Robert R. (Bud) Spillane is at his second Rotary Club meeting of the week. This time, he's having veal tips over rice at the Marco Polo Restaurant in Vienna, and gearing up to give another community speech.
As superintendent of schools in Fairfax County, Spillane feels he should meet and greet the taxpayers who pay his half-billion-dollar budget. Some of the businessmen laughing and clinking glasses are parents with children in his schools.
By next year, Spillane hopes to slow his pace a bit -- sleep more than six hours a night, spend more time with his wife and two teen-age daughters, maybe even squeeze in an ocean sail. But for now, it's a flat-out marathon aimed at letting people see Bud Spillane.
He is 52, with a firm handshake, a big Irish smile and a Boston accent still strong enough to turn "awards" into "awaads." His first job was as a short-order cook in his father's New England luncheonette; now, he wears pocket handkerchiefs and makes $90,000 a year as head of the nation's 10th largest school district.
After the Rotarians finish their veal, Spillane rises to the lectern. He has spoken so often before crowds that he once joked he feels compelled to talk every time he opens his refrigerator and the light goes on. He can ad-lib a 10-minute television spot, running just one second over, without consulting his watch.
He says he'll take questions after the speech. There could be some tough ones because Spillane's first four months as superintendent haven't been easy:
*A former school psychologist, Arthur S. Pomerantz, was arrested on child sex abuse charges.
*Former Redskin Clarence Harmon, who had been hired as a coach and aide at Langley High School, resigned after it was learned that he had pleaded guilty to drug charges in 1983 but had not mentioned the incident on his application. Spillane did not rehire him.
*The afternoon before the Rotary meeting, a county school bus plunged off a wet road and into a ravine, injuring two children. Police have charged the driver with reckless behavior.
Spillane looks into the sea of restaurant tablecloths, crumpled napkins and dark business suits. Maybe in Boston some people were more interested in beans and Bruins than public schools, and Spillane had to crack jokes to get attention.
But here in Fairfax, where town house neighbors don't often know each other, and all highways seem to lead to fast food hamburgers and gas stations, schools are what bind people.
Fairfax has such an insatiable appetite for school news that the school system has its own cable TV show and publishes weekly "Media Tips" listing everything from high school laser experiments to the donation of bingo prizes to a nursing home.
Spillane smiles broadly. He tells the Rotarians that he comes from Lowell, Mass. -- the same city as "Fast Eddie" Anderson, the convicted D.C. pimp who wore a full-length black mink and traded new Cadillacs and Lincolns almost every year.
Then, one or two laughs.
This is Virginia.
Traffic is horrible in Boston, the superintendent continues, but nowhere is it as nightmarish as in Washington.
How is it, he asks, that to drive north from Mount Vernon to Fairfax City, one has to take I-95 South. A road that actually points west?
The men chuckle, politely.
Finally, Spillane comes around to the serious stuff, including his favorite theme: the nation's teacher shortage, which recently found even prestigious Fairfax County, which got only two applicants for a high school physics teacher's job.
Now, the men are interested. They're pulling out cigars and cigarettes. Others are settling back into chairs. Some are Madison High School boosters; some root for Oakton, where Spillane's daughters are. One man closes his eyes to concentrate.
When Spillane is finished, some of the men raise their hands to ask questions. They aren't interested in Mr. Pomerantz. They don't ask about Clarence Harmon's drugs, or even about the Great Falls bus plunge.
They want the big picture -- how the Rotarians can help Fairfax's already terrific school system, or what's happening at the new Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
These people are the reason Spillane took the Fairfax job. The school bus accident is important, of course, but the more critical issues are the long-term academic ones.
"This is just as political [as Boston], in a sense," he said of Fairfax in a recent interview. "But it is at a much higher level.
"You're not dealing with getting people on payrolls who are related," he said, "or who get votes for the school board members -- their ward heelers and their campaign chair people. You don't find that at all . . . .
"In Boston, I very seldom attended a parent-teacher meeting because there weren't any. And if there were, no one came. There were empty halls in the schools. Here, it's so much more active."
The Rotarians finished promptly at 1:30 p.m. Spillane drove off from the Marco Polo in the black Ford that, as superintendent, he uses for free. There's a phone in the car, which is a good thing.
His home telephone in Oakton is listed in the book, but Spillane rarely is there to answer it. He has meetings every night, and his calendar is booked through Christmas.
To see his wife and two youngest children -- Kathleen, 16, and Maura, 13 -- he winds up taking them to quasi-business events, such as a Bullets game, or the grand opening of the Patriot Center at George Mason University.
On a recent Saturday, he slept until noon, which is something he hasn't done since high school. "I was just physically exhausted," the superintendent said.