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  • D.C. Voters' Guide

  •   The Mayoral Survey
    Question 2

    Thursday, July 30, 1998; Page J02

    Eight mayoral candidates whose names will appear on the ballot in the Sept. 15 party primary elections responded in writing to a series of questions posed by The Washington Post. The following is the second question and the candidates' answers.

    Question 2: Detail the single most important step you would take as mayor to improve the city's schools.

    Democratic Party

    Harold Brazil: There is nothing more important to this city than education. I believe that I have already taken the most important step I can by proposing a comprehensive six-point plan that focuses our attention on how well our children are doing rather than on how the system is doing. My plan calls for tough new recertification and evaluation standards for teachers; an honest evaluation of how well each school performs; reducing class size for kindergarten through eighth grade; providing enrichment programs, including tutor/mentor programs and before- and after-school care, in partnership with the community; assuring that students who need them have access to alternative schools; and working towards smaller "smart schools" with state-of-the-art resources and enrollments of no more than 500 students. The opportunities we create for our children are the keys to achieving all that we hope and dream for our city's future: attracting families and businesses, lowering crime, lessening poverty, and preparing ourselves for the challenges of the 21st Century. I am confident that my plan represents a solid strategy for change, and I pledge to use the leadership of the mayor's office to improve education every day I am in office.

    Kevin P. Chavous: That "most important step" has three parts: 1) reconnecting the D.C. public schools with District citizens; 2) assuring accountability; and 3) capturing federal and foundation monies. As mayor, I will direct the budget process to ensure that education is the priority. Crisis management will give way to detailed planning and budgeting, stable leadership and school-based management. And we will affirm the roles of parents and neighborhoods in sustaining school reform. My administration will ensure that: 1) Citizens have a voice through the elected Board of Education and through school management teams. 2) The school system has multi-year budgets, based on detailed implementation plans vetted through public review. 3) Students are prepared to learn by coordinating our youth and family services with the schools to deal with nonacademic issues such as student health and nutrition, family tensions, abuse and neglect, youth violence and truancy. 4) Neighborhoods have access to quality child care, before- and after-school programs, parent education and early childhood development programs. 5) A businesslike partnership -- not just good works and donations -- is established with the private sector to guide school-to-work vocational programs. 6) Partnerships are formed with the information industries and cultural, academic and professional institutions to both engage students and to support life-long learning for the larger community.

    Jack Evans: Site-based management should be the cornerstone of D.C. Public School System reforms. Decentralizing as much authority and discretion as possible to a principal is the most effective way to instill a system of accountability. This will work only if communities -- parents, civic leaders, the religious community -- are fully engaged in setting priorities and assessing the performance of schools. Choosing the best principals -- proven managers and leaders -- is absolutely critical. I would favor entering into performance agreements with principals, the elements of which would reflect the realities of the particular school. Parents must be accountable, too -- for preparing their children for classes and providing needed discipline. Students, in turn, must be accountable for their behavior. I would also favor bringing the school system into the executive branch so that the mayor is ultimately responsible and can ensure that resources of other city agencies are also focused on improving our educational system.

    Jeffrey Gildenhorn: I would focus on the teachers that educate our children. Teachers are the instruments of learning. First and foremost, before teachers are allowed to work in our public school system, they should be required to take rigorous academic exams, be thoroughly interviewed by a psychologist and have a complete background check so that only the brightest, best and emotionally balanced teachers are hired by our school system. I would see to it that they have the tools of learning at their disposal, whether it be books, computers, etc. I would demand excellence in their teaching techniques through yearly written academic and psychological examinations. In return for demanding excellence from our teachers, they should feel free to teach in a protective, secure environment, and be the best-paid rank-and-file public teachers in the nation.

    Anthony A. Williams: In the District, too many children attend schools where teachers lack the tools they need to teach, where roofs leak, and violence fills the halls. Through the Mayor's authority and responsibility to propose the District's budget, I will submit a comprehensive budget based on the following principles. 1) Teachers are equipped to teach. Teachers must have textbooks, training, aides, supplies and administrative support to teach kids effectively. Adequate resources must be targeted to support school-based management, rather than to unnecessary overhead. 2) School grounds are safe. Police and security guards must be assigned to school grounds to ensure that classrooms, playgrounds, and surrounding neighborhoods are safe places for children. 3) School buildings are fully functional. A multi-year capital improvement program will fund repairs to school buildings to make them places where children can focus on learning. In addition, we must all work together -- educators, parents, community leaders and businesses -- to ensure a safe place for our children to spend their time outside school hours; develop their skills in math, science, the arts and other subjects; and provide enrichment opportunities to develop the social skills necessary to be successful in life.

    Republican Party

    James Caviness: The first thing that must be done is to improve the efficiency and management of resources. This can be done by closing and consolidating about 50 school buildings throughout the city along with reducing the number of employees by at least 35 percent. Take the saving from these reductions, along with help from the federal government and start a five-year total renovation plan for all the other school buildings left in the system. Push to implement higher standards, qualifications and expectations of administrators, teachers and students. Push for higher pay scale for all qualified employees. Push for policies that will be very tough on crime and other forms of undesirable behavior. Push for reforms in the curriculum that will focus more on the basis of taking more pride in being an American citizen, reading, writing, counting, speaking and thinking instead of all the political correctness and feel goodism that we have today.

    Carol Schwartz: Although the mayor has little authority over the schools, she has a moral responsibility to ensure that education is returned to the high priority of yesteryear. I would make certain that all agencies under my purview participate in the educational process. With the help of business, recreation centers and libraries would have computers with universal programs needed to survive in today's technological world. Day care and before- and after-school programs run by the Department of Recreation and Parks would provide learning experiences coordinated with the curriculum being taught in schools. Working with libraries and schools, the Department would offer weekend and after-school training in test-taking for standardized tests and SATs so that children of families who cannot afford private institutions have the opportunity to succeed. I will coordinate tutoring and mentoring programs between the Office of Aging and the schools, including adult education programs, which I would expand. I will support UDC [the University of the District of Columbia]. As a former School Board member, a parent of three children who only attended D.C. Public Schools and as a product of public schools and a state university myself, I know first-hand that public education can work and I will prove it.

    D.C. Statehood Party

    John Gloster: We must recognize that the children in our school system need more personal attention than in some other systems. We must cut class size in half. This and the other initiatives that I propose will cost $200 million to implement, but is the best investment we can make, and will more than pay for itself in reduced socials costs and increased tax-paying, productive human beings. Parental involvement is crucial to a student's success in school. We will institute a program of "parent involvement counselors," who will help the teachers get the parents involved in their children's education. The counselors will also assist parents in their effort to help their children. (Many parents are afraid or intimidated about getting involved in their children's education, and may themselves be deficient in basic skills.) Finally, after-school recreational opportunities should be placed back into the school buildings, so that children have the option of staying in an adult monitored program straight through until 6 p.m. I would relieve teachers of the duty, however, by having professional recreational/"adulthood training" counselors handle these programs.

    Next Week: The candidates are asked to describe in specific terms the most important steps they would undertake to make the police department more effective.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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