Conrad P. Smith, a plain-speaking lawyer who strongly supports Washington school Supt. Vincent Reed, was elected president of the city's School Board yesterday by a 6-to-5 vote.
Smith, 45, who represents Ward one (center city), defeated Barbara Lett Simmons, an at-large member re-elected to a second four-year term in November who has been cool to Reed since he succeeded Barbara Sizemore two years ago.
Carol Schwartz (ward three - west of Rock Creek Park) for chosen as vice president 7 to 4 for a second on-year term.
After the vote, Smith said the school board would press ahead with Reed's competency-based curriculum, which calls for establishing uniform methods of teaching and testing students throughout the school system.
He said the board also would act decisively during the next few months to close underutilized schools because of falling enrollments.
"But the main issue we have," Smith said, "is the performance of our students. It has to be upgraded. Too many of our students are graduating without the level of competency that they must have. What we want is for the products of our school system to be as good and as capable as anyone in the country."
Even though the vote for president was close, Smith said he expected "no big division" on the board because on most education issues there are substantial majorities."
Smith succeeds Dr. Therman Evans, who served two generally quiet years as school board president. Evans did not run for re-election to the board in November.
Yesterday the three new members elected in November along with four who were re-elected were sworn into office in an elaborate ceremony at Dunbar Senior High School attended by about 700 persons.
The city's top political leaders, including Mayor Walter Washington, Del. Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.) and City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, all warmly praised both the board and Supt. Reed.
The new members taking office were R. Calvin Lockridge (ward eight - Anocostia), Alaire Rieffel (ward two - downtown and southwest) and Frank Shaffer-Corona (at-large).
Beidies Simmons and Schwartz, those re-elected to the 11-member board were Victoria T. Street (ward four - north central area) and Minnie S. Woodson (ward seven - far east area).
In the balloting for board president, Smith was supported by Rieffel, Schwartz, Street, Woodson, and at-large member Betty Ann Kane. Those voting for Simmons were Shaffer-Corona, Lockridge, Bettie Benjamin (ward five - northeast) and John Warren (Capitol Hill and part of Anacostia).
Schwartz then defeated Warren for vice president.