When school doors reopen in September, Eugene T. Reville will be superintendent of schools in a large city, but rumors continued to fly this week about which city that will be.
An answer could come as soon as Tuesday.
In Little Rock, Ark., Reville is in the headlines as the leading candidate for a controversial "super superintendent" position.
In Buffalo, rumors persist that Reville will take the Little Rock job. But the superintendent himself, while saying nice things about both cities, denies that he has received an invitation from the federal judge supervising school integration in Little Rock.
"I expect that Mr. Reville will accept the position as soon as the federal judge offers it," a member of the Buffalo Board of Education, who asked not to be identified, said earlier this week.
Reville, back in Buffalo after attending a superintendents' conference in Florida, stays in good humor as reporters from the two cities pursue him checking out the latest rumors.
"I had a call from both Little Rock newspapers saying they heard I would be down next week," the superintendent said Tuesday. "They also had me meeting Aubrey McCutcheon (special master in the Little Rock case) in Detroit."
Both rumors are wrong and he still has no invitations to move, Reville said.
One reason that rumors are hot is that there is not a lot of time before a new school year begins.
In Arkansas, a person close to the litigation that would combine the city school district with two suburban districts noted that the reopening of the schools in both states is only 14 weeks away.
"Whatever is done for next year needs to be done quickly," she said.
How soon U.S. District Judge Henry Woods could make a decision on the new structure of Little Rock's schools, and with it an offer to Reville, may be a problem.
Detroit lawyer Aubrey V. McCutcheon has recommended to the federal court in Arkansas the appointment of a metropolitan superintendent to integrate Little Rock and the two other school districts.
The superintendent would report to the court and have more power than the school boards.
The three school boards will appear before Woods May 30 to object to the plan. Board members want the court to appoint a monitor of desegregation to work with the boards, rather than directly with the court.
Woods will conduct a separate hearing June 7 on the financial part of the plan.
In the most extreme scenario, Woods could rule from the bench creating a superintendent's or a monitor's job and saying that he wants to offer the job to Reville.
Or he could hand down a written decision creating the position, without naming anyone to fill it.
Beth Deere, Woods' clerk, said it is risky to try to second-guess a federal judge.
"I never predict what Judge Woods will do," she said. "But he is known pretty much for prompt decisions."
School districts that would supply students to an integration plan under McCutcheon's proposals are reluctant to surrender authority to a school czar.
"All three districts are strongly opposed to creation of a super superintendent," said M.C. Mack McAlister of the Pulaski County School Board. "The districts don't feel the functions of the school boards should be superseded by anyone who would answer only to the court," he said.
McAlister said that the districts will appeal if Woods orders busing across school district lines or the appointment of a super superintendent.
McAlister said Monday that he sees little difference between a Woods plan that was reversed by a federal appeals court in 1984 and McCutcheon's recommendations.
Robin Armstrong, president of the Little Rock City School Board, said Monday she personally likes Reville, but expects a fight if Woods imposes a super superintendent.
"Unless there is a compromise between McCutcheon's recommendations and the districts' plans, at least two districts would appeal," Mrs. Armstrong said.
Mrs. Armstrong added:
"I love Gene Reville personally, and I think he's done a great job in Buffalo. . . . I would like to see him working with us on plans and proposals."
Reville has served as a consultant in the Little Rock schools desegregation case for seven years.
Reville, in his comments in both Buffalo and Little Rock, repeatedly has said that he has received no offer. But his words leave the door open.
The Arkansas Democrat quoted him May 12 as saying that "while interested, he is not sure he would take the position."
"I have worked in Buffalo for a long time," Reville is quoted as saying. "I have a six-year contract the board recently approved. That doesn't mean I'm not interested in Little Rock."
Ms. Deere pointed out that Reville's name is not actually before Woods. McCutcheon, in announcing his recommendations, said he would suggest candidates if asked and that one "is head and shoulders above the others." In Little Rock, this was interpreted to mean Reville.
McCutcheon and Reville have a long association. Reville has consulted on the Little Rock case, and McCutcheon, who entered the Little Rock case after Reville, is special counsel to the Buffalo School Board in the desegregation case here.
Both cities have a limited number of white students with which to integrate their schools.