D.C. School Board President R. Calvin Lockridge's proposal to close most of the schools in the largely white, affluent neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park has fueled efforts by his longtime board opponents to remove his as president.
School sources said the efforts are being spearheaded by Board Vice President Barbara Lett Simmons, who earlier this year refused to serve on any board committees -- where most of the board's work is done -- because of a feud with Lockridge.
The sources said Simmons and board members Frank Shaffer-Corona had tried to persuade their colleagues to give Lockridge a vote of no confidence at a board meeting Wednesday night, but were unable to muster the six votes needed to pass such a measure.
Such a vote would have no statutory effect but it would suggest Lockridge no longer had the votes to pass his proposals. He has said he would step down if he ever lost the support of the six board members who elected him president of the 11-member board; those members included Simmons and Shaffer-Corona.
However, Lockridge said yesterday, "I was elected for a year and I intend to serve a year."
After studying the issue, board attorney James Brown said Wednesday that the board's rules suggest that a president could be replaced only if he died or resigned. The rules, he said, contain no provision for removing a president.
Lockridge has angered some of his colleagues by limiting the amount of time they may speak at board meetings and -- in the case of Simmons and Shaffer-Corona -- not giving them the committee assignments they had sought.
But some members have also complained that Lockridge does not consult with them often enough. He has also been criticized for his stubborness on issues and his often brash manner.
Lokridge said he will forward his proposal, which would close seven of the 13 schools west of Rock Creek Park and bus the students to other parts of the city, to the board's systems and management committee, headed by at-large member Eugene Kinlow.
No other board member is supporting the proposal and several of them have labeled it "ridiculous" and "racist." Kinlow has said he thought Lockridge was joking when he proposed it.
But Lockridge said that he has at least gotten board members to discuss closing schools west of the park, which he said have been "untouchable" in the past.
Superintendent Vincent E. Reed has proposed closing 15 schools over the next few years, but the only one west of the park is Fillmore, where only art classes are held.
But Lockridge's brash proposal also appeared to be designed to draw attention to the school system's financial plight. Over the past few months, Mayor Marion Barry has moved to cut $35 million from the schools' budget for the next fiscal year.
Several parents and teachers from schools in those neighborhoods showed up at the board's meeting Wednesday night in reaction to Lockridge's announcement. The superintendent's office said it has received calls from about eight parents from the area who wanted advice on abolishing the school board.