Wilson Will Not Challenge Firing by Boston Board

February 28, 1990 2 min read

Laval S. Wilson, whose abrupt dismissal as Boston’s schools superintendent two weeks ago heightened racial tensions in an already divided city, last week asked his supporters not to seek to have him reinstated.

In a letter to the four blacks who serve on the city’s 13-member school committee, Mr. Wilson indicated he was willing to abide by the panel’s decision, partly because he “no longer feels he has a mandate to work with this committee,” said Julio Henriquez, community-relations director for the district.

The superintendent’s letter prompted his supporters to turn their attention to the process of finding a successor--a debate that is complicated by the fact that the school system’s enrollment is predominantly minority, while the school committee is majority white.

The four black school-committee members held a press conference last week demanding that the panel appoint a search committee led by a minority-group member. They also asked that their views be sought in the selection of both an interim and a permanent superintendent.

They and other black community leaders said a selection process not sensitive to the needs of the system’s minority students could further exacerbate racial divisions in the city.

But Daniel Burke, president of the school committee, indicated that the black board members’ input would be weighed equally with that of other members of the committee. Any other arrangement, he was quoted as saying, would be “undemocratic.”

None of the school-committee members returned calls seeking comment last week.

Several black leaders continuedto criticize both the timing and the handling of Mr. Wilson’s dismissal, noting that residents were just beginning to heal the racial divisions opened by the highly publicized Carol Stuart murder case.

The committee surprised most observers, and some of its members, by voting this month to buy out the 18 months remaining on Mr. Wilson’s contract after he refused to submit to an independent evaluation.

The vote came at a time when school officials were seeking to identify up to $23 million in potential cuts from next year’s budget--a process now stalled by the controversy, according to Mr. Henriquez.

Critics have also noted that the district will be leaderless as it works to implement a radical new choice-based student-assignment plan and a new teacher contract that moves the district toward school-based management.

Mr. Henriquez said there had been little progress in negotiations on the terms of the buy out, including a date when Mr. Wilson will leave, and the amount that he will be paid to compensate for the remainder of his contract.

“This may well end up in court,” he said.--ws

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 1990 edition of Education Week as Wilson Will Not Challenge Firing by Boston Board