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State Journal: Mind your own business; A sensitive subject

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When a state school chief uses a newspaper interview to blast the state's largest district and its superintendent, sparks will fly.

So it has been recently in Massachusetts, where Commissioner of Education Harold Raynolds Jr. and Superintendent Laval S. Wilson of Boston have gotten into a very public dispute.

In an interview with The Boston Globe last month, Mr. Raynolds described the Boston schools as among the most poorly run in the country. He also faulted the way Mr. Wilson and the school committee had handled key issues.

District officials have shown "little regard ... for the health and well-being of the children and the schools," Mr. Raynolds said.

In response, Mr. Wilson fired off a heated, five-page letter denouncing the state official's criticisms as "outrageous."

"This type of public posturing is also a complete reversal of the cooperative spirit and mutual resolve we both pledged," Mr. Wilson added.

He also attacked other public comments by Mr. Raynolds supporting Mayor Raymond L. Flynn's efforts to replace the elected school committee with an appointed panel.

"I believe it quite unprofessional for the state commissioner to begin to become involved in the local Boston politics concerning school-committee governance," Mr. Wilson wrote. "It is not the commissioner's call! You should really stay out of it."

Mr. Raynolds hopes to discuss the matter privately with Mr. Wilson, according to a spokesman for the commissioner.

The political sensitivity of the parental-choice issue, particularly as it potentially could affect the racial makeup of the schools, was highlighted last week in Virginia, when J. Marshall Coleman, the gop candidate for governor, unveiled an education plan.

The proposal included a call for parental choice, which Mr. Coleman suggested might involve letting students transfer between districts.

Mr. Coleman's comments evoked a quick critique from his Democratic opponent, Lieut. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who denounced the idea as "a step backward."

Perhaps more tellingly, Mr. Coleman and his advisers moved within hours of the comments to forestall any fallout by issuing a clarification.

Mr. Coleman "would neither support nor permit any interjurisdictional transfer that had a tendency to segregate schools according to race, or that would otherwise violate state and federal constitutional requirements," the statement said.--rrw

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