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Chicago's School Board Denies Love New Contract

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A divided Chicago Board of Education this summer voted not to renew the contract of Ruth B. Love, the first black superintendent of the city's schools.

The board is expected to appoint to the post Manford Byrd, a deputy superintendent who had been passed over twice for the job.

According to George Munoz, president of the school board, Ms. Love's contract, which provided a $120,000 salary that made her the highest paid public official in Illinois as well as the highest paid school superintendent, was not renewed based on "a nonpolitical judgment on the merits of [her] overall performance."

Mr. Munoz has said in the past that Ms. Love has been faulted by board members for failing to consult with them on major policy questions.

Ms. Love also has been battling budget deficits since she assumed responsibility for the school system in 1981, when a financial crisis threatened the opening of schools in the 435,000-student district. Under state law, Chicago public schools cannot open if the system's budget is not balanced.

Deficits for the 1984-85 fiscal year were projected to be about $180 million until the state legislature ap-proved an emergency-aid package of $124 million for the district. The district's budget still is about $60 million in the red.

A 'Political' Act

But Ms. Love told reporters at a press conference following the board's 6-to-5 vote to dismiss her that the action was "political" and that many people had not forgiven her for remaining neutral in last year's mayoral campaign, which divided the city in part along racial lines.

Others suggest that the decision to remove Ms. Love was racially motivated. All three Hispanic board members voted against renewing Ms. Love's contract, and of four white board members, only one voted in her favor.

Her supporters also point to a recent study by a citizens' panel that suggested the school system's financial troubles were related to inflation and not to administrative mismanagement.

The study, released in June by the Chicago Panel of Public School Finances, a coalition of 17 civic and education groups, reported that funding of the school system had not kept pace with inflation.

Since 1978, the study said, inflation has reduced the district's funding by 29.5 percent.

Mending Fences

Mr. Munoz said the time has ended for divisiveness in the administration of the nation's third largest school district, adding that there are those who believe "the recent controversy over the board's decision has been Dr. Love's doing, which is unfortunate."

Board members would like to see Mr. Byrd, who also is black, take charge now because "he has the clearer support of a substantial majority on the board," Mr. Munoz said.

"It is believed that he can be an effective administrator and that he can heal the division of recent years," he explained.

Mr. Byrd is a career employee of the Chicago school district and has worked his way up from the teaching ranks.

He has been considered for the superintendency twice and lost out most recently to Ms. Love despite an endorsement by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime resident of Chicago's South Side.

Ms. Love is expected to serve the remainder of her four-year contract, which expires in March 1985.

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