Manassas Park Superintendent of Schools James W. Moyers Jr. was praised by several school officials after his recent resignation because of illness.

"One year isn't very much time, but {Moyers} certainly laid down some new rules, insisting on such simple things as homework," said School Board member Mary Arnold.

"He has laid a foundation {for Manassas Park schools}, and it's up to us to find a new superintendent to build on it."

Moyers, 54, who has been battling cancer, has been on leave since the beginning of the school year. His resignation was accepted by the School Board last week. His salary was $76,970 a year.

The board appointed Associate Superintendent Bernard L. Hatcher acting superintendent. His salary will remain $65,224. The board has not decided how to conduct a search for a replacement.

Arnold, like many others who worked with Moyers, praised his honesty and his extraordinary ability to communicate with others, from students and teachers to administrators and School Board members.

Moyers's philosophy, said Charles Lowry, a teacher at Manassas Park High School, is, "How can I help you do your job better?"

Director of Instruction Dellas Chastain said Moyers "had a tremendous tolerance as a listener. He listened intently and with intellect. He really followed what you were saying."

Moyers first entered the city school system in 1978 as Manassas Park High School's principal, but left in July 1980 for a stint in private business. He returned in 1985 as assistant superintendent for administration and became superintendent in July 1989.

One of Moyers's major accomplishments was reducing the teacher turnover rate, which had haunted the schools and frustrated both teachers and administrators for years. Turnover among the 110 teachers during the 1988-89 school year was almost 32 percent. The turnover rate dropped to 14 percent last year under Moyers, who pushed determinedly and got 8 percent salary increases for teachers for the 1990-91 school year.

"The teachers stayed because of him," Arnold said.

Although he had a keen eye for administrative details, Moyers made students his primary focus.

"His mission was to improve the . . . self-image of students in Manassas Park" through education, Chastain said. Said Lowry: "He's made a real attempt to make the kids feel better about themselves."

Moyers fostered the staff's development of several new programs, such as an alternative education program for students with behavioral problems, a cooperative learning program and an expanded testing program. Still on the drawing board are Moyers's plans for a comprehensive testing program for graduating seniors.

Moyers was also instrumental in pinning down a four-year, $716,000 federal grant under which George Mason University is developing innovative educational programs in the city schools.

Although Moyers's resignation has not appeared to diminish School Board and staff commitment to his goals, most agree his special touch with students, faculty and the board will be missed.

"I think he's really the most respected man I've ever known," said School Board Clerk Lois Steele. "He's very fair and consistent . . . a true gentleman."