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Payzant, Alvarado Candidates for Top Boston Job

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Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Thomas W. Payzant is one of three finalists in the search for a new superintendent for the Boston public schools.

Mr. Payzant confirmed in an interview last month that he had applied for the job and would likely accept it if it is offered to him.

The list of finalists also includes Anthony J. Alvarado, a former New York City schools chancellor and the current superintendent of Community School District 2 in Manhattan, one of 32 local districts within the city system.

Mr. Alvarado resigned as chancellor in 1984 amid questions about his financial dealings during his earlier service as a community superintendent.

Nonetheless, he has maintained a reputation as an aggressive and innovative school reformer. (See Education Week, 7/14/93.)

Also in the running is Lewis H. Spence, a lawyer with little education experience who has been serving as the state-appointed receiver for the city of Chelsea, Mass.

Mr. Spence has won accolades for helping the city government overcome management and financial troubles.

The seven-member, mayorally appointed Boston school committee has been holding public hearings to interview the finalists. It also has asked them to meet with representatives from parent groups, community organizations, and the local governance councils operating at the city's schools.

The committee plans to appoint a new superintendent by Aug. 15.

A Matter of Timing

Mr. Payzant said he is happy with his job as the U.S. Education Department's assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. But, he said, he sees the Boston superintendency as an opportunity he should not pass up if it occurs.

"It is a classic timing problem," he said. "I am not looking to leave the department--it is just that Boston is open now."

Mr. Payzant, who previously served as the superintendent of the San Diego, Oklahoma City, and Eugene, Ore., school systems, said he finds the 63,000-student Boston district especially attractive because he believes the city's politicians, community activists, and business leaders have joined to strongly support school reform.

"It seems like the conditions in Boston are really very special right now," he said.

Although U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley has expressed regrets about Mr. Payzant's possible departure, he has offered no resistance to the assistant secretary's pursuit of the Boston post, a department spokesman said.

Secretary Riley plans to keep Mr. Payzant in his federal job if the Boston school district picks another candidate, the spokes-man added.

The finalists for the Boston job were selected from more than 200 nominees and applicants. A nine-member search panel submitted the finalists' names to the school committee last month.

The new superintendent will replace Lois Harrison-Jones, who left on June 30 after the school committee decided not to renew her four-year contract.

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