D.C. School Board President Eugene Kinlow said yesterday that Vincent E. Reed's resignation as superintendent "will not be a loss" for the city's strained school system because Reed's public image far outweighed his actual ability as an administrator and educator.
"The fact that Reed's gone will not have a disastrous effect on the school system for one minute. . . The record will show no one ever called Superintendent Reed brilliant. The record will also show that some of the good things the school system has been able to do, it has been able to do as much in spite of Vince Reed as because of him," Kinlow said during a luncheon interview with reporters and editors at The Washington Post.
Complaining that Reed often was slow to implement new programs, Kinlow, who was elected board president last week with the support of some of Reed's harshest critics on the board, asserted that Reed's resignation "will not be a loss, in fact, it will be a gain."
Reed, contacted at his home by a reporter, pointed out that he had retired, not resigned, and declined to comment on Kinlow's remarks.
Kinlow also predicted that the board will reverse its earlier position this year and approve the academic high school Reed proposed for college-bound students. Ironically, one of the reasons Reed cited for resigning was the board's refusal to approve his plan for such a school, which would offer its 500 students a far more rigorous academic curriculum than any other high school.
Kinlow, who last year warned his colleagues on the board that they would be reneging on their responsibilitiy to educate "the masses" if they voted in favor of the academic high school, said he is now willing to change his vote.
One of the concerns about the high school, he said was that it would cater to middle-class students whose families have "clout," rather than to the majority of the students in the school system who regularly score below the national average on standardized achievement tests.
"One of the concerns . . . was that the [academic high] school would give a clear advantage to people of clout. But clout is a reality. . . One of the reasons I'm willing to vote for the school is that if this same kind of clout we've been missing too much of in the past can be generated into support of a bigger budget for the school system, then it may be worth it," he said.
Kinlow said he no longer believes that there is a "great danger" that such a school would drain the city's existing high schools of its brightest students and best teachers.
In one of his last acts as superintendent, Reed worked out a plan with Howard University president James Cheek, whereby students at the academic high school would use laboratory facilities and take college-level courses at Howard and work with Howard professors.
Kinlow credited Reed with bringing stability to the system.
But he claimed Reed's greatest contribution to the system was his public image.
"What will be missed is his image the fact that people believed in him, that as long as he was at the head, the school system would move forward," said Kinlow, a personnel specialist at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who speaks softly in a casual, but deliberate manner.
Kinlow said the board voted to end social promotions -- the practice of promoting students more on the basis of age than achievement -- but it was not until this year that Reed initiated a citywide program requiring students to demonstrate a definite level of achievement before moving to the next grade.
The 40-year-old board president said there is no leading contender for Reed's job, but that board members will be looking for a person "who has demonstrated that he or she understands the special corners and needs of minorities."
Kinlow said the appointment of another black would have "symbolic importance." Although he would not rule out white candidates to head the city's school system, which is 96 percent black, Kinlow said he does not consider it very likely that a white would be chosen.
Reed's departure folowed months of ongoing clashes between himself and the board. In an oblique reference yesterday to his intention to end that kind of relationship, Kinlow said that the new superintendent must be one "who understands the dynamics of educational politics in this city" and have the capacity to work with the 11-member elected board.
Both Kinlow and the board's new vice president, Bettie G. Benjamin (Ward 5), who also attended the luncheon, said they will make improving the board's public image a priority of their one-year terms.
Kinlow said he hopes to curb some of the infighting that has hampered the board's work and image by catering to the "ego needs" of individual board members.