The Washington school board reorganized itself this week, appointing one new member, Minnie S. Woodson, to fill a vacancy in ward seven, and reelecting its president, Dr. Therman Evans.
Mrs. Woodson, 55, a retired elementary teacher who has been active in several civic groups. She succeeds James S. Fatherston Jr., who resigned last fall, and she will face election in November for the remaining two years of the term.
Her ward covers a large area of Northeast and Southeast Washington, east of the Anacostia River.
Dr. Evans, 32, a at-large board member, has been president of the school board during one of its calmest years in a decade. he was re-elected by a 9-to-1 vote. The only oppositon came from Barbara Lett Simmons, who charged that Evans has been a weak leader. But other members said they wanted a board president who works well with Supt. Vincent Reed, and lets the superintendent take charge of running the schools.
Carol L. Schwartz, who represents ward three (west of Rock Creek Park), was elected vice president, 6 to 3. She defeated Bettie Benjamin (ward five, Northeast D.C.).
Members said there were no policy issues involved in the contest between the two women, who are only Republicans on the board.
Mrs. Woodson, the new school board member, was born in the Deanwood section of Northeast Washington and has lived within a mile of all her life.
Not only did she teach in the Washington schools for 27 years, she also went to them as a student college. Since she retired in 1972, she has been education chairman of the Far Northeast-Southeast Council of civic associations, and has also been active in the citywide congress of PTAs.
The board vote naming her was 6 to 4, with four votes going to Herbert Boyd, who last week retired as principal of the Brent Elementary School on Capitol Hill.
Edward L. Hancock, a member of the city's first elected school board in 1969, got no support from board members this time even though he had the backing of ward seven's City Council member, Willie Hardy. Over the past five years Hancock has run and lost in three school board elections.
The third unsuccessful applicant for the ward seven seat was Alfred Cowles, a former member of the Seattle, Wash., school board who moved here three years ago and had little local support.
Mrs. woodson, on the other hand, is part of one of Washington's best-known black families. Her husband, John, is a retired oceanographer. One of her brothers-in-law, Granville Woodson, served for many years as an assistant D.C. school superintendent for buildings and grounds. Her father-in-law, Howard D. Woodson, was a civil engineer who was active in civic affairs in Northeast Washington. A new hich school in that area, opened in 1972, is named after him.
Another D.C. public school, Woodson Junior High, at Minnesota Avenue and Foote Street NE, is named after Carter G. Woodson, a historian of American blacks, whom Mrs. Woodson believes was also part of the family.
Mrs. Woodson said she has written a 250-page genealogy of the Woodson family, tracing it back to Virginia in the 1790s.
Her own father, Dr. Thomas J. Shumate, was a veterinarian.
As a child, she attended Deanwood Elementary School, Browne Junior High, and Cardozo and Dunbar Senior Highs. She graduated from Dunbar in 1937 and then went to Miner Teachers College, which later became D.C. Teachers College.
She taught elementary school for 18 years, mostly in Northeast Washington, and afterward was a reading specialist.
Her own two sons, now 29 and 32, went through the city school system and graduated from McKinley and Western High Schools. She lives at 506 49th Pl. NE.
In an interview recently, as well as in letters published in The Post and The Star several years ago, Mrs. Woodson strongly defended local schools and teachers against charges that they are responsible for the generally poor academic performance of Washington students.
"Many people say the schools are failing," Mrs. Woodson remarked. "But I can't see that the schools are failing. It might be that the home is failing, that the churches are failing, that no one is taking the child to a library, that no one cares whether or not he is in school . . .
"There are a lot of things besides schools," she added, "that influence how well students do."
Some years ago Mrs. Woodson spoke at a school board meeting in support of Supt. Barbara Sizemore, whom the board later fired after a bitter struggle. She said recently that she "wasn't for Mrs. Sizemore or against her," but wanted the board to let Mrs. Sizemore finish out her three-years contract because of "what a torment the city would have to go through in trying to relieve her."
However, in the November, 1975, school board election, Mrs. Woodson worked for Virginia Morris, the schoolboard president who led the fight against Mrs. Sizemore. She said Mrs. Morris was the "best qualified candidate" in ward seven.
Mrs. Morris was soundly defeated by Featherstone, but he left the board after serving only ten months to take a job with Federal City College. Featherstone was forced to resign because of a law barring school board members from working for the city government.
Mrs. Woodson said she feels "very positively" about Supt. Vincent Reed, who replaced Mrs. Sizemore 15 months ago. She said she likes Reed's plan to establish specific performance objectives for students in every subject, but doesn't want the school system to rush into setting rigid requirements.
"It's a process that has to work its way through," Mrs. Woodson said. "Learning is built in steps. Unless you make sure you are building on a firm foundation, you'll get nothing."