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Utah School-Boards Association Splits From Education Coalition

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Utah's largest education coalition is trying to persuade the state school-boards association to return to the fold after a bitter public split.

The Utah School Boards Association voted March 10 to pull out of the Utah Education Coordinating Council, a statewide coalition that includes representatives of 25 education groups and agencies. Members range from the state pta to associations of school superintendents, principals, and counselors.

Celia Archibald, the usba's president, has said that the organization withdrew because Superintendent of Public Instruction James R. Moss, who founded the council in 1987, was using it as a personal power base. Mr. Moss has denied the charge.

But the reasons for the split go beyond personalities, another school-board official said last week.

"Sometimes in the uecc, we take a majority vote that might be in direct conflict with local boards of education, and that's been counterproductive for us," explained Winston Gleave, executive director of the usba

He said his organization would continue to participate in two smaller education coalitions in the state--Helping Organizations for Public4Education and the more informal "group of four," which also includes the Utah Education Association, the Utah Society of Superintendents, and the state office of education.

While Mr. Gleave sought to downplay the significance of the association's pullout from the group, the move stunned and disappointed other members of the coalition.

James Campbell, president of the Utah Education Association, said: "It bothers me, frankly, that they've pulled out, because the public perception is going to be 'See, I told you they can't work together."'

The council, he argued, has enabled the traditionally divided education community to present a united front to the legislature. In 1988, for example, the coalition helped fend off several ballot initiatives to limit property taxes in the state.

The uecc decided March 26 to write to the members of every local school board, urging unity. The council also directed Mr. Moss to write a paper outlining the coalition's "side of the story."

"My feeling is that it's not a personal thing at all," Mr. Moss said. "But if they have concerns, rather than leave the table, what they ought to do is come back and talk about it."--dv

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