Michael P. Marcase, Phila. school superintendent

Michael P. Marcase headed the School District in the turbulent 1970s and '80s.
Michael P. Marcase headed the School District in the turbulent 1970s and '80s.
Posted: April 02, 2014

Michael P. Marcase, 90, who climbed the ranks from shop teacher to superintendent of the Philadelphia School District in the 1970s and '80s, running the system during a tumultuous time of teachers' strikes, budget deficits, and self-inflicted controversies, died Thursday, March 27, of Alzheimer's disease at the Oaks facility in Wyncote.

During his tenure, Dr. Marcase expanded the district's magnet-school programs; created Data Line, which allowed students to dial a phone number and get help with their homework; and oversaw efforts to help slow learners and a program in which high school pupils tutored younger schoolchildren. After he left the job, he told The Inquirer, it was his idea to open a high school for the performing arts.

While ushering in new educational programs, he was caught up in controversy almost immediately after then-Mayor Frank L. Rizzo appointed him in 1975 to run what was then the nation's fourth-largest public school district.

News reports criticized Dr. Marcase for having received his doctorate from the University of Sarasota in Florida, a then-unaccredited school that was once housed in the Sarasota Motor Hotel. He later made up the controversial credits by taking courses at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1977 - two years after his appointment - he was the target of a grand jury investigation looking into allegations of manipulating vacation-pay records and improperly using School District workers to construct a sun porch on his summer home at the Jersey Shore. The investigation was later dropped. The Philadelphia native had homes in East Falls and Longport, N.J.

Three teachers' strikes plagued his tenure, including a 50-day walkout in 1981 over a promised 10 percent pay raise that never materialized because of disagreements between Mayor William J. Green and City Council.

In an interview with The Inquirer after he was pushed out in 1982, Dr. Marcase summed up his seven years as superintendent as "traumatic, hectic at times, distressing in many cases, and very satisfying."

If it were his decision, he would have remained on the job for five more years, he said, as way of acknowledging the controversies that surrounded his tenure and created a "field day" for the media.

The controversies, he said, eclipsed his accomplishments as an educator.

"I'm human. I'm certain I've made some mistakes, but I've done a good job," he said.

"I've never done anything that I was ashamed of in my whole career," he said. "I've never done anything unethical or immoral, and that is what has sustained me."

He took a buyout and left the district after Green pressed for his removal. In retirement, he started a consulting business, Educational Management Associates.

Before starting his career in education, he spent 10 years working for the Navy Department as an inspector. He began working for the School District in 1953 as a substitute teacher. The following year, he became a shop teacher at Lincoln High School in the Northeast before ascending the administration hierarchy, earning the requisite degrees in his spare time.

He loved dogs, golf, boating, entertaining, and traveling, especially to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He enjoyed toasting the sunset with one of his "killer Martinis," his family said.

He was a member of the Atlantic City Country Club, Greate Bay Country Club, and the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

He is survived by a daughter, Diane McCartney; two grandchildren; a sister; and nieces and nephews. His wife, Marie, died earlier.

Services were private. Plans for a memorial were pending.

Donations may be made to the Convent of Divine Love, 2212 Green St., Philadelphia 19130.


bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118

@Ben_Finley

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