Accord on 10-Year Pact Canceled After Black Leaders' Criticism

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In the wake of criticism from the black community, John A. Murphy, the nationally acclaimed superintendent of the Prince George's County, Md., schools, last week canceled an agreement that would have given him a 10-year $150,000-a-year contract.

Mr. Murphy is expected to leave his job when his current contract expires in 1992, if not earlier.

Mr. Murphy's decision to cancel the agreement with the district's board of education came after black leaders in the suburban Washington county, where 50 percent of the residents are black, strongly criticized the contract offer. Black students make up 65 percent of the school district's population.

The contract was offered as an inducement to keep Mr. Murphy, who had been a candidate for the superintendency in Dade County, Fla., in Prince George's County.

In addition to his salary, Mr. Murphy would have received a $250,000 annuity.

In a letter to the school board last week, Mr. Murphy noted that he was relinquishing his obligation not to seek the Florida post vacated by Joseph A. Fernandez, New York City's schools chancellor, or to explore other professional opportunities.

Black Leaders' Criticism

Black leaders protested that the county's executive, Parris Glen4dening, had proposed the contract without consulting them. The arrangement, they said, would preclude hiring a black superintendent for years and would saddle future school boards with a contract that they could not alter without tremendous expense.

Mr. Murphy, who gained national acclaim for creating a system of magnet schools, has held his current post since 1984. He has also received attention for a campaign to reduce the gap between the achievement test scores of black and white students.

"We've had a startling turnaround in minority achievement," said Bonnie Jenkins, a spokesman for the district. "When you compare our turnaround to other systems throughout the country, you'll find we've had tremendous gains."

In his letter, Mr. Murphy noted that he has "placed special emphasis on enriching the academic opportunities of black children" throughout his career.

"The events of the past week place in jeopardy all that I have ever stood for both professionally and personally," Mr. Murphy wrote. "The racial politics and political gamesmanship displayed in certain quarters of our community have created considerable racial discord."

Mr. Glendening defended offering Mr. Murphy an extended contract on the grounds that a successful school system is seen as vital to the county's overall economic development.

Vol. 09, Issue 25

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