The D.C. school board voted unanimously yesterday to appoint Wilma Harvey to fill the Ward 1 vacancy on the board, created when her boss, Edna Frazier-Cromwell, died of cancer last month.
Harvey was selected from a pool of five candidates, some of whom ran against Frazier-Cromwell in 1983. One of the candidates, Walter C. Pierce, a community activist, angrily shouted at board members and Harvey after the appointment.
Harvey, 40, who has never run for public office, will serve as a board member until the November election, which she said she plans to enter. Harvey, a single parent whose 22-year-old daughter attends college, will be paid about $2,000 a month as a board member.
Harvey, who had worked for Frazier-Cromwell for three years as special assistant and office manager and lives in Northwest, said, "I lobbied for the appointment and I'm very happy to get the full support of the board." She listed drug education and bilingual programs as her priorities.
Born in Memphis, Harvey attended Tennessee State University where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history and education. She later taught seventh grade for the Detroit public school system and moved to Washington in 1978 to do research for a doctor's degree.
Harvey worked at the National Archives for several years and was hired by Frazier-Cromwell after being laid off by the Reagan administration, she said.
"Working in the D.C. schools, meeting parents and children and seeing firsthand some of the problems confronting our students, I became committed to improving the schools, particularly those in Ward 1," Harvey said.
A tall, robust woman with a quick smile, Harvey has a reputation for being hard-working.
Shortly after Harvey was appointed, Pierce, who was carrying a Bible, interrupted the board meeting, shouting at her. "They [board members] may have given you power, but Jesus has given power to me. Jesus gives power, not those idiots."
Pierce came in second during the 1983 Ward 1 school board race with 14.5 percent of the votes, compared with Frazier-Cromwell's 61 percent.
Several board members said Harvey proved that she was capable of holding the position when she filled in for Frazier-Cromwell after the ailing board member was weakened by cancer last fall.
"Ward 1 residents deserve a representative and Wilma Harvey has been working in the ward for quite some time, monitoring the activities at the schools and helping the board respond to the needs of the community," said school board President R. David Hall.
Bob Boyd was less enthusiastic. "We basically have a lackluster field of candidates and Harvey is the least lackluster among them. It's not that she's so good, but the others are so bad."