LIKE many other American cities, Louisville, Ky., has been grappling with two of the nation's most perplexing challenges: school desegregation and economic decline.
Though their basic problems are much alike, few other cities appear to have enjoyed the degree of success achieved by the Kentucky metropolis.
Neal Pierce, veteran chronicler of America's cities and states, calls it "a thought-provoking model for cities and regions whose leaders feel as if they've slipped their moorings and lost control...."
Consider school desegregation and its notorious companion, busing: More than a decade after a federal court order merged the mostly white Jefferson County school system with Louisville's majority-black city schools, the county is embarking on a new venture aimed at deemphasizing busing of elementary school children but maintaining a policy of having no school with less than 15 percent or more than 50 percent black students.
One apparent reason for optimism on the part of Superintendent Donald Ingwerson and his staff is that, in the last decade, some 16,000 black families have moved to the suburbs, an unprecedented migration.
Dr. Ingwerson has been named 1992 Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.
Another key facet of the Louisville-Jefferson County success story is imaginative use of the federal Urban Enterprise Zone program to help revitalize the county's industrial sector. It has been charged that federal requirements were violated by going outside the inner city. But admirers say it is innovative - and it works.
The story is not over, and no one is claiming that the Louisville-Jefferson County area has solved all its social and economic problems. But the combination of bold leadership and willingness to assay innovative initiatives can still result in success.