Ten Ward 1 residents, including a longtime civil rights activist, an accountant, a neighborhood school director and a retired history teacher, are vying for appointment to the ward's vacant seat on the Board of Education.
Tonight, the board's 10 incumbents are expected to pick one person from that crowded field to fill the unexpired term of Frank Smith Jr., who was elected Ward 1 City Council member in November.
In public forums around the ward and in mailings to board members and community residents, the eight men and two women candidates have discussed issues ranging from the school system's pending budget to class sizes and safety and repairs in school buildings.
In interviews last week, the 10 candidates talked about themselves and their goals if named to the school board.
James W. Curry, 61, a general contractor who was a volunteer with the school system for 18 years, said obtaining funds for the District's schools was his top priority. "I'd want security and safety improvements and badly needed repairs made to our schools, too," he said.
Curry, who said he has acted as a liaison between Ward 1 residents and the school board, suggested that District neighborhoods "adopt" schools and improve them.
"We need a lot more community involvement. It's a shame to waste the mind of a child, and that happens when the community sits back and doesn't help," said Curry, who ran unsuccesfully for the Ward 1 City Council seat in 1974 and for the ward's school board seat in 1975 and 1979.
James R. Forman, 54, chairman of the Unemployment and Poverty Action Council, a nonprofit social welfare agency, and a former leader in the civil rights movement, said he wants to reduce overcrowding in District classrooms.
"Overcrowded classrooms are an obvious obstacle to quality teaching," said Forman, a Chicago native, who was executive director of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1961 to 1966.
Forman, who has a doctorate in political philosophy, proposed increasing adult education programs, establishing a job retraining program, improving bilingual education and starting city-owned businesses whose profits could supplement the public school's budget.
"I see this as a natural extension of the civil rights movement," said Forman, who has taught and lectured in schools around the country. "We have to carry that movement forward in D.C.'s schools."
Edna Frazier-Cromwell, 47, is director of library information at Congressional Quarterly magazine, an ANC 1B commissioner and chairperson of the 14th and U Streets Coalition. She said District schools could be the "best in the country if this city were to have a commitment to making them the best."
She said she would work to get the school board's budget request fully funded by the City Council and would try to improve school curriculums.
"We're at the stage now where we're turning the schools around," she said. "We can't afford to cut back on the programs now." Frazier-Cromwell is a graduate of Dunbar High School and Howard University.
Douglas G. Glasgow, 50, a professor of social policy at Howard University, has been a consultant to the school board on education issues. The author of the 1980 book, "The Black Underclass," Glasgow said he wants to "turn around the state of the education system in our city schools.
"That's especially important with the curriculum: We need immediate improvements there," said Glasgow, a board member of the D.C. Mental Health Association. "The second priority is improving the social conditions of the schools: the drug problems, truancy, terminations, educator fatigue.
"We need to fix those internal factors that make it so damn difficult for our children to gain," Glasgow said.
Christopher P. Hoffman, 78, who retired after teaching U.S. history at Cardozo High School for 35 years, said his classroom experience makes him the best candidate for the school board post.
"I've always had an interest in school administration," said Hoffman, who added he would work to improve student test scores.
Manuel B. Lopez, 50, who heads a vocational training program for the Naval Air Systems Command in the District, said he would work to "stabilize the teaching work force and the classroom programs in light of the board's restricted funding.
"I want to avoid the fiasco of 1981," said Lopez, referring to the layoff of several hundred school employes that year.
A New York native, Lopez has devised educational programs for the past 20 years, and said he would work to maintain the schools' competency-based curriculum and bring special "enhancement programs" in music and math to the schools. "Safety in and outside of the classroom is important, as well as reducing drug sales in and outside of class," said Lopez, a former ANC chairman in Adams-Morgan.
Jonas C. Milton, 30, a housing consultant, advocates a three-pronged program to promote more vocational education, bring more computers to city schools and create special programs such as the enginneering classes now taught at Dunbar High School.
"We need to give our students the skills for jobs to make them marketable people when they leave high school," Milton said.
"I would also work for more of a matrimonial relationship between the school board and the City Council and mayor," said Milton, a former professional hockey player who ran unsuccessfully last year for an at-large seat on the school board. "I'm willing to do a lot of compromising to get that relationship."
Ana R. Saran, 34, a research assistant for the Board of Education and a fund-raising consultant to nonprofit groups, said she wants to see greater cooperation between the board and the City Council. "I also would like to see existing schools used to raise revenue," she said. Empty schools could be rented to nonprofit groups for conversion to low-cost housing that would lure residents back to the District, she said.
"Eventually, the same community would find itself with greater numbers and greater revenue," said Saran. "Our neighborhoods would be revived, as would the local community schools."
Jacob Daniel Sherrill, 31, a self-employed accountant and Howard University graduate, said: "The focus of my energy as a school board member would be major improvements to Cardozo High School," one of the ward's two high schools.
"In Ward 1, the school board has made improvements to elementary and mid-level education," Sherrill said, "but at the expense of the Cardozo kids, who have the lowest test scores in the whole city."
"Educating them has been a failure over the last two or three years," said Sherrill, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the Ward 1 City Council seat last year. He said he favors special programs to help Cardozo graduates find employment and combat truancy and drug dealing in the school.
"My age is an asset in this selection process," Sherill said. "I'm only 12 years out of high school. I want to be a key component in the triangle of parent, student and teacher."
Joseph Webb, 33, director of the Marie Reed Community School in Northwest, has worked in the D.C. schools for the past 10 years. In 1979, Webb twice ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on the school board.
He said the school system could raise badly needed funds by holding bingo games in the schools. "We could easily take in $2 million to $3 million each year," he said.
Last year, police charged Webb with operating an illegal bingo game in Northeast. A D.C. Superior Court Judge later dismissed the charge.
Webb has proposed having vocational students perform building repairs and a reduction in consultant contracts.
"We have fallen far short of what we could be," said Webb, a proponent of "lifelong learning" that would allow children to advance at their own pace.
Ilia Bullock, 47, last week withdrew her candidacy for the school board seat, saying the selection process was "too political."