Youth vs. age sums up the three-way D.C. City School Board race being waged in Ward 4.
Two of the candidates, Victoria T. Street, 59, and Gilbert A. Diggs, 62, have come out of retirement - Street when she was appointed acting Ward 4 representative on June 15, and Diggs for this election. The third candidate is Philip Pannell, 27, a community aide at the Howard University center for sickle cell disease and president of the D.C. Young Democrats.
Street and Diggs cite their years of experience in the D.C. school system as their major qualification. Pannell insists they have had their chance and the school system needs new blood, specifically young blood, "to relate to the kids who have been turned off by the schools."
Street, who was appointed to the board when Hilda Mason resigned to take the City Coucil seat vacated by the death of Julius Hobson, Sr., retired in 1974 after a career as a teacher and administrator in the D.C. school system.
Diggs was acting regional superintendent in charge of Region 5 from 1974 until this past June when the school board rejected the recommendation of a selection panel that he be given a permanent appointment. He then retired, returning to run for the school board.
Marson, elected in 1975, would not have come up for re-election until 1979 had she remained on the board, so the winner on Nov. 8 will have two years to serve, instead of four years.
Ward 4 includes the so-called "Gold and Platinum Coasts," located on the upper part of 16th street. The ward is the second most affluent in the city (behind Ward 3), with the average income being greater than $12,000 a year. Despite its relative affluence, the ward, which is bounded on the west by Rock Creek Park, the east by the B&-O railroad, the north by Eastern Avenue and the south by Spring Road and Michigan Avenue, still faces many problems in its schools.
Pannell's platform includes 36 definite proposals to accomplish what he says would be improvements in the system. He says this is not utopian, merely something that can be accomplished only through hard work.
Street says quality education in all schools in her goal, meaning, "our students should graduate with a skill if they're not going to go on to college." She says "accountability for all" is the means to accomplish this goal.
"Everyone should be made accountable," she said. "Parents for getting their kids to school, teachers for working with them, the students for getting to school and getting their work done, and the Board of Education for administering and giving aid to the schools."
Diggs, who was in charge of the Model Schools Division in the Cardoza area for five years before heading Region 5, said the city needs "a scientific and systematic approach to its problems. We need a clear delineation of goals, of how those goals can be achieved, an assessment of the goals, an idea of how to adapt to unforeseen problems.
"It's like taking a trip. You have to plan where you're going and how to get there. Right now our school system is starting out for Los Angeles and ending up in Maine."
"I think one of our big problems in the schools is that the kids are turned off by the system," said Pannell, who finished second behind Mason in the Ward 4 election two years ago. "I have a rapport with the kids. I think I'll be able to deal with them on a day-to-day basis." He added that he thought students should at the very least have an advisory role in all decisions which directly affect them.
Diggs saw his experience as a regional superintendent as his biggest asset. "The people appreicate my ideas," he said. "Neither one of my opponents has handled the kind of responsibility I did during my years in the school system."
All three candidates agree that tighter discipline and more stringent graduation requirements are necessary, and vocational programs must be improved.
Street has the endorsements of Ward 4 Councilman Arrington Dixon and the D.C. Teachers Union. But even Pannell, optimist, admits that "this has been a rather lackluster campaign throughout the city."