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School Board Candidates Say They're Eager to Reform System

By Patrice Gaines
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 17, 1996; Page J01

None of the four D.C. Board of Education candidates from Ward 5 expresses much support for Superintendent Franklin L. Smith, but their opinions on other subjects vary widely.

Janice Denise Smith Autrey, a supervisor at the city's Department of Human Services, is on the ballot with incumbent Angela K. Corley, a retired teacher; Antonia Hillyard, a retired educator; and Edward H. Wolterbeek, a retired systems analyst.

Ward 5, located mostly in Northeast Washington, has seven high schools, two junior highs, one middle school and 14 elementary schools. About 75,000 people, 90 percent of whom are black, live in the ward, where there are nearly 1,000 units of public housing.

Autrey, 41, said she was driven to enter the race by "the severity of the problems our schools are facing." The most important problem, she said, is "the funding of maintenance of the schools on a regular basis."

Autrey, a parent activist, attended D.C. public schools and has a daughter at Bunker Hill Elementary School. She has worked for Parents United, serving as a school volunteer, a ward coordinator and finally as co-chair of the group until deciding to run for the school board.

She wants to set up a school maintenance fund by soliciting donations from private donors and businesses. And she wants to see increased funding of adult education programs.

She also called for a better management system. "We need to clear up who is actually employed by the public schools," she said. "We need to provide better training mechanisms for teachers."

Autrey, who supervises social workers and has a sociology degree, believes social workers should be placed in the schools to work with students and their families.

In a Washington Post questionnaire, Autrey said the superintendent should continue in his job, and in an interview she said: "I think Smith should be able to complete his term. Otherwise, his departure would be too disruptive."

Autrey stated on her questionnaire that she opposes publicly funded tuition vouchers that can be used to send students to private schools. She also opposes the closing of some schools to save money. She supports allowing schools to contract for management services from private groups, and she supports the idea of charter schools, which are quasi-independent schools run by nonprofit groups.

The incumbent, Corley, 71, is a retired D.C. public school teacher and counselor and has served as a board representative since 1987.

Safety and security at school buildings remain a priority, Corley said. And she would like to see the city develop more comprehensive reading programs for students.

She said it's necessary to find more cost-effective ways of maintaining schools, perhaps by training people within the school system to do more of the large repair jobs.

"At this time of fiscal crises, when our confidence in city government is waning, my experience in education is needed," she said. "I wish I could have more resources. Fire code violations have taken a bulk of our money."

Corley said she is dismayed by the pay of D.C. teachers and is promising to increase their income. She said she believes the superintendent "should be removed."

In response to a Post questionnaire, Corley said she does not support tuition vouchers and opposes allowing schools to contract management services from private businesses and groups. She favors closing some schools to save money and supports charter schools.

Hillyard dropped out of high school only to become a teacher. Her own life has made her an advocate for alternative schools, and she would like to see one in every ward.

"I work with students the public schools gave up on," said Hillyard, a retired teacher, counselor and former assistant principal at the youth center at Lorton Correctional Complex. She also worked as a public school teacher in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the District before retiring in 1991.

Hillyard dropped out of high school in 11th grade and went to work for the federal government. Fourteen years later, she received a high school diploma and went to college.

Hillyard said both the superintendent and the school board have performed poorly.

"I want to restructure the role of the supervisor," she said. "I'm for having the superintendent report to meetings once a month and submitting financial statements on a quarterly basis before he dispenses funds.

"The problem is not just Dr. Smith. He has a weak supervisor -- and that is the school board."

She wants a better security program, and she suggests that computers be used to accurately count students and people working in the buildings.

Regarding building maintenance, Hillyard said, "We should start with the oldest school and totally renovate, then go to the next."

Hillyard said she opposes school vouchers. In a Post questionnaire, she said that Smith should be removed, that she opposes charter schools and that she is against closing schools to save money. She also opposes allowing individual schools to contract for management services.

Wolterbeek, 54, is making his third run for the Ward 5 seat. Before retiring, he was a systems analyst for the Department of Labor. He said he now works as a real estate broker and financial analyst. Wolterbeek said he does volunteer work at the Ward 5 schools through the Kiwanis Club and Toastmasters International, helping teachers, administrators and students improve their oratorical skills.

Wolterbeek expressed strong opinions about several major issues facing the schools.

Wolterbeek has been passing out fliers outlining his five-point starter plan, beginning with "firing the superintendent." Yet on a Post questionnaire, he said that Smith should continue as superintendent.

The candidate explained the flip-flop by saying he was studying the situation. But his final decision, he insisted, "is that Smith should go."

Wolterbeek said he "would require quarterly financial and operational audits. I will require all employees to justify their value. Teachers failing my expectations will be fired -- 60 days after they fail to meet my standards."

Wolterbeek said in response to the Post questionnaire that he favored tuition vouchers and charter schools. He also supports closing schools to save money and allowing schools to contract for management services from private businesses and other groups.

He also says that the school board should be appointed, not elected.

"I would like to see the school board appointed by the mayor, with approval by the council," Wolterbeek said. "We have to have controls over the administration's budget. Too much money is spent on administrative overhead."

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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