The D.C. school board struggled through 2 1/2 hours of acrimonious debate last night and early this morning before voting overwhelmingly to establish the city's first "model academic high school."
"There's no funds in [the budget] for no new school," shouted board member R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8), president of the board last year, during the debate that ended at 1 a.m. The vote concluded one of the longest running controversies handled by the board, which has been mired in factionalism and personal animosity over several issues.
After board member Carol Schwartz (Ward 3) announced she would vote for the school even though she said she believed the vote might cost her reelection, At-Large member Frank Shaffer-Corona snapped, "It should," while Barbara Lett Simmons pretended as if she were playing a violin.
Simmons and Lockridge were the only members to vote against the school, which some community leaders say will drain the system of its best students and brightest teachers. The proposal passed 9 to 2.
New Board President Eugene Kinlow was one of five members who voted for the school after opposing a similar proposal offered last spring by former school superintendent Vincent E. Reed, who retired in December after publicly charging the board with undercutting his leadership. Reed also cited the board's failure to approve the academic school as one of the reasons he retired.
The model high school, which would offer more rigouous academic training and require after-school community service for its students, is expected to open next September at the old Banneker Junior High School, 800 Euclid St. NW, near Howard University. The students will be allowed to take courses and use laboratories at Howard.
Students will be selected from all four of the city's school regions, proportionately based on the number of regular students enrolled in each region. Some board members had argued for this provision to keep the school from becoming a repository for mostly white, upper-and middle-income students from wealthier sections of the city.