10-22-2016  12:04 am      •     
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Former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice has been suggested as a possible replacement for Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Raj Manhas, who is leaving after four years as head of the district.
Manhas announced late last month that he will step down at the end of the school year. He has been widely criticized in trying to erase a $35 million budget deficit in part by closing and consolidating schools.
Manhas on Saturday said he was not being forced out.
"I have every intention of fulfilling my contract, which ends in August 2007," said Manhas, 55. "My direction comes from the school board."
Some Seattle School Board members this weekend denied that a deal with Rice was in place, but others confirmed Saturday to The Seattle Times that he was suggested as a replacement by current Mayor Greg Nickels.
Board members said Nickels called them last week to suggest they hire Rice, who took a particular interest in education during his 11 years on the City Council and eight years as mayor, from 1990 to 1998.
"I think it's worth considering," said school board member Michael DeBell, who talked to Nickels on Friday evening. "I thought that Raj was a very good superintendent, but we are in a state of flux right now, and I think it's very important that we have the confidence of the city, so all ideas that are directed toward that goal I am considering."
Board President Cheryl Chow and board member Darlene Flynn said they, too, were left messages from Nickels' staff, but they hadn't talked to him.
The two said they are committed to their planned national search to replace Manhas. The board meets Tuesday to begin discussion on the search.
"We were elected to do this, just like the mayor is elected to take care of the viaduct and the potholes," Chow said.
Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis would only confirm that Nickels has been trying to contact all school board members and that he had reached some of them.
"He didn't want to engage in this through the media," Ceis said.
Nickels has criticized both the board and the district, saying the district has been too slow to address its financial problems.
Rice, the city's first Black mayor, has also faulted the district for its budget and academic troubles.
When asked by The Times editorial board in September whether he would accept a job as superintendent of the 44,000-student system, Rice was skeptical.
"I may not be the right person," said Rice, 63. "I'd be too radical."
For a Saturday article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Rice didn't deny that he'd been approached to consider running Washington's largest school district.
And when asked by The Times on Saturday about the suggestion, Rice referred questions to Nickels, who was his legislative aide when Rice was a city councilman from 1979 until 1987.
During his time as mayor, Rice convened an education summit, and he was involved in hiring former Seattle Schools Superintendent John Stanford, who died of leukemia in 1998.
—The Associated Press

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