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Column One: Administrators

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In attempt to save the district $115,000, central-office administrators in the Montgomery County, Md., public schools are serving as substitute teachers this semester.

As part of its plan to close a budget deficit, the county's school board required more than 200 teaching-certified administrators to substitute in the classroom for up to seven days before the school year ends next month. Central-office staff without teaching certificates, many of whom are also qualified as substitutes, are being encouraged to help out as well.

In all, the administrators are expected to substitute for a total of about 1,450 days this semester; the district anticipates a substitute demand for some 30,000 days during that period.

Three new studies add more evidence to the growing body of data about the problem of conflicts between superintendents and school boards.

Presented at last month's annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, the studies are based on interviews with former and current superintendents and other school officials and observers.

Joan L. Curcio, an associate professor of education at the University of Florida, found that most respondents had harsh words for school boards. More than half of the people Ms. Curcio interviewed said that their knowledge, training, and expertise were not always respected by the board members they served.

As one former superintendent told Ms. Curcio, "They hire the best person they can find, they hire them and then become a watchdog, not a supporter and a helpmate and a partner.''

Gene E. Hall, the dean of education at the University of Northern Colorado, reached a similar conclusion about superintendents' frustrations in dealing with school boards.

"Board member tendency toward emphasizing personal interest and narrow political agendas is problematic for superintendents and the effective operation of school districts,'' Mr. Hall wrote.

Another common theme of the papers was superintendents' perceptions about their weak preparation for the job. "Preparation programs for the superintendency were considered woefully inadequate and of little value,'' wrote Shirley M. Hord, a senior research analyst at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.

To compensate for the lack of effective pre-service training, Ms. Hord found, the superintendents rely on institutes and academies, conferences, mentors, and self-reflection. But more than anything, she noted, they learn on the job.
--D.G.

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