Top deputies of D.C. school Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins, in an extraordinary step to fight the city school board, urged principals yesterday to leave their posts and pressure board members not to dismiss him during a special board meeting today.

Five principals told The Washington Post that they were summoned to meetings with Jenkins's top aides and told that the superintendent was to be fired at the meeting. The principals said they were then asked to file for one-day leaves and to join protesters before the meeting begins.

In a statement released late yesterday, Jenkins denied that meetings with principals took place. He declined to be interviewed. But numerous school system sources and school board President Nate Bush (Ward 7), a Jenkins supporter, confirmed the principals' accounts.

Board sources said that eight of the board's 11 members are ready to dismiss Jenkins. Yet even as the board met privately with its attorneys, Jenkins's supporters gave further signals that he will not go quietly. They called for students to boycott classes so they and their parents can attend the board meeting.

Board members reacted with outrage to that tactic and to the meetings with principals. And Parents United, a prominent school advocacy group in the city, said that asking principals to leave schools to support Jenkins was "beyond belief." Although it was not clear whether Jenkins was involved in any of the efforts, he made no public comment to discourage them.

"This shows the depth this person {Jenkins} will stoop to hold his position," said board member R. David Hall (Ward 2), who is leading the board coalition against Jenkins. "Anyone who truly cares about students would not jeopardize their future just to save his neck."

Principals said the request to take leave, which was but one of the moves that Jenkins's allies made yesterday, drew mixed response. "The board's being too disruptive, and we should say so," said one principal, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprimand.

Others criticized the idea. "This is highly irregular," said one principal. "Whether you are for Dr. Jenkins or not, this is not the way to do it. We should be in our schools."

The board, which hired Jenkins in 1988, told him over the summer that his contract, which expires in June, will not be renewed. The board has since begun searching for a successor. But a majority of members apparently believe that Jenkins's presence is continuing to stall progress in the schools.

Jenkins's allies distributed fliers at some schools encouraging students and parents to boycott classes today -- an action that led several principals to make announcements to students that classes had not been canceled.

"We have decided that if we have to boycott schools to make our point, we'll do it," said C.B. Griffin, a community activist who is one of the leaders of the protest.

Board President Bush, who has tried to persuade the board to keep Jenkins until June, expressed chagrin with Jenkins's aides and supporters for asking that principals and students leave schools to join protests.

"It's clearly very inappropriate for anyone to be encouraging that," Bush said. "Our principals should remember that they are responsible to the school system, not to any one individual."

Board members have criticized Jenkins's work for more than a year. They offered him $200,000 to quit in July. When he refused, they chose not to fire him. In recent months, tension between the two sides has increased.

A board majority is complaining that Jenkins continues to shuffle too many principals and administrators, has not yet verified the annual enrollment count taken in October and has not cut the size of his administration.

Some members also say that Jenkins has spent much of the fall campaigning to keep his job instead of planning for a smooth transition. Jenkins has denied that.

Although Jenkins has support among some principals and parent activists, his most vocal allies are part of a community group known as Operation Know Thyself, which wants D.C. schools to emphasize African heritage.

Jenkins's allies argue that the board has meddled in his administration, and say dismissing him would break a commitment made in July to let him finish his contract.