Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash is eyeing another job in Virginia this weekend as one of three finalists for the position of superintendent of schools in Charlottesville.

"It's something I'm intrigued by," Mr. Cash told the Gazette. "Every year I get invitations to apply. It's an area I'm familiar with, not far from [Washington] D.C., and it has the University of Virginia there."

Mr. Cash, who is 47, came to the Vineyard seven years ago, leaving his job as associate dean at Howard University in Washington, D.C., to take over leadership of the Island school system.

His salary this year, including bonuses, is $107,855, and his contract expires in June of 2004. The starting pay for the Charlottesville job is $120,000 a year.

Mr. Cash told school committee members last week that he had made the final cut in a selection process that began last February with a pool of 38 applicants. He will spend today and tomorrow in Charlottesville fielding questions from panels of school board members, teachers, parents, city council members, the city manager and the press.

"We believe that it's important to stay sharp," said Mr. Cash, "and going through this process keeps you sharp."

Mr. Cash said his decision to pursue the job is no indication of dissatisfaction with his current job, but he was blunt about his career goals.

"I have a career ambition to become president of a college three, five, seven years ahead," he said. "I have to consider how to get from here to there. But I'm very professionally content here. This is by no means a decided issue. This weekend will determine a lot."

The job in Charlottesville would start this summer, since the outgoing superintendent leaves the post on June 30.

Ralph Friedman, chairman of the regional high school committee, said, "We would dearly love to have him stay and fulfill his contract. If he chooses to go, I hope he would participate in a smooth transition. He's been a tremendous asset to the entire school system and entire community as a civic leader and role model."

When Mr. Cash arrived in 1995, student enrollment stood at 2,274 and school budgets totaled $18.8 million. This year, with enrollment up only seven per cent at 2,435 students, Mr. Cash now presides over a $27 million budget, a 44 per cent increase.

Concerns over spiraling costs for education led some school committee members last September to vote against giving Mr. Cash a two per cent merit raise. The vote was 6-3, and Mr. Friedman cast one of the dissenting votes.

"It was no reflection on his job performance," said Mr. Friedman. "It was a financial issue during a time when towns, especially Tisbury, were having great difficulty with budgets."

Mr. Cash has focused much of his energy on curriculum, making sure that each Island school aligns its curriculum with state educational frameworks. Mr. Friedman praised the superintendent's achievements which ensure Vineyard children receive the same kind of education even if they move between towns.

But Mr. Cash suggested that he is also ready for new challenges in Charlottesville, where diversity and equity issues are much more prominent.

The city has a school system of 4,300 students, just over half of whom are black, the rest white with only a small percentage of Hispanic students.

Mr. Cash is the youngest of the three finalists for the Charlottesville job. Also in the running is a local school official, the assistant school superintendent of the county school system, Jean Murray, who is 53. The other finalist is a deputy school superintendent from North Carolina, James Pughsley, 62.

Mr. Pughsley would receive a pay cut if he was offered and accepted the job. He currently earns $159,000 a year, according to an article in Wednesday's Daily Progress in Charlottesville.

Richard Merriwether, chairman of the school board in Charlottesville, told the Gazette that his board will make a decision in about a week. At least one board member will travel to the Island next week to meet with Mr. Cash and talk with other school staff about the superintendent.