After two hours of bitter wrangling, including allegations of racism and angry personal attacks by some members, the D.C. Board of Education rejected last night a proposal for a "model academic high school" for college-bound students.
The proposal for the school, which would have offered a more rigorous academic curriculum than any other high school in the city, lost in a 6-to-4 vote with at-large board member Frank Shaffer-Corona voting labeled it an "elitist" plan that would drain other city high schools of their brightest students and best teachers.
Opponents tried initially to defeat the measure through a series of procedural moves. First, the opponents, led by board president R. Calvin Lockridge and at-large member Eugene Kinlow, tried to forestall action on the measure by arguing that the proposal had gotten the approval only of the board's education assessment committee and not of its budget committee.
They argured that any measure with budgetary implications must have the approval of the budget committee before coming to the board for a final vote.
When that maneuver failed, Shaffer-Corona, who had voted for the acadamic high school when it was up for preliminary approval before the board a few months ago, moved to table the proposal, which would effectively have killed it.
When the motion to table failed, Linda Cropp, who supported the plan, proposed sending it back to the educational assessment committee to have it reconsidered in 1981. But that motion also failed.
"What we're doing is trying to kill an item indirectly, why don't we just bite the bullet and vote this up or down," board member Carol Schwartz shouted at her fellow board members after an hour of debate.
But before the final vote was taken, Kinlow angrily boomed into his microphone that the board, by considering a college preparatory school, was relinquishing its mandate to "take care of the masses." Board vice president Barbara Simmons shortly afterward characterized the debate as "rediculous," and said that she was leaving because she had "better things to do." She returned later.
And Shaffer-Corona after noting that board members Alaire Rieffel and Frank Smith, with whom he is frequently at odds on the board, were prime movers in favor of the high school, said "that's enough to make me want to send [the proposal] back to the drawing board."
After the vote, Rieffel, who was sharply critized during the debate, called the vote "very personal and racist; people opposed the high school because they perceived it as something supported by white residents."
Rieffel said she intends to resign as the chairman of the educational assessment committee.
"If one white board member supports something, it's like one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch," she asserted.
During the debate Superintendent Vincent E. Reed vigorously supported the proposed high school, arguing that it would serve students who "want to address themselves to some advanced courses." The academic high school would have required its students to take more math, social science and foreign language courses than any other high school in the city. The electives would have consisted of several advanced placement courses.
"I'm sorry it was defeated. I think the city sorely needs this school," Reed said. Brushing aside charges of elitism, Reed said, "there's no way possible anyone could say this school would serve white students only. I could take every white child in the city and I still couldn't fill two classrooms. This system is 97 percent black."
The board also defeated a compromise proposal offered by Kinlow which would have required the school system to beef up the academic curriculum at Wilson, Woodson, Mc-kinley and Ballou High Schools, and to add a new high school to that list each year until all city high schools were involved.
However, that motion went down to defeat after board members kept proposing to add high schools that were in the political wards each represents.