Nancy M. Mann, who retired in June as assistant superintendent for instruction of Anne Arundel schools, has been selected to replace Eric J. Smith as superintendent until a permanent successor can be found.

A divided school board voted yesterday to offer the job of interim superintendent to Mann, according to two people who attended the meeting. Neither would be identified by name, because the action was taken in closed session.

Board members and other observers speculated whether she would accept the position. Mann had told board members that she was somewhat reluctant to take command of the school system without the group's full support. She could not be located yesterday for comment.

When Mann left in June, she had worked for the school system for 35 years, starting as an elementary school teacher. Her departure prompted speculation that differences with Smith or a perceived reduction in authority had driven her out. In a release announcing Mann's departure, Smith said, "The contributions that Ms. Mann has made to this school system cannot be measured." He cited significant gains in test scores and her devotion to education. A spokesman said Smith was unavailable yesterday for comment.

Smith announced his resignation in September after three years in Anne Arundel, citing a breakdown in relations with the school board. His last day is Nov. 23.

The board hopes to have a permanent superintendent start work July 1, but the search is in its infancy. Mann seems to be a popular choice to run the schools in the meantime. The division on the board was over the selection process, not Mann, sources said.

"She'll bring stability and calm to the work force," said Sam Georgiou, chairman of a countywide Citizens Advisory Committee, which counsels the school board of many matters.

Mann worked on a task force that found that teachers were overworked, and Sheila M. Finlayson, president of the local teachers union, said she considers her a friend to teachers. Smith, in contrast, remains the subject of a pending no-confidence vote by union members.

A formal announcement of Mann's appointment is expected at the next school board meeting, on Wednesday.