Aiming at a May 1 deadline for naming a new superintendent, the Arlington school board has whittled the number of applicants for the $52,000-a-year post to "half a dozen," board chairman O. U. Johnson said last week.

The board has received more than 50 applications for the job of overseeing the 15,000-student school system, according to school officials.

Citing the confidential nature of the screening process, Johansen declined to reveal the names of the top contenders for the post or where they are from.

"Some of them have requested confidentiality because they are employed in other school systems and it may not be known there that they are seeking the job here," Johansen said. "(Revealing their names) could cause public relations problems for them in their home districts."

The vacancy was created when Larry Cuban resigned March 1 after seven years as superintendent. J. Boyd Webb, associate superintendent for instruction, has been serving as acting superintendent.

Two of the applicants already have been interviewed, Johansen said, and the school board expects to interview the others within the next few weeks.

"We've narrowed (the number) down to the vicinity of half a dozen, but we could end up interviewing more" if those applicants don't meet the criteria the board is looking for, Johansen said.

A special citizens advisory panel appointed to establish criteria for the job told the board last month that the new superintendent should have managerial abilities, be sensitive to human relations issue, be experienced in a school system similar to Arlington and have educational philosophies compatible with those of the school board.

On the last point, the advisory panel suggested the new superintendent agree on the need to emphasize "basics" at the elementary level, but also be receptive to a diverse educational program.

"I can't speak for the school board," Johnasen said when asked if some criteria were being given more weight than others, "but I would like to see someone who has a good bit of experience, someone who has been a principal or (above).

"If possible, I would like someone who has had the kind of experience a superintendent might have who has served in a school system like Arlington's -- not just in terms of numbers, but who has had experience dealing with minorities and a large intellectual community . . . (because) we have a large number of college graduates (with college-bound children)."

Minorities account for nearly 35 percent of Arlington's enrollment, and school officials expect that percentage to increase over the next few years. Overall, however, student population in Arlington has been declining steadily in the last decade.

Former superintendent's Cuban tenure had been marked in recent years by frequent clashes with the Republican majority on the County Board over educational and fiscal policies. As a result, several citizens involved in outlining the attributes they would like to see in Cuban's successor emphasized that the new superintendent should be adept at working with the County Board.

Currently, the County Board and school board are debating what the county's contribution to next year's school budget should be. The school board has proposed that the county fund $46.9 million of the proposed $60 million budget. But the County Board already has indicated it is prepared to slash that figure to meet its own spending guidelines.