William J. (Jack) Burkholder, deputy Fairfax County school superintendent, has emerged as the top contender to replace Superintendent Linton Deck Jr., who resigned last week under pressure from the School Board.

Five of the 10 board members said Burkholder, who was named acting superintendent when Deck resigned, would be their first choice to fill the job on a permanent basis. The board must take a vote before it can officially offer him the position; it is expected to discuss a replacement for Deck in closed session at its regular meeting July 8.

Burkholder, 53, would not comment on whether board members have discussed the job with him or whether he will accept the position if it is offered.

He turned down the board's offer of the superintendency in 1979 after S. John Davis resigned to become state superintendent of education. The board appointed Burkholder acting superintendent for about six months and eventually selected Deck, who was superintendent of the Orange County, Fla., school system.

Burkholder said this week that when the job was open three years ago he was wrestling with a personnel decision involving early retirement from the school system. He said he since has decided against early retirement and expects "to be here for awhile."

"I think he will accept the job," said board member Gerald A. Fill, who said he favors Burkholder.

Burkholder "would be the guy to fill the bill," said board member Carmin Caputo. "He is loved by one and all throughout the school system."

Board members said they have discussed no plans to begin a national search for a new superintendent.

Associates describe Burkholder as an affable, easy-going man, a contrast to Deck, who they said could be overbearing and arrogant. Board members also said Burkholder is extremely knowledgeable about the operation of the school system after his 19 years as administrator.

"The board is very comfortable with Burkholder," said Vice Chairman Mary E. Collier.

"We have found him good to work with," said Marilyn Rogers, president of the Fairfax Education Association, the county's largest teacher organization.

The school board requested Deck's resignation after months of mounting criticism from county officials, teachers and community leaders over his performance as superintendent. Deck's annual salary was $68,240.

The board appointed Burkholder acting superintendent as of July 17 and has 60 days from that date under state law to select a permanent replacement, although the state usually will grant extensions, according to Collier.

The Fairfax schools hired Burkholder in 1956 as an elementary school teacher; he worked his way up to deputy superintendent for support services, the system's second-ranking administrator.