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Robert L. Smith, executive director of the Council for American Private Education, will retire in June of 1989, the group announced last week.

Mr. Smith had been a staff assistant to Senator Thomas F. Eagleton of Missouri before assuming the CAPE directorship in 1979. Prior to that, he was headmaster of the Sidwell Friends School in Washington for 13 years.

The council, a coalition of 14 private-school associations representing about 15,000 elementary and secondary schools, was formed in 1971 to monitor federal and court actions, encourage research on private education, and foster better communication between the private and public sectors of education.

The council manages private-school involvement in the U.S. Education Department's School Recognition Program, and last fall won a department contract to involve private schools in the National Diffusion Network.

"I've been here 10 years, and it seemed to be a good time to begin thinking about other things,'' Mr. Smith said. "There will be a new Administration next year, and perhaps, a whole new set of issues.''

Mr. Smith, 63, said he had no specific retirement plans, however.

The Michigan Board of Education has selected Donald L. Bemis from a field of five finalists to be the state's new superintendent of public instruction.

Mr. Bemis replaces Phillip E. Runkel, who resigned in May 1987 to accept the presidency of Northwestern Michigan College.

The new state chief has served as superintendent of schools in Utica, Mich., since 1971. He had been with the district since 1960, when he started work as a junior-high-school teacher.

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