Fenty Regrets Copied Proposal

By David Nakamura and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty characterized his administration's verbatim copying of portions of an education plan from another school district as a "serious issue" that should not have happened, while District leaders warned that the matter threatened to erode support for the mayor's takeover of the public schools.

Fenty (D) said the administration made a mistake in lifting sections of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school system's "strategic plan" and using them without attribution in a document submitted to the D.C. Council in February.

"We need to make sure the public knows this is not how it should have happened," Fenty said after initially declining to answer reporters' questions.

Fenty sought to put the matter behind him, declaring himself satisfied with an apology issued Tuesday by Victor Reinoso, the deputy mayor for education, who took responsibility for the copying.

But Fenty's bid to reduce the power of the Board of Education and take direct control of the troubled 55,000-student school system faced another hurdle when an anonymous U.S. senator placed a "hold" on the takeover legislation Tuesday. It is not clear why the senator blocked the bill or how long the hold will last. The council approved Fenty's plan last month, and the House of Representatives ratified it this week.

District officials said they feared that the revelation of the copying could complicate the mayor's effort to improve the schools. Fenty has made the takeover his top priority, saying he will hold his administration and school officials accountable to residents.

"What this does is fuel further fear about the capacity of this group to get the job done," said council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), who voted in favor of the takeover and still supports it. "It undoubtedly shakes the confidence of the public in moving forward with a complicated and time-sensitive task."

Gina Arlotto, a member of Save Our Schools, which opposed Fenty's takeover, said the copying showed that the mayor and his aides lack education expertise.

"This just shows they do not know what they're doing," she said. "They can continue to have this aura of, 'We are competent, we are capable, we have vision.' But they have the vision, competence and abilities of Charlotte."

Fenty and Reinoso submitted their 31-page school improvement plan to the council in February as a blueprint for how Fenty would improve the schools. Before that, Fenty had said that he would follow the master education plan developed by Superintendent Clifford B. Janey while improving management and speeding up reform efforts.

In an interview yesterday, Reinoso said the February document was intended to lay out additional initiatives to support the master plan. The document, which has "DRAFT" stamped on each page, was an early effort to collect "best practices" from school districts across the country, Reinoso said.

He said the document grew to 67 pages of plans culled from New York City, Denver, Oakland, Miami-Dade County and other school districts, in addition to Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Reinoso then reduced it to 31 pages before submitting it to the council, which had a series of public hearings on the takeover legislation.

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