Two Alexandria City Council members and a member of the School Board have called for an evaluation of the city schools' administration by an outside consultant, a move that has angered School Board members.
School officials said they were taken by surprise by the call for the study, which some observers of city politics say could become an issue in the spring council elections.
The proposal by School Board member Lynnwood G. Campbell Jr., a council candidate, and Democratic council members T. Michael Jackson and Kerry J. Donley, both seeking reelection, calls for an evaluation of areas including administrative policies, organizational structure, minority achievement, community involvement and the effect of dwindling state aid.
According to Jackson, the request was prompted by a perceived strain in public confidence concerning the city's 9,500-student school system.
"There is some division of opinion on how well the school system is educating our children," Jackson said. "We spend the highest amount per pupil in the commonwealth. Are we getting the best school system in the state? . . . I don't have the answers to these questions."
"The general consensus is that improvements could be made," said Donley, noting that impending cuts in state aid and a tightening city budget make it necessary to determine if taxpayers are getting "enough bang for their bucks."
Donley and Jackson said they will bring up the matter at Saturday's council meeting. They have also asked that the item be put on the docket for a public hearing Jan. 12.
School Board members said the move is an attempt to usurp their responsibility.
Angie Godfrey, board vice chairman, said, "If it had been honest, there would have been some contact" with board members.
"There's a difference between input and someone trying to manage over your shoulder," said Godfrey, adding that problems would be best addressed if the board and council worked together.
Superintendent Paul W. Masem said he had no objections to a study. "I think any management study would determine that we're understaffed for a lot of things we're taking on," Masem said.
Other council members expressed support for the concept. However, council member Lionel R. Hope, who is not seeking reelection, expressed concern. "Council might be overstepping its bounds," he said.