A majority of members of the D.C. City Council said yesterday they would oppose a request to hold a special election this spring to fill a vacant seat on the Board of Education, despite the board's apparent inability to agree on an interim appointment.
Seven council members interviewed yesterday, echoing the views of Mayor Marion Barry, said they could not justify spending $40,000 on a special election when the school board is required by law to temporarily fill the vacant seat until the next general election.
Frank Smith vacated the seat in January after he was elected to the Ward 1 seat on the City Council. The school board on Wednesday night formally asked the council to call an election after board members decided they were hopelessly deadlocked in their attempt to appoint someone to the seat.
"I have a problem taking $40,000 to fill a school board seat for a couple of months because they can't meet the law," said Council Chairman David A. Clarke. "They ought to meet and meet and come up with a compromise appointment."
Council members Smith (D-Ward 1), John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) and Betty Ann Kane (D-At large), a former school board member, also said they would oppose a special election.
"We just don't have the luxury of doing things like that," said Shackleton. "The school board people are those who should be most aware of that."
However, several members said a special election might be necessary if the council votes to postpone the November election for the school board and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, in order to give the city time to straighten out its long-troubled voter registration system.
If that occurs, council members noted, then the Ward 1 seat on the school board either would remain vacant or would be held by an interim appointee until the following year's election--a situation some say would be unacceptable.
"I would have to look at the timing on it," said Kane.
Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large), chairman of the council's Education Committee, last month introduced a bill requiring that special elections be held to fill vacancies on the school board. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) also said she supports the idea of special elections.
Last week, the 10 sitting school board members failed in eight separate ballots to agree on a choice from among 11 candidates.
Edna Frazier-Cromwell, chairman of the 14th and U Streets Coalition and an employe of the Congressional Quarterly, and Manuel Lopez, a manager of vocational-technical training programs for the Navy, each received as many as five votes on different ballots.
Although Barry has publicly remained neutral in the contest for the vacant seat, several of his aides and former campaign workers in Ward 1 have drummed up support for Frazier-Cromwell, while Kane and her supporters have backed Lopez.
Among those backing Frazier-Cromwell are Valerie J. Barry, head of the mayor's office of boards and commissions, and Marshall Brown, a former Barry campaign aide who now works in the mayor's Office of Community Services.