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State Ed. Chair Steps Down

Silber resigns amidst political maneuvering

By M. DOUGLAS Omalley, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

In a political power play, Chair of the State Board of Education John R. Silber resigned yesterday after selecting a successor, James A. Peyser, in order to break a board stalemate over selecting an education commissioner.

Silber's decision, which hinged on Gov. A. Paul Cellucci's decision to appoint Peyser, will clear the path for Acting Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll to be approved by the board for a permanent position.

The board, which delayed a vote on the new commissioner at its last meeting on Feb. 23, had reached an impasse over selecting a new commissioner. Driscoll had received five of the necessary six votes and Peyser had secured four, creating the deadlock.

While the board had been trying to appoint a permanent educational commissioner since Robert Antonucci's resignation last February, it had struggled with political divisions.

"It was a necessary step, but it's yet to be proven to end the political divisions Education School professor and chair of the Mass. Education Reform Review Commission.

"We've gone through a highly divisive era under Silber which has resulted in a highly divided board," he said.

State legislators echoed Reville's desire for the state board to move beyond the political battles, and onto focusing on education.

"I hope the board will get back to business in making education work," said Rep. Harold M. Lane (D-Holden), co-chair of the Legislature's Education Committee.

While Peyser worked with Driscoll as a board member, the two potential candidates offered distinctly different backgrounds and views, on everything from veteran teacher testing to charter schools and vouchers.

Driscoll, who opposes veteran teacher testing and is a strong advocate of public education, rose through the education ranks as a Mass. school teacher and superintendent--the polar opposite of Peyser.

Peyser, who was favored by Cellucci, iscurrently the executive director of the pioneerInstitute for Public Policy Research. Hiseducational experience is limited to his time onthe board and four months as a charter schoolsconsultant for former Gov. William F. Weld '66.

The board's struggle to select a newcommissioner, according to Lane, was rooted inCellucci's desire to appoint a similar-mindedofficial-a movement the board resisted.

"When [Silber] said that there was an impasseon the board...they were the ones who had animpasse. It's an obfuscation to say it's animpasse," he said.

Even Driscoll characterized his interactionswith Silber as difficult.

"It's been a challenge working with him," hesaid.

Lane supported Driscoll's assertion of thedifficulty of working with Silber.

"[He] is not an inclusive gay. He'd rather makea decision in the abstract then listen to people,"he said.

"Kevin Carleton, Silber's spokesperson,characterized Silber's support for Peyser aslogical because of the need for massiveeducational reform from someone outside theeducation establishment.

"Do you want to put the process of reform intothe hands of someone which that system produced?"he said.

Carleton pointed out that Horace Mann, thefamous Massachusetts education reformer, had beeninvolved in politics before education.

While teacher advocates supported Driscoll andsaid they are concerned about Peyser, they seeSilber's resignation, after a three-year term, asa chance for a clean slate.

"There has been entirely too much politicalbickering going on," said Stephen Gorrie,president of the Massachusetts TeachersAssociation. "We need to move from that and moveon."

"I'm hoping that when all of the dust settles,[Silber] will bring everybody to the table todiscuss where we need to go, "he said.

The recent politicization of the State board ofEducation disturbs some legislators who ideallysee the board as being totally isolated fromoutside influence.

While the governor selects the board members,Lane said, he sees the board as distinctly dividedfrom the world of the State House.

"The idea dating back to Horace Mann is thatthe board should be isolated from the hurly-burlyof politics," he said. "I'd hope we would send amessage back to the original intent."

Lane said he felt Cellucci had tried to swaymembers of the board by meeting with boardmembers-especially Abigail Thernstrom-in anattempt to get them to change their vote.

Carleton characterized the board as one thatacts independently of any political motives.

"Chiefly the views of the board have been basedon their individual views," he said. "It has notbeen a rubber-stamp board."

However the board has dealt with outsidepolitical wrangling, especially on the teachertesting issue.

Frank Haydu, former interim educationcommissioner, resigned last July after Celluccireconvened the board to push through a proposal toraise the scores needed to pass the new teachertests.

Haydu said he felt Silber's connection toBoston University, where he is a chancellor,created an undue influence on board policy.

"There was some truth in the claim [that BostonUniversity was running the State Board ofEducation]. Hopefully, this will result in adecline of Boston University's influence," hesaid.

However, Haydu did praise Silber for bringingeducation to the forefront of the state'sconsciousness.

Beyond the criticisms, Silber did garner praisefor educational efforts.

"He has had a deep belief in education so I'llhope he will be remembered for that despite someof the more preposterous thing he has said," Lanesaid

Peyser, who was favored by Cellucci, iscurrently the executive director of the pioneerInstitute for Public Policy Research. Hiseducational experience is limited to his time onthe board and four months as a charter schoolsconsultant for former Gov. William F. Weld '66.

The board's struggle to select a newcommissioner, according to Lane, was rooted inCellucci's desire to appoint a similar-mindedofficial-a movement the board resisted.

"When [Silber] said that there was an impasseon the board...they were the ones who had animpasse. It's an obfuscation to say it's animpasse," he said.

Even Driscoll characterized his interactionswith Silber as difficult.

"It's been a challenge working with him," hesaid.

Lane supported Driscoll's assertion of thedifficulty of working with Silber.

"[He] is not an inclusive gay. He'd rather makea decision in the abstract then listen to people,"he said.

"Kevin Carleton, Silber's spokesperson,characterized Silber's support for Peyser aslogical because of the need for massiveeducational reform from someone outside theeducation establishment.

"Do you want to put the process of reform intothe hands of someone which that system produced?"he said.

Carleton pointed out that Horace Mann, thefamous Massachusetts education reformer, had beeninvolved in politics before education.

While teacher advocates supported Driscoll andsaid they are concerned about Peyser, they seeSilber's resignation, after a three-year term, asa chance for a clean slate.

"There has been entirely too much politicalbickering going on," said Stephen Gorrie,president of the Massachusetts TeachersAssociation. "We need to move from that and moveon."

"I'm hoping that when all of the dust settles,[Silber] will bring everybody to the table todiscuss where we need to go, "he said.

The recent politicization of the State board ofEducation disturbs some legislators who ideallysee the board as being totally isolated fromoutside influence.

While the governor selects the board members,Lane said, he sees the board as distinctly dividedfrom the world of the State House.

"The idea dating back to Horace Mann is thatthe board should be isolated from the hurly-burlyof politics," he said. "I'd hope we would send amessage back to the original intent."

Lane said he felt Cellucci had tried to swaymembers of the board by meeting with boardmembers-especially Abigail Thernstrom-in anattempt to get them to change their vote.

Carleton characterized the board as one thatacts independently of any political motives.

"Chiefly the views of the board have been basedon their individual views," he said. "It has notbeen a rubber-stamp board."

However the board has dealt with outsidepolitical wrangling, especially on the teachertesting issue.

Frank Haydu, former interim educationcommissioner, resigned last July after Celluccireconvened the board to push through a proposal toraise the scores needed to pass the new teachertests.

Haydu said he felt Silber's connection toBoston University, where he is a chancellor,created an undue influence on board policy.

"There was some truth in the claim [that BostonUniversity was running the State Board ofEducation]. Hopefully, this will result in adecline of Boston University's influence," hesaid.

However, Haydu did praise Silber for bringingeducation to the forefront of the state'sconsciousness.

Beyond the criticisms, Silber did garner praisefor educational efforts.

"He has had a deep belief in education so I'llhope he will be remembered for that despite someof the more preposterous thing he has said," Lanesaid

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