Dade Superintendent Steps Down After Five Years

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The superintendent of the Dade County, Fla., schools announced his resignation last week after more than five years at the helm of the nation's fourth-largest district.

Octavio J. Visiedo's decision to step down next month was a jolt to a school system already facing a significant change in governance. In November, Dade County voters for the first time will elect members from single districts. The change, prompted by a federal court settlement intended to increase minority representation, is expected to dramatically alter the character and composition of the school board.

Mr. Visiedo, 45, attributed his decision in part to fatigue from what he described as a 24-hour-a-day job. He is the best-paid urban superintendent in the country, earning $220,399 a year to administer the 333,000-student system, which encompasses Miami and its surrounding communities.

Mr. Visiedo, a native of Cuba who began his career as an elementary school bus aide, said he intends to start a consulting firm and teach part time at the college level.

Difficult Challenges

Under Mr. Visiedo's leadership, the Dade County schools revamped a faltering $980 million construction program, boosted test scores, and struggled to absorb about 10,000 new students a year while facing multimillion-dollar budget cuts.

The system also successfully weathered the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

G. Holmes Braddock, the chairman of the school board, said he was dismayed by the announcement. Mr. Visiedo's contract was scheduled to run through June 1998.

"I'm sorry to see him leave," Mr. Braddock said. "He has done an outstanding job in a very difficult situation."

The school board is expected this week to accept Mr. Visiedo's resignation and discuss how to handle finding a new schools chief.

Mr. Braddock said he favors appointing an interim superintendent and allowing the new school board to hire a permanent replacement after the November elections.

The Dade County board is now made up of seven people, all Democrats, who are elected at large. Five members are white, one is black, and one is Hispanic. Several of the members have served for a decade or more, making it one of the most stable of urban school boards.

Under the new arrangement, voters will chose nine members, who will represent individual districts. The switch is expected to change the racial and ethnic makeup of the board and produce the first Republicans to help govern the district's schools.

Henry Fraind, the spokesman for the district, said the change was not a factor in Mr. Visiedo's decision to step down.

"Many of the members who are running want him to stay," Mr. Fraind said. "He's a very popular figure."

Vol. 15, Issue 35

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