Montgomery County community and school leaders yesterday praised school superintendent candidate Wilmer S. Cody for his low-key style and willingness to listen. But unions that represent the county's teachers questioned Cody's lack of experience with collective bargaining.
"It may make it a little difficult at a time when we are attempting to improve our collective bargaining agreement and our contract," said Walter Rogowski, executive director of the Montgomery County Education Association. Cody is currently the superintendent in Birmingham, Ala., where collective bargaining is prohibited.
Community groups that had been expected to express some hesitation about Cody because of his reputation for successful implementaion of desegregation plans said yesterday that they thought Cody would be a good choice for school superintendent.
"I don't know if it is a good sign or a bad sign that his field is desegregation," said Diane Cross, vice president of the Chevy Chase Elementary Parent-Teacher Association.
Many parents in the Chevy Chase community have objected strenuously to a recent decision by the county school board to reinstate a desegregation plan at their school. The State Board of Education informed the community this week they would hear their objections at a public hearing April 18.
Montgomery County school officials have said that Cody's experience with an urban school district and his work in desegregation was one of the most attractive features of his resume as they looked for a candidate who could help them adjust to the increasingly urbanized character of the Montgomery system.
"It will be really good just to have new blood and an experienced view from an outsider looking at the situation," Cross said.
Cody, who by all accounts is the leading contender for the superintendent's job, said yesterday that although he had no specific agenda for Montgomery schools, the three most important issues facing educators in the coming decade are equity in the classroom, the education of the poor and greater development of intellectual skills of students at all levels.
Cody made his comments after winding up two days of intensive and largely successful meetings with about 400 school and community leaders. "I was very impressed with his priorities," said Connie Gordon, a member of the Montgomery Blair High School Advisory Council. "He seemed to be concerned with things that had to do with all children."
Cody has not yet been offered the Montgomery post, but school sources said yesterday that because of the successful nature of the meetings over the last two days the 46-year-old Harvard-educated administrator most likely would be asked to sign on sometime within the next two weeks after evaluations submitted by those who met with him are reviewed.
Cody also was named a finalist yesterday in Baltimore City's search for a school superintendent, but yesterday Cody said Montgomery County would be his first choice.