The D.C. Board of Education appointed Edna Frazier-Cromwell to its vacant Ward 1 board seat last night, apparently mooting a pending lawsuit filed by a group of Ward 1 residents to force the board to fill the post that has been vacant since December.
The action was in sharp contrast to the board's futile attempt in February to appoint a replacement for Frank Smith Jr., who currently sits on the City Council. At that meeting, the board failed in eight ballots to select one of 11 candidates vying for the seat. Last night, only one vote was taken, and Frazier-Cromwell got the six votes necessary to win the approval of a majority of the 10 sitting board members.
Unlike the February attempt, after which the board was roundly criticized for its inability to make a selection, board members had apparently worked on reaching agreement before the meeting. The Ward One Democrats had filed suit to force the board to make an appointment, and the case would have been heard tomorrow had the board failed to make an appointment last night.
"When the City Council denied our request for a special election to fill the seat, it left us no alternative," said board member R. David Hall (Ward 2), who nominated Frazier-Cromwell. Board president David Eaton (At-large) added: "My colleagues have been talking on the phone and we felt as though we needed to make an appointment tonight. We have a lot of other things to do."
Frazier-Cromwell, 47, chairs the 14th and U Streets Coalition and is the director of library information at Congressional Quarterly magazine. "I'm surprised that it happened on the first ballot," she said. "I feel very excited, very happy. This is very rewarding."
Several candidates and board members have said that Frazier-Cromwell was strongly supported by Mayor Marion Barry, although Barry has publicly denied having interest in the selection. She was opposed last night by board member Barbara Lett Simmons (At-large) who, in nominating Ward 1 Council on Education chairman Nancy Herring for the seat, asserted that all of Herring's children have attended D.C. public schools.
Frazier-Cromwell's 18-year-old stepson attends the private Georgetown Day School.
But none of the other 10 candidates--including Manuel Lopez, who had received as many as five votes in the February balloting--was nominated last night.
The six votes for Frazier-Cromwell came from Eaton, Hall, board vice president Nathaniel Bush (Ward 7), Linda W. Cropp (Ward 4), John Warren (Ward 6) and Wanda Washburn (Ward 3). Board members Simmons and Eugene Kinlow (At-large) expressed their support for Herring, while Bettie Benjamin (Ward 5) and R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8) abstained on the decisive vote.
The swing votes turned out to be Washburn's and Warren's, both of whom had offered strong support for Lopez in the February balloting.
Although several members of the audience expressed pleasure that the board had selected Frazier-Cromwell, and others were simply content that Ward 1 once again would have a sitting board member, candidate James Forman called it "a tragic demonstration of extreme incompetence" that should not have taken five months to run its course.
Frazier-Cromwell, who will be sworn in within the next few weeks, said her first priorities would be to see that needed repairs are made at Ward 1 schools and that drug trafficking in the area is curtailed.