The D.C. school board has scheduled a public meeting tomorrow to discuss Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins's contract amid clear signs that a majority of its members are ready to dismiss him.
Six of the board's 11 members, in a direct challenge to board President Nate Bush, a Jenkins supporter, signed a letter yesterday demanding that the meeting take place even without Bush's approval.
That step, along with the unusual public notice of the meeting, suggests that several board members are certain that they have the coalition they lacked in July, when a move to fire Jenkins was abruptly shelved. Instead, Jenkins, who refused a $200,000 board offer to quit, was told then that his contract would not be renewed when it expires next June.
"What's happening now is that the votes are in place to give Dr. Jenkins notice," said board member R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8), who said he did not ask for the special meeting. "He has been expecting it, and I think he's prepared to take it head-on."
Relations between the board and Jenkins have deteriorated further this fall. Board members have criticized changes Jenkins has made in the top ranks of the system, they have complained that the annual enrollment count in October has yet to be verified, and they were angered this month by Jenkins's decision to spend nearly $35,000 to send 70 school officials and community activists to Atlanta for a weekend conference on African-centered education. Some members also have said they believe the hostility between Jenkins and the board is impeding its search for his successor.
Jenkins was unavailable to comment on the board's meeting planned for tomorrow, but he summoned his senior staff members to an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon. Top school officials gave conflicting accounts of whether Jenkins will fight the board, as he did when it nearly fired him last July, or accept its apparent decision to oust him.
The board's latest move appears in part to be a leadership struggle between Bush and longtime board member R. David Hall (Ward 2). Several board members said privately that Hall and at-large member Eugene Kinlow are leading the effort to remove Jenkins immediately. Hall declined to comment; neither Bush nor Kinlow could be reached.
Board members said they believe that Jenkins, a 30-year employee of the school system who became superintendent in 1988, has campaigned to keep his job since the board voted without dissent not to renew his contract.
Just last week, several dozen Jenkins supporters rallied outside school headquarters to demand that the board leave him alone.
"The board said in July that Dr. Jenkins could finish his contract," said C.B. Griffin, a community activist who supports the superintendent. "I'm concerned about the disruption it would cause to remove him now."
Jenkins does not appear to have the support of leaders in the Washington Teachers Union or the Council of School Officers, which represents principals. His support among parents is less clear, but most candidates who expressed support for Jenkins in school board races fared poorly in the Nov. 6 elections.
Last July, though, the board backed away from a plan to fire Jenkins during a public meeting stuffed with his supporters and television cameras. Later, some members said they were embarrassed by their sudden retreat, which occurred in part because Hall changed his mind during a private meeting of the board.
Board sources said yesterday that if a vote is taken against Jenkins, the school system's vice superintendent, William H. Brown, would be appointed to replace him until a permanent successor could be chosen. Brown is a longtime school system administrator who is nearing retirement.
Along with Hall and Kinlow, other board members who asked to hold a meeting on Jenkins's contract were Bob Boyd (Ward 6), Wilma R. Harvey (Ward 1), Erika Landberg (Ward 3) and Karen Shook (At Large).