If it hadn't been for a teachers' work-to-the-rule job protect in the spring of 1979, Carmin Caputo might be comfortably settled into a seat on the Fairfax County school board right now. But the timing of the unrest prompted county Supervisor Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) to persuade Rodney Page to serve at least another year as chairman of the board.

"He (Page) had just been made a full partner in his law firm," recalled Pennino. "Rod wanted to resign but I prevailed upon him not to -- I didn't want it to look like the situation with the teachers had gotten to him.

"If the school board chairman up and resigned right after the resignation of (former superintendent) Jack Davis it might have looked like the whole system was falling apart."

Last week, when Page fulfilled his pledge to Pennino, he gave up his board post -- and Pennimo was ready with Caputo's nomination.

Caputo, a 41-year-old electrical engineer with the Defense Communications Agency, said he was "delighted" by Pennino's choice and admitted there was little surprise in the move.

"Mrs. Pennino had talked to me . . . about whether I would like a position on the school board. I was so flattered, I just couldn't believe it," said Caputo.

A glance at Caputo's public experience indicates that Pennino has made a practice of appointing him to office. She has appointed him to several county commissions, including his current assignment as chairman of the Environmental Quality Advisory Committee. In addition, his wife, Barbara Caputo, was active in Pennino's reelection campaign last fall.

Caputo's interest in the Fairfax County school system stems primarily from his three children, who attend county schools. His involvement in school affairs has won him praise not only from Pennino but from the man he will replace.

"I first met Chuck when he was president of the Greenbriar (Elementary School) PTA," recalled Page. "He was a good leader -- extremely capable."

Pennino adds: "Carmin Caputo is extremely intelligent, hardworking and motivated. I was impressed with is sensitivity when he was president of the Greenbriar PTA."

Caputo's appointment was confirmed by the supervisors Monday, and he will attend his first meeting as a new school board member at the regular board meeting tonight.

Page is expected to open the meeting, say a few words and then formally step down to witness the swearing-in of his replacement. Caputo will serve the remainder of Page's term, which expires on June 30, 1981. A permanent board chairman is to be elected July 1.

Tonight's meeting may also be the last for Robert Smith and board vice chairman Ruth Dell, who have asked not to be reappointed, and for student member James T. Taylor, who will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

Other board changes may be imminent since the terms of Toni Carney and Ann Kahn also expire at the end of the month. Only Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield) has announced that she will reappoint her present board appointee -- Toni Carney -- to another two-year term. Other supervisors have asked for applications and have scheduled public meetings on the appointments. Sandra L. Duckworth (D-Mount Vernon) has scheduled public hearings at 8 p.m. on July 15 at Mount Vernon High School and James M. Scott (D-Providence) has set up an open forum for his school board appointment at 7:30 p.m. on June 25 at Oakton High School. Audrey Moore (D-Annandale) will hold public hearings at 7:30 on July 9 at the Kings Park library to find a successor for Smith.

As he begins his new job, Caputo says he is working on a "game plan" and trying to familiarize himself with issues coming up before the board.

"I want to really get out and meet everyone." he says. "I want to be able to feel the pulse of the community.