Robert R. (Bud) Spillane, who will become superintendent of the Fairfax County Schools July 1, this week came close to going out fighting from his current post, as superintendent of schools in Boston.

Spillane was challenged to a fist fight by a Boston School Committee member, but he declined, witnesses said.

Spillane and school committee member Joseph Casper almost came to blows during a committee discussion Tuesday about how a high school principal handled a student who allegedly brandished a gun in a crowded classroom.

After a half hour of questioning by Casper, a committee member with whom Spillane has long feuded, Spillane said, "I'm sick and tired of listening to this vitriolic jerk," according to witnesses. They said Casper then approached Spillane.

"What did you call me," Casper asked, poking Spillane in the shoulder with his finger.

"Don't you ever touch me again," Spillane replied.

School committee member Jean McGuire called a security guard, and Casper returned to his seat.

"Mr. Spillane is basically a gentleman," McGuire said. "Nobody else would have put up with that. Anybody else would have knocked that sucker out. I would have."

Spillane later said the incident makes him eager to start his new job. "I can guarantee it will be more civilized anywhere," he said, according to the Associated Press.