As expected, the 19 challengers in the Nov. 6 school board election and at odds over solutions of the problems of the city's troubled school system.
But most of them reach a consensus on one thing: The current school board should go.
Overall, the candidates for the five ward seats and one at-large seat say that a frequently argumentative, go-it-alone school board has exacerbated the educational problems in the District.
"I think the board itself is the main issue," said Frank Smith Jr., one of the candidates in Ward 1. "The fussing, fighting and feuding they have been doing has not only contributed to the decline of the respect for the board, but it has also carried over into the schools."
"You can take this board back several years and it will be hard to find any single issue they have worked on together," he added.
Other candidates express similar concerns.
"One of the problems people have is the conduct of the board," challenger Nate Bush, Ward 7, said.
Loraine Bennett, a candidate in Ward 6, said the ward's incumbent, John E. Warren, has been "embarrassing" in his conduct on the school board.
At-large hopeful Jeannette Feely said the school board needs a "negotiator" to mend its own internal differences.
But they are running on more than criticism of current board members.
At community forums across the city, the challengers are also talking about poor pupil performance and community apathy.
In the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, where youth population is high, Ward 7 challenger Nate Bush said that the schools are graduating youth who are academic failures, unskilled and undisciplined. In Ward 4, affluent parents are abandoning city schools, says challenger Philip Pannell.
According to several of the challengers, the community has grown tired of complaining about the shrinking school budget, deteriorating school buildings, and unavailable or outdated textbooks. As a result, many community members have become apathethic and given up on the public school system, according to several of the candidates.
The candidates have varied solutions to the problems of the school system.
Pannell says the city should establish in publicly-run lottery and increase taxes on adult entertainment businesses to realize more revenues for the school budget.
At-large candidate Charlotte R. Holmes would eliminate the recently approved $17,500 salaries for school board members if the money for the salaries has to come from the school budget.
Frank Smith supports the use of senior citizens as teacher aides. Matthew F. Shannon, a candidate in Ward 5, would support skills training, career counseling and individualized academic curriculum "geared to the needs of each child."
Linda W. Cropp. a Ward 4 contender, promotes a similar curriculum she calls "ability grouping". Cropp said she also supports uniform promotional standards for students because "I find it very difficult for children to reach educational needs if they don't know what they're trying to do."
Several candidates also support bilingual education programs, required fine arts and foreign language courses, and special classes for gifted and learning disabled children.
One slate -- which includes Frank Smith, Cropp, Shannon, Bennett, Bush and Kinlow -- is being privately supported by Mayor Marion Barry and City Council member John Ray.
The Washington Teachers Union has endorsed Smith, Cropp, Feeley, Bush and two incumbents. $ most of the remaining candidates have no announced support from elected officials, although Ward 7 council member Willie J. Hardy is supporting challenger Edward L. Hancock.
More than half a dozen school board members have run for City Council in the past five years, and many community leaders contend some board members are most concerned about moving up the political ladder than they are about improving the schools.
Shannon, a special assistant to the mayor who was a candidate for City Council last year, is among several challengers who defend the practice. Holmes, Frank Smith, Bennett, Bush and Cropp also said they see nothing wrong with moving on to higher office.
"If I go to the school board, (and) do a good job, I would hope that the voters would reward me. I say if you're going to step, you have to have something to step on," Shannon said.
Critics of the practice, like Jeannette Feely, view it as a lack of commitment.
"My 21 years as a teacher shows my commitment to schools," said Feely. "I think we need people on the board who are committed. I chose teaching, I didn't get to teaching by chance," she said.
The challengers for the at-large seat are: Feely, budget analyst Holmes, U.S. Labor Party organizer Stuart Rosenblatt, and adult education coordinator Joseph Webb.
In addition to urban planner Frank Smith and Metro mechanic Anwar Saleem, the challengers in Ward 1 are contractor James W. Curry and community activist Reginald H. Brooker.
The Ward 4 field of challengers includes counselor Cropp, health professional Pannell, and Laplois Ashford, executive director of the Southeast Neighborhood House.
The candidates in Ward 7: are Bush, toolmaker Edward L. Hancock, teacher Emily Y. Washington, and American C. Nelson, a retired teacher.
Virgil Thompson and Shannon are the Challengers in Ward 5. Bennett and Linda J. Gilbert, a Community worker, are the challangers in Ward 6.