The D.C. school board is beginning its search to replace Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins and hopes to finish by December, in part to block what it views as a growing campaign by Jenkins to secure another term.

School board members said yesterday that they are forming a team that will look nationally for Jenkins's successor. The board met privately Wednesday to discuss its plan for the first time. It also has formally notified Jenkins of its search.

Although the board told Jenkins in July that it would not renew his contract, it had not said how and when it would choose a successor.

Board members would not publicly describe the search. "There has been a decision to move forward," said Nate Bush (Ward 7). "In the not-too-distant future, the process will begin."

The board's action coincides with what several members contend are moves by Jenkins to help candidates in next month's board elections. Five board seats are on the ballot, and victories by Jenkins's allies could help realign the board in his favor.

Board members cite several reasons for their suspicion: In the Ward 2 race, Jenkins's name was first on a petition of a candidate bidding to unseat incumbent R. David Hall. In the Ward 4 race, Jenkins recently hired the husband of one candidate to work as an executive assistant in his office.

In the at-large race, Jenkins has strong ties to one candidate, Valencia Mohammed, who led protests against the board when it nearly fired him in July.

"There's a sense that Jenkins is building a slate of candidates," said one board member, who asked not to be named. "It's grating on the board's nerves."

Jenkins could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mohammed, a parent activist, angrily denied that Jenkins is campaigning for her, or for any other candidate. "That's completely erroneous," she said. "What Dr. Jenkins has is candidates who simply want him to do his job without the board's interference."

The board decided in July not to renew Jenkins's contract. The board offered him about $250,000 to resign, but he rejected it, and the board chose not to fire him.

In the time since, relations between Jenkins and the board have improved, but most board members still say he has been ineffective. They fault him for being too sluggish in pursuing new projects, and they have shown great disappointment in his administrative team.

Jenkins became superintendent in June 1988, after working for more than two decades in the city's schools. He was chosen after a bitter board search for a successor to Floretta D. McKenzie.

During that search, board members said they had trouble finding a large pool of qualified applicants. They may face that again.

The D.C. board will be competing with other large urban school systems that recently lost or fired a superintendent, and it has less money to offer. Jenkins's annual salary is about $87,000.

At this point, a board majority wants an educator with no ties to the D.C. school system. Several board members said they will likely compile a list of prospective candidates from around the country and hire an education consulting firm.

It is unclear who will be part of the search team, but the board apparently wants a small group, probably its three at-large members, David H. Eaton, Eugene Kinlow and Karen Shook, and a few community leaders.

Board members say they would prefer to choose a new superintendent by December to allow a smooth transition and to keep any newly elected members, who take office in January, from participating in the search.