Prince George's County School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., shown in 2009, is leaving to run the Phildapelphia school system. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)

On Thursday night, the public was invited. It was the first of three meetings scheduled this month to publicly discuss efforts to address the leadership void.

Parents, former teachers and elected officials asked about the criteria being used to select an interim superintendent and about the progress that has been made in making a choice, and offered their opinions about the type of person that would make a good fit for the system.

“What type of participation has the board solicited from the community?” asked Juanita Miller, a former state senator.

School board member Carolyn Boston (District 6) said the process has been closed. “Once the [interim] superintendent is named there will be a series of introductions,” she said.

A community activist said she was concerned about the “hiccups” the school system has had with conducting thorough personal and criminal background checks.

Boston said the system has hired Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, an executive search firm, that will identify candidates for superintendent and vet the interim superintendent, who will be officially named “any day now.”

Board Chairwoman Verjeana Jacobs (District 5) said the board began the process of replacing the schools chief by meeting with Hite and discussing the system’s strengths and weaknesses.

Jacobs said one of the county’s strengths in recent years has been in academics. As a result, she said the board spoke with Duane Arbogast, acting deputy superintendent of academics, about that progress.

Jacobs said the board needs someone who can “come in and provide the eye that’s necessary to give us a true assessment” of human resources, student services and constituent services.

Jacobs said there was a list of candidates who were contacted. Some said they were not interested.

Emma Andrews, a community advocate, said her recommendation was that the board consider someone already in the system to temporarily replace Hite, who leaves Sept. 30 to become schools chief in Philadelphia.

“You need someone who is familiar with the obstacles that we have to get over,” she said.

Board member Henry Armwood Jr. (District 7) agreed, adding that it was looking for someone “who will look at our system and make changes as necessary.”

But Jacobs said an interim leader is not likely to shake up the system.

“We’re not looking for gurus,” she said. “We just want to know how can you enhance where we’re going? We don’t expect any overhauls.”