One of a Handful of Candidates : Payzant Being Considered for Top L.A. Schools Post

Times Staff Writers

San Diego Unified School District Supt. Tom Payzant is one of a handful of candidates being considered for superintendent of the Los Angeles public school system.

The disclosure that Payzant, 46, is in the running for the top administrator of the nation's second-largest school district is a departure from last year, when Payzant quickly rejected a similar entreaty from the Houston school district.

Payzant said he was contacted by Korn-Ferry International, a national executive search firm, and agreed to pursue the Los Angeles job.

"I was contacted by the consulting firm . . . to determine my interest in being considered for the position, and after very careful thought, I said 'yes,' " Payzant said Tuesday. "That led to preliminary conversations with the L.A. board, with the understanding that before it is in a position to make any decision, there will be at least one more interview of the finalists."

At least three other candidates are under consideration, including Leonard Britten, head of Dade County schools in Florida, and two high-ranking Los Angeles Unified School District administrators. Los Angeles schools Supt. Harry Handler, 58, who last year announced he would retire in June, 1988, later later changed the date of his departure and now plans to vacate the $122,000-a-year job this June. Handler has been superintendent for five years.

Payzant is now paid $99,600 annually, with a $5,000 raise due this summer.

Los Angeles school board members say they are moving as quickly as possible to find a replacement, but a district official said a decision probably won't be made until May.

The official, who did not want to be identified, said it would take that long because several members of the seven-member board are tied up with election campaigns and will have insufficient time to interview candidates until after the April 14 primary.

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