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PROPOSAL CUTS 70 TEACHING JOBS; RETIREMENTS WOULD AVERT LAYOFFS, THOMPSON SAYS

Schools Superintendent Albert Thompson's second consecutive scaled-down budget will eliminate more than 70 teaching positions and will drop a plan to restore 16 administrative jobs.

Thompson disclosed after a School Board meeting Wednesday that the jobs are included in $23 million in cuts he has made from his original budget proposal for the 1990-1991 school year.

Because 200 teachers are retiring, the reduction in teaching jobs will not mean layoffs, he said.

The superintendent placed the operating budget at $269 million, which does not reflect all state and federal aid.

In a request to the city in January, the board had said it wanted to hire additional teachers to reduce class size and provide art, music and gym instruction in the primary grades.

Copies of Thompson's budget proposal, geared to the actual city and state appropriations, were not available.

During the meeting, board members approved the summer school portion of the budget.

It eliminates seven of last summer's programs, including some special language studies and a program for the gifted and talented.

A summary of administrative cuts, distributed to board members, shows the elimination of two assistant superintendents for pupil personnel services and continuing education and the last two supervising principals.

During the four-hour board meeting, members voted 6 to 3 to reassure employees and the community that they will observe board policies in filling jobs and that they recognize the importance of last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision on patronage appointments. The measure was approved after heated exchanges among board members.

"The morale among our employees is hitting dirt bottom," said Bettye Blackman, board member from the Ferry District. "Persons who have worked in political jobs for years are now applying for jobs in the Board of Education."

James W. Comerford Jr. of the Park District challenged Mrs. Blackman's contention.

"It really amazes me how many people on this board act like politics started last July," he said.

Comerford charged that before the new board, decisions were made in restaurant caucuses by the old board and friends of the late Superintendent Eugene T. Reville.

"I wasn't even involved in decision-making when some of the decisions were made in Valentine's or Oliver's," he said.

Oscar Smukler of the North District said the board can act only on the superintendent's recommendations in most cases.

Victor J. Turchiarelli of the West District countered that board members must avoid using "muscle" on behalf of favorites. He pointed to the appointments to top district jobs last December of James Kane, a friend of Comerford's, and Brian Hayden, campaign manager of John C. Doyle, an at-large board member.

Comerford retaliated by calling attention to Turchiarelli's recent bid for the nomination to the Assembly seat held by Francis J. Pordum, D-Hamburg.

"The only thing you have talked about is that situation that occurred last December," Comerford said. "When I saw you are running for that seat against Mr. Pordum, it kind of got me sick."

"As far as running, you had better hope I lose," Turchiarelli said. "If you had your children in the system, maybe you'd be more conscientious."

At the end of the debate, Thompson defended his recommendation of Kane for his assistant and said that it was not the first time a key appointment was made without considering more than one candidate.

"Ask anyone who has worked with Mr. Kane," said Thompson. "They will tell you he's a good person."

In a separate matter, Smukler gave his version of a recent difference he had with at-large member Judith Fisher, who accused him Saturday of making a deal to support Comerford for president in the upcoming election.

Smukler said he approached Comerford, saying that he thought it better to name Thompson superintendent at the June 13 meeting rather than waiting any additional time. He said Comerford, after soul-searching and consulting a priest, decided to cast his vote for Thompson June 13 but did not ask anything in return.

"I do swing my vote," said Smukler. "A deal was made for the presidency for three consecutive years. Deals are made every day."

Smukler said that he did not promise to give anything to Comerford although he was gratified by Comerford's role in helping elect the new superintendent two weeks earlier than might otherwise have occurred.

"There was no deal cut," said Comerford. "I have not asked one board member yet for their vote."

Comerford said that he personally urged Thompson to apply for superintendent before the matter of Kane was ever discussed.

"My main offense was that I am an ally of Mayor Griffin," Comerford added.

Comerford also made an apology for his remarks at an anti-abortion rally Saturday where he said that a Nazi death camp was "more humane" than the methods used in abortions. He blamed speaking off-the-cuff.

"The Jewish community can be assured that this analogy will not be made again by me," he said.

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