Prince George's County School Superintendent John A. Murphy, whose innovation in boosting achievement among minority students has earned him national recognition, was offered the top education post in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school system, early today. He said he is "more than likely to accept."

Reached at his home, Murphy told a reporter that he has not formally accepted the offer because he is required to ask the Prince George's Board of Education to release him from his contract, which still has 16 months to run. He said he will do that today.

Some board members have said it is unlikely that Murphy will be required to complete his second four-year contract in Prince George's.

A statement by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board referred to Murphy as "the new superintendent" of that school district. The board said it was impressed with Murphy's "leadership and proven track record" and that Murphy is expected to take over the superintendent's job there on July 1 at an annual salary of $144,000.

Murphy, 55, whose career plans have been the subject of conjecture for months, said the Maryland legislature's unwillingness to permit local officials to offer him a contract longer than four years is the reason for his likely departure from Prince George's.

He said he will leave with "very mixed feelings. The potential in Charlotte is exciting, but Prince George's County has been a part of me for almost seven years, and it's hard to give that up."

Murphy has been widely credited with improving the image of the Prince George's schools. He has introduced a program of magnet schools and pushed for higher academic standards for minority children to meet the demands of court-ordered desegregation in Prince George's, where 65.3 percent of the students are black.

In winning the Charlotte-Mecklenburg job, he beat out three other candidates. Murphy served as superintendent of the Wake County school system in North Carolina from 1976 to 1981.

This year, Murphy is set to earn a base salary of $120,000 and a $15,000 annuity in Prince George's.

A public debate over Murphy's performance in the county was fueled a year ago when the board offered him a 10-year, $150,000-a-year contract to keep him from accepting a job in Florida.

A furor ensued, with some parents and community leaders complaining that they were not consulted before the offer was made.

The legislature also balked at such a lengthy contract. Murphy subsequently pulled out of the deal.

In explaining why he was looking for another job, Murphy said previously that he no longer felt appreciated in Prince George's, citing last year's contract incident as an indication.

Last weekend, Murphy went to Charlotte for interviews and a reception with community leaders. Jan Hargett, co-president of the Charlotte Parent Teacher Association, said she was impressed with his talk of goals, parental involvement and school system accountability. Hargett said yesterday Murphy was her first choice for the superintendent's job.

Three members of the Charlotte School Board visited Prince George's for a day last week, talking with principals and business leaders and stopping at a popular magnet elementary school and at an Inner Beltway elementary school where test scores have risen dramatically.

"I was impressed," said Charlotte School Board Chairman George Battle Jr. after the visit. "What came through is that {Murphy} is a visionary who has not let the vision die."

The Prince George's school system, with nearly 108,000 students, is the 15th largest in the nation. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools have 76,750 students, but 30,000 more are expected within 10 years, and managing that growth is expected to be one of the biggest challenges for the new superintendent, Battle said.

Like Prince George's, the Charlotte system has been operating under a court-ordered desegregation plan since the early 1970s. With a student population that is 40 percent black, Charlotte uses busing as its primary desegregation tool.

School officials there have expressed interest in starting a system of magnet schools like the one in Prince George's as an alternative to busing.

Prince George's school board members said this week that Murphy would be under no legal obligation to serve out the remaining 16 months of his contract. The contract also does not require the superintendent to give a set amount of notice prior to leaving.