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Citing Other Obligations, Head of NASDC Resigns

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Ann D. McLaughlin has announced that she will resign as the president and chief executive officer of the New American Schools Development Corporation.

Citing a number of outside commitments, Ms. McLaughlin said late last month that she is unable to devote the time necessary to effectively lead the Arlington, Va., based corporation, a private, nonprofit foundation created by businessmen at the behest of former President George Bush to raise $200 million to create a generation of "break the mold schools.''

"Sadly but realistically,'' she said in an interview last week, she determined that continuing as president "is not fair to me, to the other obligations I had,'' or to the corporation.

Ms. McLaughlin, who was appointed to the position just last summer, serves on the boards of nine corporations and five nonprofit organizations, and is the president of the Federal City Council, a group of business and civic leaders dedicated to improving the nation's capital.

At the time of her appointment, Ms. McLaughlin said she expressed reservations about her schedule to NASDC's board, but was still encouraged to accept the job.

"The problem is not me, it is that they needed a full-time C.E.O.,'' said Ms. McLaughlin, who served as Secretary of Labor under President Reagan.

Leaders Surprised

Educators and business leaders said they were surprised by Ms. McLaughlin's departure.

Saul Cooperman, the president of educational programs at the Amelior Foundation and New Jersey's former commissioner of education, said he was "startled'' by the news.

"I really liked her,'' said Mr. Cooperman, the chairman of NASDC's education advisory panel. "I think she was a very take-charge, get-to-the-heart-of-matters, real no-nonsense person.''

"It's very unfortunate,'' said Keith Poston, a spokesman for the National Alliance of Business. "Ann McLaughlin is very talented and capable, and I'm sure the person who will follow her will be equally capable of leading this important effort to create break-the-mold schools.''

Observers speculated that Ms. McLaughlin's departure, while not precipitated by the change in Presidential administrations, will clear the way for the organization to select a leader who is not as closely associated with the Reagan and Bush era.

Many noted that Ms. McLaughlin took the helm of the organization at a particularly difficult time.

Fund-raising had become more difficult due to hard times among the businesses that have been the initiative's chief backers. Other business leaders have made further financial commitments to NASDC contingent on the Clinton Administration's endorsement of the venture.

To date, the organization has raised about $48 million in cash and pledges. During Ms. McLaughlin's tenure, NASDC received one new grant--$3.6 million from the General Motors Corporation.

Speculation about NASDC's future varied greatly last week.

"Frankly, the feeling . . . in the corporate network is that it's dead,'' said Craig Smith, the editor of Corporate Philanthropy Report, a Seattle-based newsletter.

"The consensus out there is that the approach is really not viable and that it won't continue in the present form by any means,'' he said.

Others were more optimistic about NASDC's prospects.

"I am fairly confident at this point that NASDC is not only going to survive Ann McLaughlin's departure, but that it will emerge in time stronger as an organization,'' said Marc S. Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy. The center is a member of a group that won a $2.5 million NASDC design grant.

No date has been set for selecting a successor to Ms. McLaughlin, according to Robin Murphy, a spokesman for the corporation. In the interim, NASDC will be managed by its four-member executive management council.

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