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Judge Declines To Dismiss Suit Over Chelsea Management Pact

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A state judge in Massachusetts has refused to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to block a proposed management agreement between Boston University and the Chelsea school district.

The suit, which the Chelsea Teachers Union filed last November, claims that the unprecedented plan would violate the state constitution by transferring authority over the troubled public- school system to a private institution.

Earlier this year, lawyers for the Chelsea School Committee and the university, arguing that the suit was premature because a final draft of the contract had not yet been approved, filed motions to dismiss the case. Without comment, Judge Walter S. Steele of the Suffolk County Superior Court denied the motions last month.

Lawyers for the union, an American Federation of Teachers affiliate, have hailed the judge's action as a victory.

"It's an important decision," Bruce A. Miller, special counsel for the aft, said last week. "It's not simply technical."

"The judge said, 'If you can prove what you have in the complaint, you can be a winner,"' Mr. Miller added.

But lawyers for the school committee and the university denied that the judge's action represented a setback for the nationally debated plan, which would give bu officials a broad mandate to reform the low-achieving, financially ailing district.

"It has nothing to do with the merits of the positions taken by either party," said Howard L. Greenspan, a lawyer for the school committee.

Michael B. Rosen, associate general counsel for the university, added that the two sides have been negotiating the precise terms of a 10-year contract since the pact received tentative approval in November. The final agreement, which negotiators expect to present to the school committee later this month, will be substantially different from the version cited in the union's complaint, he said.

"It's a whole lot of nothing," Mr. Rosen said of the lawsuit. "It is against a draft plan which neither the university nor the school committee regards as final."

The revised agreement, he added, "will address a number of concerns that have been raised."

"We are confident it will meet constitutional standards," Mr. Rosen asserted.

Just hours before the school committee tentatively accepted the accord last year, Judge Steele rejected the union's motion for a temporary injunction to block the pact. The judge apparently accepted arguments by lawyers for the school committee and the university that the suit was premature. (See Education Week, Dec. 7, 1988.)--rr

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