The original field of 62 candidates who want to become the new superintendent of the District of Columbia school system was trimmed to 10 yesterday, with seven of the finalists educators from outside the city, according to school board sources.
The narrowed list of applicants does not include the name of acting school superintendent James T. Guines, but he could still be drafted for permanent appointment to the position. He took the temporary job until July, but has been campaigning hard for the full-time appointment. School board members have said that if they are not satisfied with any of the finalists they have reserved the right to draft Guines for the permanent post.
At the top of the list, according to sources, is William J. Leary, the superintendent of the Rockville Center Union Free School District in New York and former head of the Boston school district during the often-violent, tumultuous years of court-ordered school busing for desegregation.
Also among the finalists are Jerome Jones, superintendent of schools in Providence, R.I. and a former junior high school teacher here, and Floretta D. McKenzie, a former U.S. Department of Education official and former acting D.C. school superintendent.
The only two fianlists currently working inside the D.C. school system are associate superintendents Reuben G. Pierce and Andrew Jenkins, the sources said. They said Pierce finished third in the lengthy screening of the 62 applicants and was the highest ranking among the applicants considered to be "local" candidates.
The names of the other five finalists could not be learned immediately.
By the criteria used in the process, candidates received points for the length of their experience in the field of education, whether they had administrative experience in a large urban school system, their years in education and whether they hold doctoral degrees. The initial cutoff for becoming a finalist was a score of at least 75 points out of a possible 96.
The sources said that the search panel, comprised of schol board members and various prominent local residents, decided earlier to reserve the right to review other candidates who did not make the initial cutoff, but who came close. Late yesterday, after only seven persons scored 75 points to make the cut-off, the committee decided to review the names of three additional candidates.
All three of those candidates were from outside the school system, the sources said.
Under the selection committee procedures, the names of the applicants and their applications were supposed to be kept separate. But one source said that with only 62 candidates and many of them generally well known in education circles, most members of the search panel could figure out the names of the persons on the applications they were reviewing.
Members of the search committee have said that the race of the applicants will not be a factor. But some school board members have said privately that it would be difficult to name a white superintendent to head the overwhelmingly black D.C. school system. Leary, the top finalist based on the scoring system used by the search committee, is white.
The 10 candidates will be interviewed by the search panel starting May 5 and continuing through May 13. Panel members were asked to submit their questions for the candidates by Monday.
The board has said it intends to name the new superintendent by July 1.
The board has set as its priority the hiring of a superintendent "with an educational philosophy consistent with our educational thrust," said Board Members Carol Schwartz (Ward 3), a member of the search panel. Originally, that meant concentrating on local candidates with experience in city schools, but the search was expanded in mid-February to include applicants from outside the Washington area.
The new superintendent will take over a problem plagued school system in the wake of the resignation of popular superintendent Vincent E. Reed, a Regan administration education appointee. Reed, a back-to-basics educator, resigned late last year, citing political bickering and infighting among board members that he said ws hampering his ability to run the system effectively.