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Boston Study Group Suggests Replacing School Committee With Appointed Panel

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The elected Boston School Committee should be scrapped and replaced with a smaller body appointed by the mayor, an advisory panel named by Mayor Raymond L. Flynn has proposed.

In a 34-page report issued last week, the panel also recommended that parents have greater choice in school assignments and that authority shift from the central office to school sites.

Hubert Jones, dean of Boston University's school of social work and chairman of the panel, said the governance system for the city's schools "is just not working."

"The current school committee is in gridlock because of politics and entrenched interests," he said. "We felt the status quo has to be broken. The arrangements have to be removed to get the committee beyond the current policymaking bankruptcy."

As an example, Mr. Jones noted that the committee has been un4able to send a clear signal about whether it wants to retain Laval S. Wilson as superintendent. Last month, the 13-member panel agreed by a one-vote margin to renew Mr. Wilson's contract for two years, but required a review of his performance every six months.

An appointed board would also be more likely to include members with needed expertise, according to Mr. Jones, and would better reflect the racial composition of the schools. Although the student population in the 57,000-pupil district is overwhelmingly black, only four members of the school committee are black.

The Philadelphia and Chicago school systems have shifted from elected to appointed school boards, Mr. Jones noted.

At a press conference last week, Mayor Flynn declined to endorse the proposals. Instead, he urged that a second panel, established by the city council, hold public hearings and report back to him in 30 days.

The mayor is then expected to make recommendations that would be placed on the ballot next fall. His proposals may also have to be approved by the legislature.

"He hasn't committed himself to the recommendations of the advisory commission, but he hasn't rejected them either," said Ellen Guiney, Mayor Flynn's education adviser.

"The mayor said the status quo is clearly unacceptable," she added.--rr

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