Members of the D.C. Board of Education, saying they were hopelessly deadlocked and unable to make an appointment to the vacant Ward One seat, called on the City Council last night to authorize a special election to fill the post.
"We had the fervent hope that we could reach a decision," said board President David Eaton (At-large), who added that the large number of qualified candidates--11-- hampered the selection process. "It would be a disservice for this board to select any one qualified candidate over another," he said.
The 10 sitting members of the board met last week and voted in eight separate ballots but were unable to choose a candidate. Edna Frazier-Cromwell, chairman of the 14th and U Streets Coalition, and Manuel Lopez, a manager of vocational-technical training programs for the Navy, received as many as five votes. Six board members actually voted for Frazier-Cromwell during the proceedings, but never all six on the same ballot.
Last night's brief meeting was completed without any attempt to vote for an appointment. The school board vacancy was created when Frank Smith was elected to the City Council last fall.
But the board's action was immediately criticized by at least one board member, several members of the audience and some applicants. Board member R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8) supported the vote to ask for a special election, but criticized his colleagues for giving the candidates and the Ward One community a "false hope" for two months that the board would be able to agree on an appointment.
The board voted 9 to 1 not to elect a candidate, with only board Vice President Nathaniel Bush voting against it because he said he felt that the board should not abandon its responsibility to make an appointment.
In a related vote, the board voted 9 to 0, with Bush abstaining, to appoint Eaton to serve as interim representative for Ward One pending the approval for a special election from the City Council.
That hope may meet opposition from city officials, however. Mayor Marion Barry said last week it would cost the city $40,000 to hold a Ward One election, and that the board should make the appointment. City Council Chairman David A. Clarke said earlier he did not favor a special election and that he did not think the council would agree to one.
Anyone appointed or elected to fill the vacancy would face reelection in November.
The applicants expressed mixed emotions about the school board's decision.
"I'm sorry the process wasn't carried out," Frazier-Cromwell said.
"It's the only decision they could reach," Lopez said. "It's clear that they couldn't appoint someone."
"We go to the streets now," said Douglas G. Glasgow, a professor of social policy at Howard University, who received as many as four votes in the balloting last week.
Earlier yesterday, the board's finance committee recommended transferring money from other parts of this year's education budget to pay for a currently unfunded portion of the pay raise school employes are now receiving.
The committee voted to recommend that $6.8 million in the budget be "reprogrammed" to cover the pay raises. Included in the $6.8 million transfer of funds is a recommendation that $1 million come from the utilities budget. The committee believed the system could save that much money because of Washington's relatively mild winter and lower energy costs.
Another $1.2 million in the proposal is to come from increases in rental income from leased school space and $2 million from leaving unfilled noninstructional positions vacant this year.
But the committee rejected an administrative staff idea that would have frozen 72 teaching positions authorized for this year that would have saved another $2 million.