Boston School Superintendent Robert R. Spillane is a finalist in the search for a new superintendent for Fairfax County schools, several members of the Fairfax School Board told Boston officials in a visit there yesterday.

Spillane, 50, has headed the Boston schools since 1981. He is credited with raising academic standards and improving discipline after a half-decade of turmoil following a massive program of court-ordered busing for school desegregation.

Ian Forman, an assistant to Spillane, said Fairfax board members -- Chairman Mary Collier, Robert E. Frye and Laura I. McDowall -- visited his office yesterday and he helped them arrange meetings with other school officials and community leaders.

The three, staying at a Boston hotel, did not return calls from a reporter.

Kate Hanley, another Fairfax School Board member, confirmed that the three were in Boston as part of the superintendent search but declined to say whether Spillane was a finalist.

According to sources close to the search, the list of contenders for the Fairfax school position has been narrowed from 65 to four, but the names of the other finalists have not been disclosed.

The School Board is expected to announce its choice Feb. 28.

William J. Burkholder, the outgoing Fairfax superintendent, currently is earning $79,450 a year. Last fall the board proposed to raise his salary to $157,000 a year if he would not retire, but it withdrew the offer after criticism from the County Board of Supervisors.

Sources said the new superintendent might be offered a package of salary and benefits totaling about $100,000.

Spillane earns $70,000 a year and gets free use of a car as head of the Boston school system, which has an enrollment of 57,100 and a budget of about $300 million. Fairfax has an enrollment of 124,000 and a budget of $507 million.

In Boston, Spillane developed a comprehensive new curriculum with grade-by-grade objectives linked to tests. Spillane also changed principals at about half the city's 123 schools and advocated merit pay for teachers. Spillane was on vacation yesterday, which was a school holiday in Massachusetts, and could not be reached for comment.