The appointments of assistant superintendents to head five of the D.C. school system's six regions came after controversy and the rejection of acting superintendents Napoleon Lewis, region 3, and Gilbert A. Diggs, region 5, who had sought to retain their jobs on a permanent basis.
The bitter debate in region 3 culminated in a charge by school board member Minnie Shumate Woodson that she "had to endure the abuse thrown at the board of education and its processes for over a month."
"I resent the innuendos, the rumors and the actual threats that the board of education and its superintendent have received from a small portion of citizens of Ward 7," Woodson said in a sharply worded statement at last week's school board meeting, where the regional superintendent appointments were made. Woodson represents ward 7, which includes the region 3 schools, on the board.
Lewis, a 32-year veteran of the D.C. schools, was passed over by the region 3 selection panel, which instead recommended Andrew Jenkins, until now a deputy superintendent in region 6, for the job. The board of education accepted the panel's recommendation by appointing Jenkins.
Woodson accused City Council woman Willie J. Hardy and former school board member Edward Hancock of "confrontation and mass rabble-rousing . . . tactics" in region 3.
Hardy said that her objections centered on "board (of education) rules for the selection of superintendents." She charged that Woodson "refused to bring the community any information and . . . refused to answer questions at our meetings."
Hancock, who called the opposition to Lewis a "vendetta of the first magnitude," charged that only a "small group" of people were opposed to Lewis and that the selection panel was "gerrymandered" to contain Lewis's enemies.
Superintendent Vincent E. Reed would not comment on the controversy but said that Lewis is "a very good man and he did a good job." Lewis will remain in the school system, but "I don't know yet what he will do," Reed said.
The board rejected the region 5 selection panel's recommendation when a majority of its members voted against the permanent appointment of the acting superintendent, Diggs.
At-large board member Barbara Lett Simmons, a supporter of Diggs, said she was "distressed" by the vote and charged that other board members gave her "emotions not reasons" for voting against Diggs.
Digg's region includes trouble-plagued Lincoln Junior High School, where a parents' group has met with the regional superintendent and with school board members this year to voice concern about problems in the school.
Elizabeth C. kane, also an at-large board member, said she could not comment on personnel actions within the school board meeting. She acknowledged, however, that the Lincoln parents' group had told the board that it felt that "their problems were not addressed" by the junior high's administration and the regional administration headed by Diggs.
A new set of candidates for the region 5 job will be presented to the board at its July 13 meeting according to Reed.
In other regions, the school board returned acting superintendents Dorothy L. Johnson, region 2, and P. Gary Freeman, region 6, to their jobs on a permanent basis. Reuben Pierce and William H. Brown were appointed to replace acting superintendents in regions 1 and 4, respectively, who are resigning.