After a year-long search, D.C. School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman finally has filled the critical position of facilities chief, but her choice--former Detroit assistant superintendent Kifah W. Jayyousi--meant the departure of schools chief operating officer Russell Smith, whom Ackerman had hired away from the D.C. financial control board just two weeks earlier.
Jayyousi, 37, oversaw a $1.5 billion capital improvements program for the 183,000-student Detroit school system for the last two years. He told Ackerman last month that he would take charge of the District's aging, poorly maintained buildings only if he could report directly to her.
When Ackerman agreed, Smith, who had expected overseeing the repair and maintenance of those sagging schools to be a primary part of his job, fired off a letter of resignation. His two-week tenure with the school system ended June 18, and he found himself back at the control board even before his desk had gathered dust.
Neither Smith nor Ackerman would discuss the resignation in detail.
The chief operating officer and facilities chief jobs had been vacant for 16 months, since retired Gen. Charles E. Williams, who held them both, resigned under criticism of his massive roof-repair campaign. Ackerman was deputy superintendent at the time but took control of the school system two months later, after retired Gen. Julius W. Becton Jr. stepped down.
Jayyousi, who held various facilities jobs at the University of California before taking the Detroit job in 1997, is no stranger to controversy. He was named as a defendant in a $10 million lawsuit filed against the Detroit school system in February by a company that claims it was fired illegally from the $1.5 billion schools rebuilding project.
Barring any additional last-minute personnel changes, Jayyousi will begin work in the District on July 19.
Citizens Center Named for Clarke
There is nothing extravagant about the new Dave Clarke Citizens Center at 14th and U streets NW, but given the nature of the former D.C. Council chairman it honors, that seems appropriate.
The new center is in the District's Reeves building and will serve as a community meeting room and constituent office for council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who now represents the ward that first elected Clarke to office in 1974.
Clarke died in March 1997 at age 53 after 12 years as council chairman and more than 20 years of activity in D.C. politics. He was known as a tireless neighborhood and civil rights activist.
"He was very much identified as a grass-roots representative," Graham said. "We want to honor that tradition."
Graham will keep his primary office at One Judiciary Square, where the mayor and council are based temporarily while the John Wilson Building is renovated.
The Reeves building office will be used for neighborhood meetings, as a base of operations for a local Advisory Neighborhood Commission and for other purposes, Graham said.
Parade Is Short on Politicians
The annual Fourth of July parade in the Palisades neighborhood of Northwest Washington is this city's most ambitious attempt at capturing small-town Americana. Big, red firetrucks lead the way along MacArthur Boulevard. Little children pedal bicycles draped in red, white, and blue streamers. Bagpipers, Miss District of Columbia, clowns and swing dancers all make their way down the boulevard, many of them pelting the crowd with handfuls of candy.
The Palisades Parade also is one of the most important political marches of the year. Former mayor Marion Barry rarely missed the chance to wave from the back of a convertible or hand a toddler a balloon. Last summer, nearly every politician in town marched down MacArthur Boulevard.
This year, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) sent his mother, Virginia, instead. She rode in a convertible, wearing a straw hat with red, white and blue streamers. Behind her marched Peggy Armstrong, the mayor's spokesman, and Abdusalam Omer, his chief of staff.
Maybe it was the heat. Or the fact there's no upcoming election. But overall, the 33rd Annual Palisades Parade had slim political pickings. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) was there. But from the D.C. Council came only Harold Brazil (D-At Large), Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large).
"The mayor really did want to do it," Armstrong said. "He had a great time last year. But he was out of town" this year.
Staff writer Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.