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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Compton Schools Leader Interviews for Job in Dallas

September 16, 2000

COMPTON — The state-appointed administrator of the Compton Unified School District is the leading contender to become the next superintendent of schools in Dallas.

Randolph E. Ward was in Dallas on Friday to interview for the job, a spokesman said. He has run the Compton schools since 1996, when state Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin recruited him for the job. He is the fifth, and longest serving, state administrator in Compton since the state took over authority from the city's school board in 1993.

Ward, 43, has degrees from Harvard and USC, and is a hot property in education circles. Education entrepreneur Chris Whittle sought him for a job at Whittle's for-profit school management company, the Edison Project. Ward also has turned down entreaties from school districts in Detroit and New Orleans.

But Ward said in an interview this week that he did not expect to stay past next year in Compton, as the state begins to return the city schools to local control. "I like challenges," he said. "I'm not sure what's going to happen next."

Dallas' school system, with a badly divided board, may present the sort of challenge Ward seeks. It fired its previous superintendent after only 11 months on the job. His predecessor was jailed for embezzling funds to buy home furnishings.

In Compton, Ward, an African American, has been a controversial figure. Principals and teachers praise him for improvements in the facilities and test scores of what had been one of California's worst performing districts. But as the local symbol of state control of the schools, some citizens and community leaders have called him inflexible and labeled him an Uncle Tom.

Tom Hollister, executive director of Compton's teachers union, said: "I think he's done a very good job of putting the district together, of creating a focus-- certainly in the area of facility improvement." But he also complained that Ward's administration did not consult enough, and that some of his hires were inexperienced and intolerant.

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