It was showdown time for Laval Wilson. As Boston's first black school superintendent, he was in the final year of a four-year contract. For the first time in 16 years the ``super'' won. The Boston School Committee voted 8 to 5 to rehire him. Dr. Wilson is praised by supporters as an able and efficient administrator who has brought stability and racial harmony to schools. But he is denounced by his detractors as a dictator and an executive who listens to no one.
Beginning next July 1, Wilson will become the first Boston superintendent since 1972 to serve more than four years. During that time the city's troubled system has operated a revolving door for nine school heads.
These educators were trying to lead a school system that battled court-ordered and -controlled school desegregation for 12 years, 1974-86; that was faced with violence within and outside its schools; and that was run by a board several of whose members were accused of law infractions (two went to jail).
This is Wilson's third controversial charge over a city's public schools. He also headed the education systems in Berkeley, Calif., and Rochester, N.Y.
For Boston and its 59,000 public school students, this development seems to signal:
Implementation of a number of innovations of the Boston Plan for Excellence, Wilson's blueprint for city schools.
Continuation of a visible white presence in city schools. Boston has maintained a 26 percent white enrollment under Wilson, thus stalling the so-called white flight.
A 13-member school committee that represents the city's various communities while at the same time including four members elected on a citywide at-large basis. This is in contrast to a previous all-white, five-member board.
Left unsettled in the Hub's fluid school situation are how to finance local education and what role will be played by Mayor Raymond Flynn's advisory panel on school reform, a special committee that some Bostonians have labeled as a grab for more power by the mayor.