Members of the bitterly divided D.C. school board met informally in a private session for over five hours last night but failed to come up with a choice for a new board president.

Current board president R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8), whose one-year term is expiring, Frank Smith (Ward 1) and John Warren (Ward 6) were announced candidates.

Smith appeared to have a slight edge over the others while at-large member Eugene Kinlow emerged as a possible choice even though he has said he does not want the job.

The vote for president is important this year because the president will lead the search for a new superintendent to replace Vincent E. Reed, who headed the school system for five years but retired last month because of what he said were repeated conflicts with the board.

Smith was a strong backer of Reed while Lockridge, Warren and Kinlow were critical of him.

The official vote for president is not scheduled to take place until 2 p.m. today, but board members had hoped to agree on a president to avoid a repeat of last year's divided voting, when the board went 13 ballots before choosing Lockridge over Kinlow, Carol Schwartz (Ward 3), Bettie Benjamin (Ward 7) and current Vice President Barbara Lett Simmons (at-large).

The board will try again at a meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. today to come to a consensus before the official vote, Lockridge said.

According to board sources, Lockridge appeared last night to have his own vote, that of Alaire B. Rieffel (Ward 2) and Kinlow. Smith had his own vote, and those of Linda Cropp (Ward 4) and Nathaniel Bush (Ward 5). Schwartz was also said to be leaning toward Smith.