Amid Uncertainty, Janey Keeps Focus on Reforms
Sunday, May 20, 2007
For someone whose professional future has been the subject of open speculation for months and remains in doubt, D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey hasn't looked worried.
Standing at a lectern in the library of Bunker Hill Elementary School last week, Janey told a smiling audience of PTA members and teachers that science and social studies textbooks for the 55,000-student school system had arrived for the coming school year. In years past, late textbooks had drawn parental ire and criticism from city officials.
"This is a new day," Janey said. "We are leading the charge for reform."
As Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) waits for his takeover plan to receive approval from Congress and, ultimately, President Bush, Janey continues to project a public image of confidence, even as his fate remains uncertain. Under Fenty's takeover proposal, the schools chancellor, a new title for Janey's position, would report directly to the mayor.
Advocates and experts say that given the superintendent's limbo status, they are pleased to see that Janey has not been distracted.
"Until and unless someone announces that he's no longer going to be the person, he's doing exactly what he should be doing," said Michael Casserly, executive director of the nonprofit group Council of the Great City Schools. "He's going about the business of trying to improve the school system."
Fenty's new education strategy -- rewritten last week after news reports that much of the first plan was lifted verbatim from another school system's plan -- states that the chancellor position would lead a new accountability system called "SchoolStat," sessions in which educators would meet as a group to discuss test scores and other measures of academic improvement.
Janey said he had not yet read the mayor's newest plan but cautioned that improving the school system takes "attention," along with reams of information. He reiterated his interest in seeing the results of the work he started when he arrived nearly three years ago. His major accomplishments include creating a master education plan and a master facilities plan, blueprints for strengthening the curriculum and fixing crumbling school buildings.
"I did not come here to start and stop," Janey said in an interview last week. "I came here to complete the expectation that people have of me and that I have of myself."
Although Fenty has made "moving quickly" the signature of his administration, naming some members of his Cabinet before he was sworn in, he has not said whether he will replace Janey.
But after allegations that his initial schools plan was copied from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school system's, Fenty noted in his second version that Janey's master education plan is a strong start and that his mayoral reforms would build on Janey's work.
Meanwhile, speculation continues about whether Fenty will seek to hire Rudy Crew, superintendent of the Miami-Dade County public schools. The District tried to hire Crew three years ago.
Without full control of the schools, Deputy Mayor for Education Victor A. Reinoso said last week, talk of replacing Janey is premature. Reinoso said the administration was focused on reviewing the school system's financial practices as part of a forensic audit examining school system spending.
"The mayor holds Dr. Janey in high regard for what he's been able to accomplish," Reinoso said. "There are a number of steps forward that have been made under his leadership."
Meanwhile, Janey has assembled a team of administrators to begin back-to-school planning. The school system is interviewing principals and searching for applicants to fill teacher vacancies.
Former District 1 school board member Jeff Smith said Janey's expertise will continue to be tapped by city officials until they know enough about the school system.
"This administration has been typically very direct and decisive. . . . [But] I feel like Dr. Janey is being led along to accomplish another objective, to head up someone else's transition effort unknowingly," said Smith, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group D.C. Voice.
Clarity is needed, he said, because a sense of uncertainty has filtered down to school employees and will ultimately affect students.
"Everyone who provides education on a daily basis -- do we want them preoccupied with looking for another job, wondering who their boss is going to be, or do we want them concerned about teaching children?" Smith asked.