R. David Hall was elected president of the D.C. Board of Education yesterday, and he vowed to restore confidence in the city's classrooms, steer students from violence and tackle the schools' financial problems.
The 11-member board unanimously selected Hall during its annual reorganization meeting, which included swearing-in ceremonies for five new and returning members, a visit from Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon and songs from Eastern High School's award-winning choir.
After the vote, Hall said his plans include a review of the policy on student uniforms and a look at the size of the work force in the schools. "We've got our hands full," he said. "We must reestablish confidence and efficiency."
Hall, 41, succeeds board member Nate Bush (Ward 7), who became the board's president a year ago. Hall had been the board's president from 1985 to 1987, but in recent years showed no interest in the job.
Hall's election yesterday completes a swift and decisive return to power. He led the board majority that voted to fire Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins in November, and he rallied the same coalition in his bid to replace Bush. Some members said Bush had moved too slowly on a variety of issues.
Bush will now be the board's vice president. He and Hall were sworn in for their third terms yesterday, and three new members also took oaths: Linda Moody (Ward 8), Jay Silberman (At Large) and Sandra Butler-Truesdale (Ward 4).
Moody defeated the board's senior member, R. Calvin Lockridge, in the fall elections. Butler-Truesdale succeeds Linda Cropp, who is now an at-large member of the D.C. Council. Silberman replaces Eugene Kinlow, who did not seek reelection.
Hall's election as president and the arrival of the new members comes as the board enters the new year with its usual roster of education troubles -- dropouts, dilapidated buildings and teacher recruitment -- as well as the challenge of finding a superintendent to lead the 81,000-student system.
The board also is likely to face serious budget problems. And because the city's deficit may reach $300 million by September, it is improbable that schools will get money for any initiatives next year.
Yet board members and parent leaders have said they are hopeful that Dixon will be more eager to solve school problems than her predecessor, Marion Barry, with whom the board had often feuded.
"Washington is up against some tough times," Dixon said yesterday. "But the way out is a quality education system for every child."
As school board president, Hall will set the board's agenda for the year, make committee appointments and be the school system's liaison to Dixon, the council and the city's business leaders, who have been urging school leaders to make drastic changes in how schools run and in what students are taught.
Hall also will shape the board's relations with the next school superintendent, who has not yet been chosen.
The board has said it expects to select a superintendent by the spring. In the meantime, longtime school administrator William H. Brown is acting as superintendent.