A committee of city, union and community representatives agreed last night to support Eugene T.W. Sanders, the superintendent in Toledo, and Clifford B. Janey, a former superintendent in Rochester, N.Y., to lead the District's public education system, sources said last night.
The 17-member search committee reached a consensus shortly after 10 p.m., following more than six hours of interviews and discussion. The choice between Sanders and Janey goes to a seven-member panel that is responsible for making an official recommendation to the Board of Education, which has the sole authority to hire the superintendent.
Last night's developments effectively mean that Maurice A. Jones, 39, the Virginia state official who emerged suddenly as a finalist last week, is no longer in serious consideration. Sources said his lack of experience in education could not overcome his strengths as a dynamic and thoughtful administrator.
The school board's president, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, scheduled a special meeting of the board for 4 p.m. tomorrow, signaling officials' intent to bring to a close the lengthy search effort that began with the resignation in November of Paul L. Vance, who had led the 64,000-system since 2000.
Last night, Sanders and Janey were ranked nearly equal by the committee members, according to people close to the search, who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials and a private search company have insisted on secrecy.
In addition to Cafritz, the panel that will make the recommendation includes Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), City Administrator Robert C. Bobb, D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), and Robin B. Martin and Mirian Saez, mayoral appointees to the school board. The seven also sit on the search committee.
The smaller panel could decide to recommend both candidates, leaving the decision with the school board, although that is unlikely.
Janey and Sanders are veteran educators with years of experience running urban school systems.
Janey, 58, led the 35,000-student Rochester school district from 1995 to 2002, winning praise for his innovative approaches to raising student achievement. He developed an expansive pre-kindergarten program, raised the reading scores of low-performing fourth-graders and helped bring the district out of a court-imposed consent decree involving special education for children with disabilities.
Janey, a graduate of Northeastern University with a doctorate from Boston University, worked for Boston's public schools from 1973 to 1995, resigning as chief academic officer to take charge of Rochester's schools. Janey left that job after clashing with a faction of his school board over a budget deficit that his supporters attributed to a downturn in the state's economy. He is now a vice president at Scholastic Inc., an educational publisher.
Sanders, 47, has run Toledo's schools, which also have about 35,000 students, since 2000. A lifelong Ohio resident, he has four degrees, including a doctorate, from Bowling Green State University. He began his career as a social studies teacher in his home town of Sandusky and was later an assistant principal at two high schools in Lorain County, west of Cleveland, and was director of a doctoral program in educational leadership at Bowling Green.
In 2002, Sanders spearheaded public support for an $823 million bond issue to fund a school construction and renovation project over the next decade. He also wrote a text on urban school leadership in 1999.
Sanders declined to comment last night, and Janey did not respond to a telephone message left at his hotel.
Janey was first interviewed July 22 and Sanders on July 23. The two were designated finalists from a pool of seven candidates screened by a search company. Officials seemed especially interested in Sanders, summoning him to Boston, where top officials were attending the Democratic National Convention, and to the District for two additional interviews before yesterday, the fourth time Sanders has been interviewed.
In addition to Sanders and Janey, the committee yesterday re-interviewed Jones, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services since 2002, and Robert E. Schiller, state superintendent in Illinois since 2002.
About two weeks ago, Cafritz contacted Jones and asked if he would be interested in the superintendent's position, according to people close to the search. However, the idea of selecting someone without a traditional education background met resistance over the weekend.
The people close to the search said that Jones was still viewed favorably by the committee, who ranked him a close third behind Janey and Sanders, who were tied. Schiller, who initially was ranked first among the seven candidates interviewed on July 22 and 23, was re-interviewed yesterday but is no longer a leading candidate, the people said.