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Officials select three finalists for schools chief job

Comments from Annie: With 20 initial candidates and 3 ultimate choices, you would think that one of these finalists would have more to offer than the same thoughtless and harmful allegiance to a law (NCLB) that is being heralded as the surest manner to destroy our American public school system and that has been shown to cause so much heartbreaking damage in its restrictiveness and its narrowminded, oppressive control over our schools.

Officials select three finalists for schools chief job

By RYAN BAGWELL, Staff Writer

Three veteran educators with varied backgrounds will vie for the helm of the county's 74,000-student school system, officials announced this morning.

The candidates bring to the table a range of experiences running school districts around the nation, but few the size of Anne Arundel's.

The contenders -- Robert Schiller, the former state superintendent of Illinois; Dana T. Bedden, who leads a 5,500-student district in Pennsylvania; and Kevin Maxwell, a community superintendent in Montgomery County -- will tour the school system and meet with parents, teachers, administrators and the public next week.

Twenty people applied for the position after former Superintendent Eric J. Smith left in November, according to a statement from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, the firm hired to conduct Anne Arundel's search.

The school board then settled on four finalists after interviewing 10 candidates earlier this month.

One of the four finalists, the superintendent of a Kansas school system, accepted another offer.

"I'm excited," school board President Konrad M. Wayson said. "I think any one of these can keep moving the school system in the right direction."

Dr. Schiller, who led Baltimore city schools on an interim basis for a year in the late 1990s, resigned his Illinois state superintendency after Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich replaced most of the state school board members in 2004. Before then, he led the 45,000-student Caddo Parish Public School system in Shreveport, La., where he was credited with raising student achievement to the district's highest level ever.

He came to Baltimore in 1997 to develop the city's school reorganization plan with a tough, non-nonsense reputation.

Today, he's is a consultant with Maximus Inc., a Reston, Va.-based government services consulting firm.

Dr. Schiller did not return calls for comment by deadline this morning.

Dr. Bedden, 39, took charge of the William Penn School District in December 2004, charged with turning around a troubled district that struggled to meet state standards. In his short tenure as schools chief of the poor, urban district just outside Philadelphia, he standardized the district's curriculum throughout its 11 schools, started after-school classes for struggling students and increased participation in advanced placement classes.

Dr. Bedden also has started to restructure his district's grade configuration and redrawn the schools' attendance boundaries.

Consultants studying Anne Arundel's schools could recommend both in a report due out next month.

Prior to William Penn, Dr. Bedden was a regional superintendent with the Philadelphia School District where he was responsible for 48 schools. He also worked in Fairfax County, Virginia, schools.

"It's doing good ... but it's also a system that's working to get better, and I want to be a part of that," he said, of Anne Arundel schools.

Board member Michael Leahy called him a "young, hard charger, (and) very enthusiastic."

Dr. Maxwell, 54, is in his second year as one of six community superintendents with Montgomery County Schools. He oversees five school "clusters" - his district's equivalent of Anne Arundel's feeder systems - and is responsible for 39 high, middle and elementary schools, with about 27,000 students.

Before then, he also spent four years as principal at Bethesda's Walter Johnson High, and more than 22 years as a teacher and administrator with Prince George's schools.

He has experience narrowing the gap in test scores between white and minority students, as well as redistricting.

"In my area of the county, I'm certainly familiar with those processes," Dr. Maxwell said.

All three candidates will meet with select groups of parents at 5 p.m. on April 25, 26, and 27. School officials will broadcast those forums live on Channel 96, the district's public access station.

"I think that all the candidates can do the job, and I'm just anxious to see what the community has to say about them," school board member Ned Carey said.


The Annapolis Capital





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