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E.D. Aides Resign, Clearing Way For Bennett's Team

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Washington--Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, moving to reform the Education Department's research agencies, last week obtained the resignations of the department's two top research officials, according to department sources.

Mr. Bennett has also sought to establish within his own office a "think-tank," which would be headed by Terry H. Eastland, until recently a special assistant to former Attorney General William French Smith.

As part of the first major personnel shake-up since Mr. Bennett came to the department, sources said last week, General Counsel Maureen Corcoran will step down, to be replaced by Sherrie M. Cooksey, who now works in the White House as an associate counsel to the President. Another associate counsel to the President, Wendell L. Willkie 2nd, recently became Mr. Bennett's chief of staff.

Gary L. Bauer, the deputy under secretary for planning, budget, and evaluation and one of Mr. Bennett's principal aides, is expected to be named undersecretary. He would replace Gary L. Jones, who submitted his resignation, effective March 31. Mr. Jones, who served as acting secretary prior to Mr. Bennett's confirmation, has not been at the department for the past month.

Research Officials Resign

Assistant Secretary for Educational Research and Improvement Donald J. Senese announced his resignation on Feb. 28, to take effect May 1. His likely successor in the agency's top research post is Chester E. Finn Jr., professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University, department sources said.

Mr. Finn, a prolific writer on education topics, is a former aide to Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, Democrat of New York, and a co-author of the legislation establishing the National Institute of Education, which he would oversee as assistant secretary.

But Mr. Finn has said that the nie is now "ineffectual" and it ought to be "abandoned." He said in a 1982 interview that the nie "cannot sponsor and lead research in education in a serious and sustained way." (See Education Week, Dec. 8, 1982.)

According to the sources, the director of the nie, Manuel J. Justiz, will step down and move to another job in the Administration as soon as Mr. Bennett can find a successor. Mr. Justiz was reprimanded last fall by former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell for violating federal travel and telephone regulations.3(See Education Week, Dec. 12, 1984.)

Rumors of personnel shifts have swirled around the department since The Washington Times reported on March 4 that Mr. Bennett had "fired" six aides--the article named only four--and planned to fire more.

That day, the Secretary wrote a memorandum to senior aides saying that the newspaper report was "incorrect and highly unfair to the individuals referred to in the story." His memo confirmed the impending departures of Mr. Senese and Mr. Jones, but stated that Ms. Corcoran and Mr. Justiz would remain at the department and "retain my full confidence and support."

Mr. Justiz and Mr. Bennett had agreed, however, that Mr. Justiz would allow the new Secretary to pick a new nie head. An nie spokesman, Jim Bradshaw, said that Mr. Justiz "expects to stay on for several months."

According to Senate aides, Mr. Bennett has not yet submitted any nominations for top positions to the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, the panel that must clear those nominees.

A New Office Sought

Mr. Bennett's desire to set his own agenda for the department includes an effort to establish a high-level "office of educational philosophy and policy development." Under the direction of Mr. Eastland, the office would develop and recommend policy initiatives for the Secretary.

Mr. Eastland, who collaborated with Mr. Bennett on a 1979 book on civil-rights issues, Counting By Race, declined to comment on the proposed office because it has not re-ceived final clearance within the Administration.

Eileen M. Gardner, education-policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, the influential conservative research organization, said in an interview last week she would probably join the department and did not deny that she would join the prospective policy-development office.

Focus of Attention

President Reagan and Mr. Bennett have both said that research is one of the main federal roles in education, and a possible restructuring of the department's research operation is under consideration, Administration officials have said.

This could include a merger of the nie with the National Center for Education Statistics that would place them both under the direct control of an assistant secretary for research.

Administration sources have said that this consolidation will probably be considered in the study of the federal role in education ordered by the President upon Mr. Bennett's nomination in January. (See Education Week, Jan. 23, 1985.)

Other Changes

Sources in the department and in the Congress have said that two other department officials likely to be leaving soon are A. Wayne Roberts, the deputy undersecretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs, and Jesse M. Soriano, the director of the office of bilingual education and minority-languages affairs.

Aides to Mr. Roberts and Mr. Soriano dismissed these reports, calling them rumors.

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