The new superintendent of Arlington schools should be sensitive to the county's economically, culturally and racially varied population and not feel threatened by citizen participation in school affairs, parents, administrators and school employes said last night.

A handful of citizens showed up at a publlic hearing to tell two consultants assisting in the search for a superintendent what kind of person they want to see in charge of Arlington's 15,000-student school system.

The meeting capped a day of discussions between Carroll F. Johnson and Michael D. Usdan, both of the National School Boards Association, and about 70 teachers, principals, employes and administrators.

Johnson and Usdan, hired at a cost of $10,500, are helping in the search for a successor to Charles E. Nunley, who announced early this fall that he will resign June 30 at the end of his first four-year term.

Nunley, who has clashed with the school board, teachers and community groups, has been criticized for being "out of sync" with Arlington's diverse urban character and unresponsive to a public that tends to be deeply involved in school issues.

The new superintendent must be open to the advice and questions of citizens, said Marjorie McCreery, executive director of the Arlington Education Association. "I would not be surprised if a person coming from outside Arlington would feel threatened by the amount of gratuitous expertise the community brings," she said.

The person "should be one that is going to keep in mind that this community has several small communities within it," said Rae Kurasz, a telecommunications specialist in the county's Career Center.

Fairfax County, the nation's 10th largest school system, is also seeking a superintendent. William J. Burkholder, 55, announced Sept. 27 he would resign, following a week of public outcry over his proposed $157,000 contract.

Arlington's new superintendent's salary will be between $65,000 and $70,000, with negotiable fringe benefits. Nunley earns $63,956.