A search committee has recommended four candidates for D.C. school superintendent: a former airline executive, the school superintendent in Syracuse, N.Y., and former schools chiefs in New York City and Long Beach, Calif., according to people close to the process.

D.C. school board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz confirmed yesterday that former New York City schools chancellor Rudolph F. Crew, former Long Beach superintendent Carl A. Cohn and former airline executive Candy Lee are under consideration for the District post.

Other sources said Stephen C. Jones, the Syracuse superintendent, also was recommended. The sources spoke on condition they not be identified, saying they had been instructed not to talk publicly about the search process.

The names have been forwarded to an education "collaborative" that includes school board members and city officials. That panel is to recommend one or more candidates to the school board for final approval. Cafritz, who is on both the search committee and the collaborative, said Crew, Cohn and Lee are among "a number" of candidates still being considered. She declined to identify the others.

Several people who served on the superintendent search committee, which included school board members, city officials and community leaders, said they were pleased with the quality of candidates.

"I thought that they were very strong candidates," said Darlene Allen, head of the Congress of PTAs and a member of the search committee. "I actually was pleasantly surprised. With all the newspaper headlines with the state and the condition of the D.C. public schools, I was worried we would not be able to attract quality candidates, and I believe that they are quality candidates."

The city is trying to find a replacement for Paul L. Vance, who resigned in November. The 64,200-student school system suffers from a number of problems, including test scores that are among the lowest in the nation.

The search process has been conducted behind closed doors, and participants have said that releasing the names of candidates could jeopardize their current jobs. The search committee conducted interviews Friday and Saturday at the Phoenix Park Hotel in Northwest Washington.

The most well-known name on the list of candidates forwarded by the committee is Crew, who served as New York chancellor from 1995 to 1999, when he was dismissed by the school board. Crew, who was said to be traveling yesterday and did not return messages, is now an official at the Stupski Foundation, where he works with school districts and other groups to advance school reforms.

The New York school board dismissed Crew by a vote of 4 to 3, a move that was supported by then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Relations between Crew and Giuliani had soured after Crew opposed the mayor's call for education vouchers. Among Crew's accomplishments were ending the practice of social promotion; setting new academic standards; and pushing for a new state law that gave him more authority in approving budgets and hiring and firing staff.

Crew also has been considering the top schools jobs in St. Louis and Miami-Dade County. But on Monday, the St. Louis school system announced that Crew had turned down its offer. Crew was quoted in yesterday's Miami Herald as saying he had narrowed his choices to the District and Miami-Dade, which has offered Crew the schools job.

Jones, the Syracuse superintendent, said in an interview yesterday that he did not have an interest "at this point" in the District job.

But he added: "I have an interest in several districts, to be very blunt with you, and I'm looking at those possibilities." Later, he said he planned to continue in his current job.

Jones has served as superintendent of the Syracuse City School District since 1999. He previously was a top administrator in the Baltimore County school system.

Lee, who did not return phone calls, served as president of United Airlines Loyalty Services, a collection of consumer-focused businesses, including the airline's frequent-flier program. A news release from the airline last year said she was leaving the company. A United spokeswoman, citing company personnel policies, said yesterday that she could not say when Lee left.

Lee is a student at the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, which holds weekend classes on school management issues. According to information on that program's Web site, Lee previously served as president and chief executive of Troll Communications, which provides educational materials.

Cohn served as superintendent of Long Beach schools from 1992 to 2002 and won national praise for improving student achievement and increasing attendance. Cohn, who did not return calls yesterday, is now a professor at the University of Southern California and works as a school consultant.

Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

Candy Lee has worked on education issues since leaving United.Stephen C. Jones heads the schools in Syracuse, N.Y.Rudolph F. Crew was schools chancellor in New York City.Carl A. Cohn was superintendent in Long Beach, Calif.