There's more to incoming Fairfax County School Superintendent Jack D. Dale's job than just running the Washington area's largest school system.

As the news surfaced a week ago that the 55-year-old veteran educator and Frederick County superintendent was heading across the river, the list of demands seemed to grow longer among the groups especially interested in Dale's arrival.

He must appease the cost-conscious Fairfax Board of Supervisors, which often sparred over school funding with Dale's predecessor, Daniel A. Domenech. Dale must lobby lawmakers in Richmond for more funding. He must increase offerings for the county's most gifted students. He must focus on bridging achievement gaps between rich and poor students.

Welcome to Fairfax, Dr. Dale. Everyone has an opinion, especially on how you should do your job.

"There's been a certain drift by the school system away from the connectivity of the school system," said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D). "It's become parochial and less mindful of the connections of other things in the community. This board has explicitly said it wants to see the schools more vigorously reconnect."

But then Connolly added that the supervisors want to give Dale time to get used to Fairfax. "Obviously, we want to make the new superintendent feel welcome," he said. "We're prepared to be supportive."

Still, the advice has been constant. On Wednesday, the day before the School Board approved his four-year contract with an annual salary of $237,000, Dale spent hours in meetings with business leaders, parent groups, teacher unions and politicians. Like Domenech before him, Dale is the highest-paid public official in Fairfax.

In one roundtable discussion, Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason) weighed in on the first place Dale needs to visit. "J.E.B. Stuart," she said, referring to one of America's most diverse high schools, in Gross's district. The school year starts in August at Stuart. "That's the first school you need to visit. That gives you a sense of what we've got."

Everywhere he goes, Dale said, the issue of how he will deal with Fairfax's diversity has been raised. One in three county residents is a minority.

Parents say they want to be sure Dale has the skills to run a school system as racially, ethnically and culturally mixed as Fairfax County's. "I would hope that he would have experience with the diverse population that we have, to handle the challenges presented by that," said Donna Breskin of Vienna, whose two daughters attend county schools.

In Frederick, Dale held monthly meetings with the county Board of Commissioners, and Fairfax supervisors say they are hoping he does the same with them. School Board Chairman Kathy L. Smith (Sully) said she and her colleagues were impressed with Dale in his interview because it seemed as though he could get along with the supervisors. Domenech was often criticized for bullying and fighting politicians. But he always explained that it was his job to be aggressive on behalf of the schoolchildren.

"I am an advocate for children," Domenech told supervisors in March. "I am not here to advocate for other programs."

Of course, parents say t{grv}hey still want someone who will fight hard for their kids. Lynn Terhar, president-elect of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs, said Dale must walk a fine line between the school system's needs and the county's. "We don't want to see the schools benefit when it means social service agencies are going to be hurt," she said.

Referring to the conflicting interest groups he must serve, Dale said he tries to "deal with people straight up and honest."

He said he would rather focus on various stakeholders' common interests than their disparate ones. "I believe very strongly that we need to establish a common vision objective," he said. "Disputes arise because you haven't spent the time figuring out what your common goals are."

His mind is not yet solely on Fairfax, where he starts July 1.

"Right now I have to focus back on Frederick," he said. "We're putting final budget season to bed."

Staff writers Victoria Benning, Rosalind S. Helderman, Jacqueline L. Salmon and Lisa Rein contributed to this report.