The search to replace School Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins has begun. Sort of. Well, actually, not just yet. But soon. Any day now, in fact.
Confused? Fear not, for so is most of the D.C. school board, which has insisted for three months that hiring a successor to Jenkins is its most serious issue and should be pursued immediately. It hasn't.
School board President Nate Bush (Ward 7) has met repeatedly with the board on what to do, but no final decisions have emerged.
One problem is politics. Some board members had asked to keep the sensitive issue of removing Jenkins quiet until after this week's elections. Other members are exasperated with Bush for not forming a search team shortly after the board decided in July not to renew Jenkins's contract.
"The search should have started a long time ago," said one board member. "By waiting until now, we've hurt our chances of finding good candidates."
Another issue is Jenkins. By most accounts, he wants to keep his job, and some board members are trying to gauge how much support he has.
The last time the board looked for a superintendent, it took six months to find a crop of quality applicants. This time, the District is competing against school systems in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Nearly all of them pay higher salaries than the District, which offers about $90,000 a year.
The board apparently believes its last search was muddled partly because it had too many community voices. This time, it's likely it will include none. Expect five board members to do the hunting: Bush, at-large members David H. Eaton, Eugene Kinlow and Karen Shook; and Ward 8 member R. Calvin Lockridge.
No New Contract
The city's 6,700 teachers are still waiting for more money. Their three-year contract expired in September, but negotiations since then have not produced any new terms.
The system and teachers union remain far apart on key issues, but a strike or any other protest is unlikely, both sides say.
The system has offered pay raises on a sliding scale of 5, 3 and 2 percent for teachers with different experience levels.
"That's utterly ridiculous," said union President William Simons. "We're really at a standstill now." The union is asking for 10 percent raises in each of the next three years.
One reason the negotiations are occurring without much public rancor is that each side has no idea how the city, which is struggling with a budget deficit, will finance any salary increases.
Recall Efforts Fizzle
They began by promising heads would roll, but it seems that organizers of recall attempts against four school board members were all talk, no action.
Each of the efforts failed to get enough petition signatures by the time the six-month deadline passed a few weeks ago. So board members Bob Boyd (Ward 6), David H. Eaton (At Large), Wilma R. Harvey (Ward 1) and Karen Shook (At Large) are safe, at least until their four-year terms expire.
The petition drives began last spring amid controversy over the board's vote to close several underenrolled schools, but none of them got very far. In Ward 1, community activist Joe Person did not submit any signatures to the D.C. Board of Elections. Neither did petition organizer Carolyn Bowling in Ward 6 nor parent activist Valencia Mohammed, who wanted to oust Eaton and Shook.
Changes at COPE
There's new leadership in the D.C. Committee on Public Education, the panel of community activists that wants to overhaul the District's schools.
Togo West, a Washington lawyer, has become its chairman. Carrie L. Thornhill, a director of the Greater Washington Research Center, and David Foweler, managing partner of the Peat Marwick accounting firm, are assistant chairmen of the group, which last year issued a widely praised blueprint to improve student achievement.
They have replaced former committee leaders Terence Golden, chief financial officer of the Oliver Carr Co., and Carmen Turner, the outgoing general manager of the Metro system. Golden and Turner helped found the committee and guided it through its landmark six-month, $1 million study of schools.
Three D.C. students recently earned a claim to fame: In three months' time, they read more than any of the 81,000 other students in city schools.
It was all part of a new contest, sponsored by Superintendent Jenkins, to entice students to read. The rules were simple: Students had from March to May to read as many books as possible. Their teachers supervised.
In elementary grades, Jason Snell was the winner. He's a second-grader at Watkins Elementary on Capitol Hill. In junior high competition, Cynthia Oladapo placed first. A former MacFarland Junior High student, she attends Wilson High. And among high school students, Latanza White, of Anacostia High, finished on top. Each of them received a $250 savings bond.