John B. Slaughter, chancellor of the University of Maryland campus at College Park, will head a 100-member committee that will advise the Prince George's County schools on a new system of magnet schools aimed at furthering desegregation in the county, it was announced last night.
The committee, whose members will be named by the county Board of Education next month, is one component of the desegregation plan scheduled for implementation in the fall. The five-year plan, created by Superintendent John A. Murphy, will establish 30 magnet schools and funnel additional funds to 10 predominantly black schools.
"We believe a fully desegregated school system can be achieved in Prince George's County with the assistance and leadership of Dr. Slaughter," said Board Chairman Angelo Castelli, who announced Slaughter's appointment at a public meeting. "He's probably the leading black educator in the country today."
Slaughter could not be reached for comment, but in a prepared statement he said that the county school system "has the opportunity to become a national model of effective and creative desegregation . . . . "
The naming of Slaughter came in the wake of complaints by black county residents that blacks are underrepresented in the county school administration. Black students make up 57 percent of the county's 105,000 students.
School spokesman Brian J. Porter said Slaughter's appointment is an effort to ensure that the magnet plan goes beyond "parochial political concerns." "So often we have tried to solve things on our own," Porter said, adding that Slaughter "brings with him a universal knowledge that is more national in perspective."
Slaughter, 51, holds a doctoral degree in engineering sciences and headed the National Science Foundation for two years before his appointment at College Park. He is one of the few blacks to head a major university campus in the nation, and the first in Maryland.
The committee Slaughter will head will implement Murphy's effort to involve the community in the magnet plan. The plan is designed to promote desegregation by offering special programs to attract students from segregated neighborhood schools to integrated magnet schools. The proposal, which was approved by the school board, has been submitted to federal Judge Frank A. Kaufman in Baltimore as part of a 13-year-old desegregation lawsuit filed by the county NAACP.
The committee is charged with advising school administrators on community opinion, suggesting what magnet programs should be added in the future and monitoring whether schools meet court-established racial guidelines.