. When you've got something like that, you don't let it go lightly," she said.

"I'm ambivalent. I want him to stay for the school system's sake, but I want him to be happy."

When Ed Andrews inherited the school system, there were blacks picketing in protest, Hispanos angrily marching out of meetings, school board members bickering openly in public.

"Everybody was awfully hyper," Andrews recalled, "I was afraid it was getting in the way of what we're here for. I think I made people in the system focus back on helping children, that, despite the problems, we can give up sparring with each other over what's not important and get back to what is: education."

In six months, Andrews has not been able to make the problem of imminent school closings disappear, or eliminate the gripes of minority groups or resolve the controversial senior high policy. But, for the first time in years, community leaders acknowledge, communication is open and amicable.

Parents from schools targeted for closing, teachers who resent the hiring freeze, students who don't want to be penalized in grades for absences say they may disagree with Andrews, but they like his fairness and candor.

Dr. J. David Eberly, president of the Montgomery County teachers' union, said, I'm convinced he is one of the most competent, humane people in the school system. The teachers feel he's really trying to improve relations between teachers and the board."

Chris Fry, a 16-year-old member of the Montgomery County Region of Maryland Student Councils said, "I think he's great. He's more concerned with kids than with bureaucracy. He's always willing to listen."

Marion Leach, PTA president of Sligo Junior High, a school Andrews targeted for closing, said, "He drove all the way from Cumberland where his father was in intensive care to be at one of our meetings. We appreciate that. We know he's trying his darndest to be fair."

Andrews' father, James Edward Andrews Sr., 78, died Saturday.

In fact, trying to find an Andrews critic is like trying to find the Abominable Snowman.

"I don't want to make him sound like something out of a fairy tale, but he's outstanding," said Forrest Shearin, who worked with Andrews in the personnel department for more than a decade. "He's a concerned and incredible human being. But he's also his own man. He will disagree with anyone if there's grounds for disagreement."

He used to be my boss and I can't say enough about the guy," said Stephen Rohr, now director of personnel. "They're not going to find anyone better in the United States."

Director of student affairs Michael Michaelson said, "I don't think Ed has a handle on how important he is to so many people. The students really respond to him. He's got the kind of honesty kids appreciate."

Back in the superintendent's suite, Ed Andrews pulls the string of the "executive teddy bear" given him by admiring students.

"You are a born leader," it chirps.

Andrews looks at it and sighs, "It's hard. This is the best superintendent's job in the country. You really have a chance here to do something for the kids."

For an instant, the dilemma he's agonized over plays across his face. Then he puts the teddy bear down resolutely.

He shrugs, "But you've got to set your priorities. It's nice the way everyone feels about me. But they'll do all right."