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Ishmael Jaffree, the Mobile, Ala., lawyer who persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985 to overturn the state's moment-of-silence law, has failed in his attempt to have a court declare that secular humanism is not a religion.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled Jan. 26 that Mr. Jaffree lacked legal standing to demand that the federal courts rule on the issue.

Mr. Jaffree filed the motion following U.S. District Judge W. Brevard Hand's controversial decision last March to ban 44 textbooks used in the state's schools on the grounds that they promoted the religion of secular humanism. Judge Hand's decision came in a case that stemmed from Mr. Jaffree's moment-of-silence lawsuit.

The 11th Circuit Court said its decision last August to overturn Judge Hand's ruling had ended the controversy.

Four superintendents of schools have been named finalists for the first Superintendent of the Year award, a new honor sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators and the ServiceMaster Company of Downers Grove, Ill.

The four, selected from a field of 38 state finalists by a "blue ribbon" panel of educators, were cited for their leadership and communications skills, professionalism, and community involvement.

The winner of the title will be announced Feb. 19 at the aasa's annual convention.

The winner will receive a gold medallion and a $1,000 savings bond; a $10,000 college scholarship will also be presented in his name to a student attending his high-school alma mater. The finalists are: Gene R. Carter of the Norfolk (Va.) Public Schools; Jack C. Dulaney of the Monongalia Public Schools in Morgantown, W. Va.; Scott N. Rose of the Pinellas County Schools in Clearwater, Fla.; and Robert D. Tschirki of the Littleton (Colo.) Public Schools.

Richard P. Mills, the education adviser to Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, has been named commissioner of education in Vermont. He will take office next month.

A graduate of Vermont's Middlebury Col6lege, Mr. Mills will succeed Stephen S. Kaagan, who announced his resignation last fall and was later named to an academic post at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Mr. Mills played an influential role in helping Governor Kean press several high-profile education initiatives, such as an increase in minimum teacher salaries. He was selected late last month by the state board of education over two other candidates, including James Lengel, Vermont's deputy commissioner of education. Mr. Lengel then resigned, saying he wanted to allow Mr. Mills to choose his own management team.

In an unusual move, James Scamman, superintendent of schools in Denver, has left his post to accept a lesser job in the system.

Mr. Scamman, who was appointed superintendent in 1985, resigned late last month and asked the Denver board of education to reassign him to the job of executive director of curriculum services for the district. He will earn $56,660 in his new position--$22,000 less than his current salary.

Although the school board had been divided over Mr. Scamman's performance, it did not put pressure on him to resign, said Carole McCotter, a board member.

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