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Superintendent formula remains elusive.

THE LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL District needs leadership that combines the financial management skills of a Fortune 500 chief executive and the mediator qualities of the late Eugene Reville, school board members and business leaders say.

But, as the district is coming to realize, it may be impossible to find that combination in one person. There's also a growing realization that the job's demands simply may be too much for a single person.

Mac Bernd's announcement June 11 that he plans to leave the district for one in Newport Beach, Calif., becoming the seventh superintendent in 10 years to depart, attests to the pressure-cooker nature of the job.

"I think we have to find a way to make this job more manageable," says Dorsey Jackson, school board vice president, who favors possibly splitting the administrative and educational duties of the superintendent.

Jackson says monitoring the district's compliance with its desegregation plan is a daily job in itself.

"I think it would be great if we could find someone who could handle the whole ball of wax, but it's a tough assignment," he says.

The school board has met in executive session several times since Bernd's announcement to discuss its strategy for replacing him, as well as two-other high ranking administrators who are leaving, but no decisions have been announced.

Some school district observers invoke the name of Reville as the kind of leader the district needs now.

"I think clearly he stands out in terms of being able to get the community to focus on a unified plan for our school district, and I think that's just so critical," says Mahlon Martin, president of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

Reville was a federal court-appointed desegregation supervisor of the three Pulaski County districts from 1989 until his death in a car accident in 1990. In that brief time, Reville managed to build community consensus for a desegregation plan that was ultimately overturned by an appellate court, sending the districts, particularly Little Rock, back into endless federal court hearings.

Bernd says it is what he perceives as the adversarial nature of the legal system that has hastened his departure.

Former school board member and president Skip Rutherford says the district has to find someone who can accept the court's role as Reville did.

"You need someone who can work with the court and does not view the court as an enemy, but as a friend and as a means to an end," Rutherford says.

Katherine Mitchell, a current school board member and a past board president, says the district's next superintendent needs to have experience working in an urban district with a high percentage of black students.

"We have to truly look at the background of the candidate in terms of what kinds of experiences he or she has that would make the person be effective in running the Little Rock School District," Mitchell says.

Several board members say they would favor a candidate with Arkansas roots and a familiarity with the district's desegregation case and the players in it.

"I personally am going to be looking at local candidates, and by local I mean Arkansas candidates or candidates that have had some experience in the Little Rock area," says John Moore, school board president.

Eleanor Coleman, president of the Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association, says she would also like to see a superintendent who is versed in district history.

"I don't think we have time to educate another superintendent," Coleman says. "This district needs some stability. The only stabilizing thing in this district is the classroom teachers.

"I think they should take their time ... seek out people who know the district, know its history, someone who has bought into this community," she adds.

Board members say they plan to conduct their search as slowly and deliberately as necessary in hopes of finding the perfect administrative arrangement for the district and one that will bring the much-sought stability the district needs.

But Moore says losing a superintendent won't hinder the district from its basic mission.

"We're losing a superintendent, but thank the Lord we still have those teachers out there who reach our kids every day," he says.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Little Rock School District
Author:Walters, Dixie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 21, 1993
Words:694
Previous Article:Second in command: tall man meets the one-eyed dog in part two of a race that could shape the state's future.
Next Article:School bell rings early: Bernd gets fill of district after one year as Little Rock school superintendent.
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