Fenty Takes Council Members on a Field Trip
Saturday, December 9, 2006
NEW YORK, Dec. 8 -- Somewhere close to Wilmington, Del., as the Amtrak Acela carried the District's political leadership northward Friday morning, Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty and members of the D.C. Council came together in a show of teamwork.
They formed a pick-up basketball squad.
"Hey, Adrian, get over here!" shouted Harry "Tommy" Thomas Jr., the incoming council member from Ward 5, huddling in the aisle with Chairman-elect Vincent C. Gray (D), member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Tommy Wells, who will represent Ward 6 next year, and member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). "Here's our starting five."
"But you've got to wear up-to-date fashion," Gray added. "No booty shorts!"
The council members laughed and then challenged reporters to a future game. It was a good start to a day that Fenty (D) had hoped would bring him critical council support in a fast-approaching political fight over taking control of D.C. public schools.
The Fenty train -- carrying 11 council members, D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey and two dozen aides and reporters -- was bound for New York to meet Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R), a key ally in Fenty's plan to wrest the school system from the D.C. Board of Education.
In 2002, Bloomberg won his battle for control of New York's schools, and Fenty has said he is likely to send the D.C. Council next month a similar proposal, to turn the school board into an advisory panel.
"What we're doing today is talking about something we all agree on, that the future of the D.C. public schools is our highest priority," Fenty declared at a 5:30 a.m. news conference at Union Station, 30 minutes before the train departed for New York.
The immediate priority for some council members, however, seemed to be finding coffee.
"The last time I was up this early, I was on my way home," quipped a groggy Evans, recalling his younger, night-owl days as he boarded the train.
After arriving at Penn Station, the group boarded a chartered bus and went to a Harlem middle school that had been reconstituted into a campus of three small, independent schools, a key feature of Bloomberg's reform model.
Joel I. Klein, chancellor of New York schools, briefed the group privately for about 45 minutes about what he called the successes of the New York reform model -- including a streamlined central administration, 180 new small high schools and rising test scores at many grade levels. Then Klein led a tour of the school, and Fenty began a harder sell -- not to the council members but to the students.