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Marcase Yields School Post In Compromise With Mayor

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Michael P. Marcase, the controversial Philadelphia superintendent who has often been the target of criticism during his seven-year stewardship, will relinquish control of the financially beset school system on June 30. His departure comes under the terms of a "memo of understanding" agreed upon by the superintendent and Mayor William J. Green.

Under the provisions of the agreement, which was announced last week, Mr. Marcase will serve in his present capacity as chief of the 200,000-student system through the end of June, when his contract was scheduled to expire.

He will continue receiving his full $54,000 annual salary through June 30, 1983 as a consultant to the school system, then take a one-year paid leave of absence, eventually retiring on June 30, 1984, according to Elliot Alexander, a spokesman for the city's school board.

Approved by the Board

The agreement between the superintendent and the mayor must be approved by the board, Mr. Alexander said. He added that it was "highly likely" that members would take the matter up at their Feb. 8 meeting.

Mr. Marcase's June 1984 retirement date coincides with his 30th anniversary as an employee of Philadelphia's school system. The former industrial-arts teacher has been superintendent since 1975.

Earlier this month, the school board was scheduled to vote on a resolution that would have extended Mr. Marcase's contract for an additional year. But the board removed the item from its agenda following a strongly worded statement by Mayor Green denouncing the plan.

"We just can't afford him anymore," said Mr. Green, who has repeatedly called for the superintendent's resignation since 1979, when he first became mayor. "At a time when it is obvious that political survival has replaced quality education as the standard performance in Philadelphia's school system, it is outrageous that this action could be taken."

Last November, Mr. Marcase indicated that he would have accepted a contract extension only if the school board approached him about the matter first.

Mr. Marcase's imminent departure from office focuses attention on a four-member committee of the school board that began the search for his successor in mid-December. Mayor Green and several civic organizations have criticized the search committee for failing to advertize the job opening in national publications and for refusing to cover the travel expenses of out-of-town applicants.

National Talent Search

Search-committee members have said that the district's financial troubles precluded them from hiring an outside consultant to launch an "all-out" national talent search. Last September, the school board, faced with a $236 million budget deficit, laid off 3,000 teachers' union members and reneged on a promised 10 percent pay increase for school employees, prompting a bitter 50-day strike.

Happy Fernandez, co-chairman of the Par-ents Union for Public Education in Philadelphia, said, however, that search committee members could have had a vested interest in limiting the hunt for a new superintendent. "I suspect that some of them were hoping that the job would have gone to Marcase, while others had their own favorites from within the department," she suggested.

Ms. Fernandez, a longtime critic of Mr. Marcase and his supporters on the school board, said that she was "elated" by the news of the superintendent's scheduled departure.

"Obviously, Mayor Green had to make a financial deal with him," she said. "But the cost of his mismanagement of the school system over the years, and the added cost of staff demoralization due to his tenure in office, far outweigh the cost of this buy-out."--T.M.

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