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John L. Crew, whose seven-year term as superintendent of the Baltimore Public Schools has been marked by relative calm and rising student achievement-test scores, announced his retirement this month.

Mr. Crew, 55 years old, will leave his $65,000-a-year post at the end of this year of his own volition. He privately has talked of increasing fatigue, and plans possibly to teach, to consult, or even to take on another superintendency.

In the meantime, the Baltimore school board has been told by Mayor William D. Schaefer to launch a nationwide search for "the very best school superintendent in the country." The board will begin that search later this month with two public hearings to solicit advice from parents and school employees.

Following an era of strife associated with the tenure of Roland N. Patterson, who was hired as superintendent in 1971 from the Seattle schools and fired in 1975, Mr. Crew has been credited with taking a steady, diplomatic approach toward healing divisions within the system.

During Mr. Crew's tenure, students' test scores, which trailed national norms in 1977 by about two years, have risen and now are within a few months of the averages.

But he also has been criticized for the school system's continuing problems, including: high student-absenteeism and dropout rates; overcrowded classes; annual rounds of teacher layoffs to avoid budget deficits, and poor management and an absence of parental involvement at individual schools.

James G. Hyre, superintendent of schools in Canton, Ohio, has been named superintendent in Columbus, Ohio, succeeding Joseph Davis, who resigned earlier this year. Mr. Hyre, 41 years old, was appointed late last month for a three-year term beginning on Oct. 1. In the meantime, Theodore Turner, an assistant superintendent, will continue as acting chief of the 68,000-student Columbus system.

Ashby Harper gained worldwide attention late last month by becoming the oldest person, at 65, ever to swim the English Channel--and in the quite respectable time of 13 hours and 52 minutes. This month, however, it's back to normal for Mr. Harper, who is headmaster of Albuquerque Academy, an independent elementary and secondary school in New Mexico.

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