The week after Patricia Miner became the D.C. school board's executive secretary, a major teacher's strike nearly brought the school system to a halt.
Miner, 31, a former assistant to the City Council, had to quickly learn where important documents were, set up meetings, prepare information for the school board and keep members informed about any strike developments.
"It was really bad sometimes," she said. "I was working late and I just didn't get time to relieve a lot of my tension. I usually swim or jog to forget about my problems."
But Miner had little time for swimming or jogging because, as she puts it, she was learning her new job through an "emersion process."
Miner took over Dwight Cropp's job with the school board. He has since moved to the District building as moved to the District building as Marion Barry's executive secretary.
Cropp, who says the "school board couldn't have picked a better person" than Pat Miner as executive secretary, proudly points out that he transformed the school board postfrom "mainly a clerical job to a professional one."
"Pat is a capable person," Cropp said, "and she should be able to take the position and move it farther ahead. She can move it from an "inhouse observer" position to a catalytic postition. She can take it to another realm."
Miner began her career in education, first working in the special projects office of the D.C. school system, and then as a special assistant to the associate superintendent during Barbara Sizemore's administration. She also was staff director for the Committee on Education, Recreation and Youth Affaris when the late City Council member Julius Hobson Sr. headed the committee. After Hobson's death, she became assistant secretary to the City Council, a post she held from September 1977 until February this year, when she took the school board post.
"I am not a newcomer to education," she said. "I have knowledge of education policy and philisophy."
Miner said she decided to accept the school board job with the hope of "affecting education policy in the District. I wouldn't have taken the job if I couldn't have had some impact and been able to use my background."
One of her dreams, "which is still on the drawing board," she said, is to set up a panel of inhouse researchers to evaluate information and programs sent to the board by other agencies and individuals, including the superintendent.
This dream is not so far-fetched, according to one school board member who was asked about the possibility of such a panel.
"It is quite posible for Pat to advise us on education issues.' said the board member, Conrad P.Smith. "Dwight Cropp was well informed and often advised us. I don't see anything that would prevent her from doing the same thing."
Miner, who is a self-described "bureaucrat," said she has hound members of the school board to "be very demanding," but notes, "They deserve first-class treatment."
In an interview, Miner, who has fair skin and auburn hair, made it a point to explain that she is black and that she often has to set her white friends straight about black issues.
As far as education issues are concerned, Miner believes the school board is moving ahead from the recent past.
"The (conflict during the) Sizemore era brought us back to ground zero in terms of education. It was very startling to have black awareness foisted on citizens. It was very painful for the school system."
Minor said Sizemore was pushing for greater emphasis on black cultural differences and wanted it reflected in the school system curriculum.
"It divided people ideologically," Miner said, "and it went against the beliefs of those who had an integrationist philosophy. She was so black in her thinking, that she was perceived as anti-white."
Miner said she believes the conflict that may have indirectly resulted in Sizemor losing her job has helped the District and its educational system mature.
"I think the issues that often divide the school board are good for the District.... We are just getting used to the fact that we can disagree and still get along. When there is a need for them to do things they pull together."
Miner said her schedule has finally become more routine, after the hectic days of the strike. She said she has time once again to swim. But she note a change since her days as an assistant to the City Council.
"I used to swim a lap for each council member," she recalled, "but now, I swim one lap for each school board member . . . and in some cases two." CAPTION: Picture, Patricia Miner, executive secretary for the D.C. school board. By Craig Herndon-The Washington Post