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N.A.I.S. Taps Public-School Administrator as Head

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The National Association of Independent Schools, which represents most of the nation's leading independent private schools, last week named a longtime public-school superintendent as its next president. Peter D. Relic, the former superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., public schools and a former federal education official, will take over as president of the nais Aug. 1. He will succeed John Esty, who is retiring after heading the private schools' group since 1978.

Observers say the choice is indicative of the association's desire to increase its visibility in public-policy discussions about education.

Toward that end, the new president will establish his office in Washington instead of at the nais's headquarters in Boston. The association plans to move its offices to Washington within a few years.

Mr. Relic has been a public-school educator for much of the past 20 years, but has also worked as the principal of the Hawken Upper School, an independent school in Cleveland, and of the Kyoto International School in Kyoto, Japan, an American-style independent school.

"I don't think we could have picked someone as head of the nais who worked solely in the public sector," said John E. Ratte, headmaster of the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn., and chairman of the nais board. "But the initial surprise, if not shock, that someone who has recently been the superintendent of a large public district has been chosen for the post will quickly be forgotten, or overshadowed, by the fact that he is an independent-school graduate and has experience in independent schools." In addition, Mr. Ratte said, "He is a proven manager. He really knows how to run things."

Mr. Relic resigned as head of the Charlotte system in June 1990 with one year left on his contract. He has been a scholar-in-residence at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., since then.

He was superintendent of the West Hartford, Conn., schools from 1980 to 1987. Before that, he was a deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Carter.

Mr. Relic said the nais's plans to move to Washington underscore its national mission and its intention to "do some new things in new ways."

"My role is to maintain and en hance the independence of indepen dent schools," he said.

Edward J. Fox Jr., headmaster of the independent Charlotte (N.C.) Lat in School, who observed Mr. Relic in his superintendent's job there, said, "I am delighted--with the nais's move to Washington--that we have someone of his caliber to lead it."

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