A total of 62 persons, including current school superintendents, college professors and a high school principal, are seeking to become the new D.C. School superintendent.
Only 13 of the applicants come from the Washington area, and only three are known to be current school system employes, even though school board members have said candidates from the Washington area familiar with the D.C. system would have an edge over outsiders.
The number of applicants for the job is far fewer than the 106 who applied in 1973 -- the last time an extensive search for a superintendent was undertaken and the time when the board chose Barbara Sizemore, who later resigned in a tumultuous controversy. Some school officials say the $50,112 annual salary, lower than that offered by many large urban school systems, may have deterred some educators from applying, in addition to the problems of low student achievement, violence in the schools and budget restraints that the new superintendent must face.
Others say the reputation of the school board for political backbiting and pettiness, and the fact that former superintendent Vincent E. Reed left saying he was "fed up" with the board, may also have scared off prospective candidates.
Taking the D.C. job, said one Baltimore deputy superintendent whose name had been mentioned as a prospective candidate, "would be like being on a spit and being turned over hot coals."
The 15-member superintendent search committee, which includes five school board members, began screening the applications this week, but under a "blind" procedure whereby the applicants' names have remained secret and the committee members have seen only resumes with a code number. They will begin interviewing the applicants about April 21 and then present the names of six finalists to the 11-member school board for consideration by June 1.
The board has said it intends to name the new superintendent July 1.
One member of the search committee, at-large school board member Barbara Lett Simmons, complained that the committee took too long before it advertised the job and then did not recruit any candidates. She said that the committee's staff should have contacted professional education organizations to get names of "clearly talented people" who might be suited for the D.C. position.
She also contended that the committee spent too much time developing a rating system for screening the applicants and did not even know how many had applied until last week.
Among the applicants from within the school system are Reuben Pierce, associate superintendent in charge of educational services, who for years was the regional superintendent in charge of schools in Anacostia. He was the first regional superintendent to set standards for promotions in his schools and to stop the practice of automatically promoting students each year. He also originated the highly successful advanced math-science program for students at Ballou High School.
Andrew Jenkins, associate superintdent in charge of educational operations and a protege of Reed, has also applied, sources said. Until this January, Jenkins was the regional superintendent in charge of many of the city's most troubled schools in Southeast Washington and was generally highly regarded by school officials for his administrative ability.
A third applicant from within the system is Dennis Johnson, the tough-talking principal at Ballou High School, one of the city's most violent schools, who openly criticized the school system's central administration recently for failing to support principals and teachers adequately on the front line in the schools. Born in South Philadelphia, Johnson had been a principal in Boston, Trenton, and Pittsburgh before coming to D.C., but has never been a high-level administrator in D.C.
Floretta McKenzie, a former U.S. Department of Education official who was an acting superintendent of the D.C. school system in the early 1970s, because she recieved "so much encouragement" from some city residents. McKenzie, one of eight women to seek the job, served as Deputy superintendent in Montgomery County until 1979 and is currently an educational consultant.
Jerome Jones, superintendent of schools in Providence, R.I., for the past five years, has also applied for the job. Jones said he has had broad experience working in urban systems. Early in his career, he taught at Douglass Junior High School here and was corrdinator of Afro-American studies for the Philadelphia schools and superintendent of schools in Essex County, N.J., which includes the large, urban, predominantly black school system in Newark.
The fate of Acting Superintendent James T. Guines, the associate superintendent for instruction for the 10 years prior to assuming the superintendency in January, hangs in the balance. He wants the job and has been campaigning for it. He became acting superintendent under an agreement with the board that he would not apply for the job, but could be drafted by the board if it did not find another suitable candidate.
"There's been no wellspring of support rising up for him," said one board member on the search committee who asked not to be named.