R. David Hall (Ward 2) and Linda Cropp (Ward 4) were unanimously reelected president and vice president of the D.C. Board of Education yesterday, marking the second time in as many years that the 11 members of the board united in their choice of officers.
After his reelection as board president, Hall, 36, said the school system has made considerable progress in recent years, but is still about average. "We can't settle for C-plus," he said. "We must build a system of high quality and superiority, if you will, in the public schools."
Hall said the major issues facing the school system, which has an annual budget of $356 million, include new problems such as reducing teacher absenteeism, and old problems such as making the system more efficient and improving secondary schools, where most students score below national norms on standardized basic skills tests and where many classes are overcrowded.
The election of officers at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Northwest Washington during the board's annual reorganizational meeting, followed a ceremony to install newly elected board member Phyllis Young (At Large) and reelected members, the Rev. David Eaton (At Large), R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8), Wanda Washburn (Ward 3) and Hall.
Hall said a recently released report indicating that as many as 240 teachers are absent from classes each week highlights new challenges that board members must meet. "Teacher absenteeism is the kind of thing that saddens you," he said. "Students suffer when teachers aren't in classrooms teaching them. I didn't know how extensive the problem was until the report came out."
He said the board will look into ways to expand a remedial reading program recently started at Cardozo High School, at 13th and Clifton streets NW. With thousands of teen-aged students deficient in reading, the school system has a responsibility to be innovative in its attempt to bring them up to par quickly, before they graduate, Hall said.
The Cardozo reading program is designed to teach students who have scored two to three years below national norms on reading tests "how to think," according to Cardozo Principal James Williams. "Educational research indicates that focusing on cognitive skills helps students tremendously. Once we teach them to think, we can teach them anything," Williams said.
School board member Nate Bush (Ward 7) said that as chairman of the board's Finance Committee, he is concerned that "we refine the procurement procedures to alleviate some of the headaches caused by slow delivery of books and other school supplies. The thrust for the new year is more efficiency. We can do better."
He said he does not expect the City Council and the mayor to approve the board's fiscal 1987 budget request of $397 million without some friction, but added, "I think we'll find the council more sensitive. They can see the progress we've made and they can see that there is a need for more resources."
Yesterday's unanimous election of officers came as no surprise to board members. Many of them had joked hours before the election that it was "automatic" that Hall and Cropp would be given a second year to lead the board because things had gone rather smoothly over the past year.
Hall, a real estate broker, is a D.C. native and graduated from Cardozo High. He received a bachelor's degree in political science from Howard University in 1971 and a law degree from Georgetown University in 1977. He is married and has two children.
Hall was first elected to the board in 1981. Many city political observers have described him as a "careful planner" with ambitions to be elected someday as a City Council member or mayor. He has denied any such goals, saying that moving to the council would be a "step down" from his school board position.
Cropp, 38, heads the board's Education Committee. She earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science at Howard University and a master of education degree at Howard in 1971. She worked as a teacher in the school system for several years. She is married and has two children.