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Mayor Prompts Candidates To Drop Out of N.Y.C. Race

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Two candidates for New York City schools chief dropped out last week, bringing to three the number of applicants who have withdrawn in recent weeks.

At least two of those bowed out because of statements by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has said the new chancellor should surrender control of the district's finances and security to City Hall.

Argie Johnson, a former superintendent of the Chicago public schools and a onetime deputy chancellor in New York, withdrew her name last week, saying that sour relations between the mayor and school board made the job undesirable.

The other candidate who pulled out last week, Edison O. Jackson, said he had decided to remain as the president of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Mr. Jackson has said the mayor's remarks were not a factor in his decision.

Last month, another former deputy chancellor and one of the school board's favorite candidates, Bernard R. Gifford, withdrew because of the mayor's conditions.

The most recent departures narrowed the field to about a dozen candidates.

The board is seeking a replacement for Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines, who announced his resignation in June after he and Mr. Giuliani clashed over the mayor's efforts to put the city's police force in charge of school security. The mayor and the schools chief have also battled frequently over budget cuts. (See Education Week, June 21, 1995.)

Carol A. Gresser, the president of the school board, said she expects to fill the job before Mr. Cortines steps down on Oct. 13.

Board members said they want an educator to fill the post, despite requests from the mayor's office for someone with much stronger business expertise.

"Business experience would be a plus, but we need someone with more than just a passing interest in education," Ms. Gresser said.

No Compromise

The mayor, however, is reportedly lobbying behind the scenes for Richard Ravitch, a former head of the city's transportation authority. Mr. Ravitch ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for mayor in 1989.

The mayor's office could not be reached for comment late last week.

Mr. Giuliani, a Republican, has considerable influence over the choice of a schools chief for the nation's largest district. He appoints two of the board's seven members, and also wields power in his informal talks with school leaders.

Ms. Gresser said the board would consider his recommendations but would vehemently oppose his plans to usurp some of the chancellor's authority.

She said those demands drove away Mr. Gifford, who had experience in both business and education. After serving as a deputy chancellor, he worked for Apple Computer and founded his own software company in California.

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