D.C. school board incumbent John E. Warren will seek a fourth straight term as Ward 6 representative this fall, and he could face another tough campaign against a longtime public school activist.

The 38-year-old Warren was first elected to the board in 1974 and currently chairs its research, planning and evaluation committee.

During his years on the board, Warren said he has supported increasing graduation requirements in math, science and other basic skills, along with the school system's open enrollment policy that allows students to attend schools out of the areas in which they live.

He has worked to devise a schools budget formula that would alleviate annual wrangling with city officials.

Warren said some of his priorities would be to bring as many resources to Ward 6 as possible, obtain badly needed renovations for Eastern High School and to keep under-utilized neighborhood schools open with the school system's leasing policy.

Warren's main opposition is expected to come from Robert D. Boyd, a Capitol Hill resident who is a past PTA president and a former vice president of Parents United for Full Public School Funding.

Boyd also served as executive director of D.C. Citizens for Better Public Education.

Boyd, a 38-year-old executive vice president of the National Waterways Conference, said the most serious issue confronting the board is the availability of resources for the entire school system and that most of those funds should be allocated for basic instruction.

A third prospective candidate, Charlotte Holmes, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Observers sharply disagree about how serious a challenge Warren faces from Boyd. Some call Boyd a political neophyte and say Warren has a clear edge because he has done a good job in representing the diverse ward, which stretches from Capitol Hill to Anacostia.

Others disagree, noting that Boyd was a vice president of the Ward 6 Democrats and has strong political connections.

"As a person who has been elected three times and is running a fourth time, I take all challenges seriously," said Warren, who won reelection in 1979 by only 93 votes.

He said his experience on the board would be a benefit to the ward's schools. "There is still much to be done for the youth of our city and I want to continue to contribute to that task."