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COUNTY ELECTIONS / NEW FACES : SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT : Dean Takes Aim at Peterson's Pet Projects, Style


ANAHEIM — John F. Dean handily swept county Supt. of Schools Robert Peterson out of office in Tuesday's election. And now he appears bent on sweeping out all vestiges of Peterson's 24-year administration, as well.

Reflecting on his wide margin of victory and looking ahead to his new job, Dean on Wednesday said he plans to institute widespread changes in the County Department of Education immediately after he takes over Jan. 7 as schools chief.

He also hinted that several of Peterson's pet projects--including the well-known Academic Decathlon--could fall victim to revisions of the department's $74.5-million annual budget.

"One of the first things we'll do is look at the budget to make sure we're not duplicating any of the services the districts are already providing," Dean, a 63-year-old Newport Beach resident, said in an interview at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, where he was attending a board meeting of the California Reading Assn.

"We'll turn things around to place a greater emphasis on instructional services and help the districts implement new curriculums," he said.

"Soon after that, we'll contact district superintendents and teachers associations and classified personnel to set up a Strategic Planning Task Force, so we are doing the things that the districts want and need. I'm not egotistical enough to think I know what they need."

Dean said his pledge to hit the ground running as soon as he takes office will be necessary to deflect pressure from county educators and others eager to see an immediate turnaround from the low-key, low-profile management style that characterized Peterson's years in office.

After drawing nearly 63% of the vote in Tuesday's election--a result Dean called "a surprise"--Dean said he expects public expectations to be high. "But I've been in leadership roles for a long time," he said. "I think I know what it is to be under that kind of pressure."

To face up to the pressure, Dean said, he'll have to give up most of his current leadership roles to devote full time to his job as superintendent, for which he will earn upward of $100,000 a year.

He plans to resign as executive secretary of the California Reading Assn. and hopes to be released from his obligations as a professor of education at Whittier College by the start of the new year.

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