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Fight Over Mass. Board Settled

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Following weeks of heated debate, the Massachusetts Board of Education has reached a compromise with Gov. Michael Dukakis that allows four recent Dukakis appointees to help select the state's next education commissioner prior to the beginning of their official terms on the board.

In return, the Governor has reiterated his support for a lay state board of education and has said he would oppose legislative efforts to abolish it.

The Governor has also apparently mended fences with the chairman of the state board, who had taken offense at the Governor's recent decision to replace her.

In late November, Governor Dukakis appointed James F. Crain to fill an unexpired board term. At the same time, he announced that Mr. Crain, the vice president and controller of New England Telephone, would take over as board chairman on Feb. 1.

But Mary Ellen Smith, the current chairman, said she had not been informed in advance that Mr. Crain would be taking her place.

Ms. Smith failed to attend Mr. Crain's swearing-in ceremony because, she said, "I didn't want to embarrass him or the Governor."

"It was just unfortunate," she added. "Common decency requires that you let people know in advance."

Gerard Indelicato, the Governor's education aide, said he tried to notify Ms. Smith. "No one was intending this to be 'See, Mary Ellen, we can show you something.' She's just upset because she fought against the Governor having the authority to appoint the board chairman," he added.

Power Struggle

Recently, the selection of the new commissioner had become the focus of an intense power struggle between the 12-member lay board and the state's elected political officials. The board wanted to proceed with the process, but the Governor and Nicholas Paleologas, House chairman of the legislature's joint education committee and a Dukakis ally, insisted it be delayed to allow the new board appointees to participate.

Two advisory committees of state education department officials and state political leaders will also participate in the selection process.

The current commissioner, John L. Lawson, has resigned and will leave his post early next month to become a professor at the University of New Hampshire.--jrs

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