In a feature today, Anna Phillips reports on what Thompson was really like while president of the Board of Education:

…That was Thompson the manager, whom former board members, colleagues, and even political rivals from that era describe as “fair,” “conciliatory,” and possessing a “quiet leadership,” that created a working majority on an often-fractious board.

“He tamed the board in a good way,” the former colleague said.

Yet those who praise him as a calm leader stop short of saying he led a reform movement in the halls of 110 Livingston St., the old home of the Board of Education. As president of the board, they say, the structure of his job prevented him from doing more than strongly nudging the chancellor to propose one thing or another.