D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday chastised the elected Board of Education and called on its 11 members to "resolve your internal conflicts" and concentrate on improving the city's troubled school system.
The mayor, in a statement, said he was "deeply disappointed" at the school board turmoil that erupted last week when members voted 6 to 5 to remove Wilma R. Harvey (Ward 1) as the panel's president. He said board members have more important issues to deal with, noting that the Children's Rights Council ranked the city 51st in the nation--behind all 50 states--as a place to raise a child.
The school board, stripped of its power to run the school system in 1996, is set to regain that authority by June 2000. Its conflicts spilled into a public row Thursday when members ousted Harvey as president, accusing her, among other complaints, of asking a staff member to do personal work.
"I am deeply disappointed at the recent turmoil within our elected school board," said Williams (D). "The school board is the oldest form of elected government in our city, and as such is important to our struggle for true democracy and self-determination."
Joyce A. Ladner, a former member of the D.C. financial control board, assailed the school board yesterday, writing in an op-ed article in The Washington Post that members should be replaced by an appointed board.
Weighing in on the removal of Harvey, the D.C. Office of Corporation Counsel has sent a memo to Williams saying the school board likely violated its own bylaws when it voted to oust her.
The informal opinion says that there are different ways to interpret the facts but that the most likely interpretation is that the board should have issued charges against Harvey and held a trial.
The opinion, first reported by The Washington Times, cannot force Harvey's reinstatement. Harvey has vowed to sue if the issue is not resolved quickly.
Last night, board members met behind closed doors for nearly three hours with D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), who heads the council's education committee.
Board members refused to discuss details of the meeting, but they said no specific compromise proposals had been offered.
Chavous was optimistic. "We had open, candid discussion," he said. "Over the next couple of days, all of those issues will be resolved."