Seven of the 11 candidates vying for appointment to the vacant Ward 1 seat on the D.C. Board of Education appeared before the board last night in the only opportunity they will have to persuade incumbent members to vote for them.
A crowd of more than 200 turned out for the lengthy meeting at Cardozo High School to hear the candidates make 10-minute presentations to the board and answer questions from the members. Many in the audience also spoke in behalf of candidates they thought best able to fill out the term of former board member Frank Smith Jr., who vacated the Ward 1 seat after winning election to the City Council.
Two of the candidates, Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner James Curry, and Manuel Lopez, a manager of vocational-technical training programs for the Navy, were not able to attend the meeting and sent surrogates to speak for them. Two others, Ilia Bullock, who operates a day care center, and Jacob Daniel Sherrill Jr., did not appear, and no one spoke in their behalf.
Board aspirant James R. Forman, chairman of the Unemployed and Poverty Action Council and the author of several books on black political activism, invoked images of the civil rights struggle in his statement to the board, and added that the school system "will have to consider the needs of a growing number of Hispanic students."
Responding to questions from board members, Forman said that his strongest asset would be his management experience, adding that he would like to see the school system reduce class size from the current 25 to 15 students per classroom.
Christopher Hoffman, 79, who taught for 35 years in D.C. schools, said that the new board member "must look beyond the boundaries of the ward to citywide problems" and that if he were appointed he would stress "compromise and persuasion" in dealing with other board members.
Candidate Douglas G. Glasgow, a former dean at Howard University who also codirected the Center for the Study of Afro-American History and Culture at UCLA, said he would seek "to bring significant improvement to the schools of Ward 1 by addressing the problems of truancy, drug abuse, defective teaching and poor learning materials."
"Many of our parents send their children to Ward 2 and Ward 3 schools to safeguard their children, Glasgow said. "We must put an end to that."
Joseph Webb, a director at the Marie Reed Community school who has twice run unsuccessfully for election to an At-large seat on the board, complained that the school system frequently "finds itself in civil war," fighting over a lack of resources because of budgets that don't allocate enough money for the school system. "Lifelong learning should be our goal," he said.
Another candidate, Edna Frazier-Cromwell, who is chairman of The 14th and U Streets Coalition and an administrator at The Congressional Quarterly, said that the school system must work to meet the changes in employment needs brought about by new technologies. She suggested the system attempt to get private sector experts in math and science to donate teaching time as a short-term solution for shortages of qualified math and science teachers.
Jonas Milton, a former school board candidate and a private housing consultant who was a professional hockey player, said "I'm a candidate for this seat simply because I care" and declared that he has already worked with several board members on a variety of issues.
Ama R. Saran, a resource developer for city schools, said she has worked at "analyzing policies, developing change strategies, identifying resources and lending my strengths, skills and energies to the overall improvement of education for our children."
In a statement on Lopez' behalf that was delivered by his wife, Sheila, the candidate outlined a number of problems facing Ward 1 schools, such as "leaky roofs, crumbling plaster, dozens of work orders piling up, waiting for action that never seems to come . . . .
"I have come to believe," Lopez said in the statement, "that the heart of our community is the public schools . . . I know from first-hand experience that they can work and work well."
Curry supporter Dollie Fitzgerald spoke of him as a candidate who would work hard to keep the student dropout rate at a minimum, keep drugs out of the D.C. schools and foster new youth programs.
The board is expected to select a replacement for Smith this month by a majority vote of the 10 incumbent members.