Education: The Optimist

School Superintendent Alexander Jerry Stoddard of Los Angeles is a genial, ruddy-faced man with the patience of Penelope and the optimism of Dr. Pangloss. Last week, as he stepped down as the head of one of the nation's largest school systems, he could claim a record of sorts. Few U.S. superintendents have sailed through quite so many tempests—or managed to weather them quite so well.

A graduate of Nebraska State Teachers College in Peru. Stoddard started teaching to support himself through law school. But after a few months on the job, "I came...

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