Prince George's County School Superintendent John A. Murphy and Paul Vance, the deputy superintendent in Montgomery County, are among the five finalists for the top education post in Kansas City, Mo.

A three-member search committee of the Kansas City Board of Education selected the finalists Monday night from a field that included 40 applicants and 15 educators who were nominated by others, said Julia Hill, the board's president.

Hill said that Murphy and Vance were recommended for the job and did not submit their own applications.

The other finalists are Cecil Carter, former superintendent for the Savannah-Chatham County (Ga.) public schools; Shirl E. Gilbert II, deputy superintendent in Indianapolis, and Franklin Smith, superintendent in Dayton, Ohio.

Hill said Murphy "seems to have a good track record in urban schools." Like Prince George's, Kansas City has been operating under a court-ordered desegregation program involving the extensive use of magnet schools.

With 35,000 students and 82 schools, however, the Kansas City system is much smaller than the Prince George's system, which has 108,000 students, and the Montgomery system, which has 103,000.

Hill said the search committee wants to interview the finalists in person "as soon as possible," but does not have a target date by which it plans to make a selection. The current Kansas City superintendent's contract expires on June 30, she said.

Neither Murphy nor Vance, a contender for the superintendent's post in Montgomery, could be reached for comment last night. However, Brian J. Porter, a Montgomery schools spokesman, said Vance had said earlier in the day that he is not interested in being considered for the job in Kansas City.

"He is flattered, but he is not interested in being a candidate for that position," Porter said. "Right now, he is interested in remaining in Montgomery County."