The Montgomery County Board of Education failed on nine ballots yesterday to elect a new president, as its conservative majority divided between two candidates.

Marian L. Greenblatt, who served as president in the 1978-79 school year, received three votes, as did Carol Wallace, vice president last year.

The board named Joseph R. Barse temporary chairman so it can proceed with its business. State law requires that a board president be chosen by Jan. 10; another vote is planned for the board's Thursday night meeting.

The seven-member board's two liberals forced the split among the conservatives into the open, with member Blair Ewing moving that the voting be public rather than by secret ballot, and Elizabeth W. Spencer staying neutral by voting for herself.

"There are five philosophically conservative members on the board who are saying they can carry the board. They've got more than enough votes . . . to elect a president," Spencer said.

Time after time the voting was the same: Greenblatt voted for herself and was backed by Eleanor D. Zappone and Suzanne K. Peyser. Wallace voted for herself and got the votes of Barse and Ewing.

Greenblatt said during a recess in the voting that she should be president because she led all candidates in number of votes in both the primary and general election this year.

Barse said it was Wallace's turn to be president because she was vice president last year, and argued that she is able to talk with all sides on school board issues.

The differences between Greenblatt and Wallace are more personal than philosophical, both wanting to be in a position to speak for the board's conservatives. Greenblatt has been the unofficial leader of the conservatives since 1978. Wallace, a former special education teacher, was in a bitter dispute with Greenblatt a year ago over the board's vice presidency, which Greenblatt wanted Zappone to have.

The two-year-old conservative majority, which has adopted policies to make attendance, homework and testing requirements tougher, was strengthened in last month's election with the addition of Peyser, who replaced a liberal who did not run for re-election. Greenblatt and Ewing were both re-elected to four-year terms. The other board seats are not up for election unitl 1982. t

Zappone and Greenblatt are close friends, and Peyser ran on a slate with Greenblatt in November election. Ewing has opposed Greenblatt on board policies since the two were first elected to the board in 1976.

The new school board will be addressing the problem of school closings again, with a 15-year master facilities plan due to be completed next spring by state and local education and government planners.

The conservative members of the board said they also intend to adopt a new elementary school policy as a companion to the controversial senior high policy the board implemented last September. The senior high policy reduced the number of allowed unexcused absences from 10 to 5 before a student loses course credit, mandates departmental final exams in all major academic subjects and calls for developing countywide exams in math and English.