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With four years' experience as Kentucky's chief state school officer, Alice McDonald was a most likely top contender for the superintendency in her native state of Louisiana.

But earlier this month, she informed the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that she was withdrawing her name from consideration.

Last week, the board appointed Wilmer S. Cody, former superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md., public schools, to the post.

"My head was telling me to do it, but my heart was telling me to stay in Kentucky,'' Ms. McDonald said of her decision not to seek the job.

She added that it was "almost for certain'' that she would return this July to a position in the Jefferson County, Ky., school system, where she had previously served as a guidance counselor and administrator.

Ms. McDonald was elected to Kentucky's top education post in 1983. Barred by the state constitution from seeking a second term, she ran for lieutenant governor last year, but finished fifth in the Democratic primary.

If Ms. McDonald had stayed in the Louisiana race and won the job, she would have joined two other current state school chiefs who have held the post in other states as well.

Harold Raynolds Jr., the state chief in Massachusetts, previously served as superintendent in Alaska and Maine, and Illinois's state chief, Ted Sanders, had been the superintendent in Nevada.

West Virginia's board of education plans to meet later this month to vote on whether to back a "flashlight'' schools proposal--a scaled-down version of a "lighthouse'' schools program proposed by the governor but rejected by lawmakers this year and last.

Under Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr.'s plan, which could be revived during an expected special legislative session in May devoted solely to education, $3.1 million would be given to selected schools in 10 counties, which would implement a broad range of reforms.

The more modest proposal expected to be considered by the board would focus on individual schools, rather than counties, and include funding from private sources.

A massive reform bill that died during the closing minutes of this year's session would have permitted the state board to waive state and local regulations to permit innovative reforms in schools where 20 percent of the teachers, administrators, and parents had signed a petition seeking such action.--TM

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