SCHOOL BOARD members, parents, city officials and anyone else with a concern for this city should now be devising some strategy to keep Vincent Reed on as superintendent. Contrary to those board members who claim that Mr. Reed is a "mediocre" superintendent, one who fails to give them information or to respond to their commands, he has been a rare source of forward movement in the beleaguered schools. In the classrooms, the school system's product -- education -- is being better delivered today than it was before he became superintendent. Board members who judge Mr. Reed on his manner of dealing with them instead of on what he had done for the schools are making a terrible mistake -- and one that city children will pay for.

What can people do to keep Mr. Reed?The superintendent says one major obstacle to his remaining is that if he does not take advantage of the current early retirement plan and leave by Dec. 31, he may not get full retirement benefits. The reason is that he cannot qualify for full benefits, without the early-out plan, unless he has three more years on the job, and his contract expires in two years. He feels that if he needed to have the board give him a new contract in two years, he would be at its mercy, "boxed in" by people with a million crazy ideas. Giving the superintendent a three-year contract now, one that would take him into retirement, would eliminate that problem. It must be done.

Next, school board proposals that tie Mr. Reed's hands and keep him from running the schools should stop. Vincent Reed, as superintendent, is responsible for the working of the schools, and he should have the power to fulfill that responsibility. If he does a bad job, there are ways of getting rid of him. But at least he must be given the chance to do a good job. For that to happen requires the board to let Mr. Reed choose his assistant superintendents, principals and department heads. The schools need skilled educators in these positions, not politicians and cousins and brothers-in-law indebted to the board.

There are two more steps that the board must take to keep Mr. Reed. Instead of withdrawing his authority to approve contracts over $5,000, the board should allow him to approve all school system contracts. It could retain the power to veto any contract that the whole board felt was unacceptable. And finally, let's end the harassment of the superintendent by small-time politicians with gargantuan egos. He should not be tyrannized by every great idea or complaint from a board member. The board must resolve to find some coherent and serious way to communicate with Mr. Reed, rather than letting 11 people bombard and harass and second-guess him.

If all these things are done in the next few days, there may be some chance the superintendent will stay. The key board members who have let it be known they are content to see the District's first successful superintendent in a decade be forced out of office are Calvin Lockridge, Eugene Kinlow, Alaire Rieffel and John Warren. By their silence, Nathaniel Bush and Frank Smith Jr. have included themselves in this group. They are the ones to whom you will have to send your message if you agree Vincent Reed must stay on.