D.C. school board President David Eaton is likely to remain as interim representative for the vacant Ward One board seat if the City Council does not authorize a special election for the post, several board members said yesterday.
Board members showed little interest yesterday in reopening the school board selection process despite a clear indication this week that the City Council opposes a special election and would prefer that the school board select a new ward representative. Several board members said they believed that Ward One will be adequately represented by Eaton.
"At this point the heat is off because we have appointed our peerless leader, and he lives in Ward One," said board member Wanda Washburn (Ward 3), adding that she was "content to wait until the regular November elections" if the City Council does not approve a special election.
Earlier this week, a majority of council members and Mayor Marion Barry said they were opposed to having a special election because of the cost. They also said that the selection was the school board's responsibility.
"The bottom line is whether Ward One is being disenfranchised or being done a disservice. We are not doing that," said board member Eugene Kinlow (At-large), who won a seat on the school board in 1979 in a special election to fill Betty Ann Kane's position. "Eaton has been designated and there are two other at-large members. Ward One will be better taken care of than it has been in years."
The current vacancy occurred when school board member Frank Smith was elected to the City Council last fall.
Board Vice President Nathaniel Bush (Ward 7) is the only member who said he feels that the board should still make an appointment, but other board members said they should not be faulted for not making a decision.
"We have fulfilled our responsibility," said board member Barbara Lett-Simmons (At-large) who wanted a special election for the seat from the start. Simmons scoffed at claims that an election would be too expensive. "The mayor has given away that much in bonuses to his top aides."
Eaton said yesterday that he saw no problem in serving until November if the council votes against a special election, but that he preferred a special election to fill the post. "I intend to hire a staff person to work with me for Ward One," said Eaton, adding that he plans to meet with Ward One leaders to discuss the situation.
But Ward One residents like Marilou Righini, a member of the Ward One Council on Education, said, "We are anxious to have Ward One represented by its own board member." Others feared that the ward's schools would suffer in key board deliberations without their own board member.
"I worry that if the school closings issue comes up again that Ward One wouldn't have anybody to fight for its schools," said Brooks Jackson, a supporter of Manuel Lopez, a candidate for the post. Jackson is also a member of the Ward One Council on Education. "The way this system seems to work is that ward members defend their turf, and if Ward One's seat is empty our schools are going to be unfairly disadvantaged.