D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) said his effort to negotiate a compromise between feuding factions of the D.C. Board of Education has been delayed until next week because of what he called "a destructive element" within the board "that is counterproductive to the interests of children."
Chavous, who chairs the council's Education Committee, tried to meet with school board members yesterday to win their approval for a compromise on who should lead the panel. The school board voted 6 to 5 last week to remove Wilma Harvey (Ward 1) as president because of allegations that she had used staff improperly and other concerns. Harvey and her supporters say the ouster was illegal, and lawyers for the city say she may have been denied due process.
But the proposed reconciliation meeting was postponed until Wednesday night after Chavous received a biting memo from school board member Don Reeves (Ward 3) asking why Chavous had not polled board members to see if they were available to attend.
Reeves also blasted Chavous for not communicating with the school board through Dwight E. Singleton (Ward 4), who formerly served as vice president and is now considered president by Harvey's opponents on the board.
Chavous instead spoke with Tonya Vidal Kinlow (At Large), who is also part of the anti-Harvey faction. Kinlow notified her colleagues--including Reeves and Singleton--Thursday night about yesterday's proposed meeting.
"Whoever he's dealing with, other than the president of the board, is inappropriate," said Reeves, who questioned Chavous's motives for talking to Kinlow.
Chavous, who declined to provide details of his proposed compromise, said Kinlow had been in communication with him since a preliminary meeting with board members Tuesday.
"That's how we got in this mess--being stuck on ceremony, which means nothing," he said. "Sometimes it's hard for people to think outside of themselves and their own interests, but that is what is needed if this board is to survive."
Singleton said he did not mind Chavous's communicating through Kinlow and promised a "team approach" from his six-member majority. He said he was not sure what Chavous is proposing, however, or whether the board needs his help.
"He might not necessarily need to mediate," said Singleton, who has invited board members to meet today to discuss their differences. "The board might very well be able to resolve its own problems."
But the board's already tarnished reputation--its authority over the school system was seized by the D.C. financial control board 2 1/2 years ago--has suffered greatly in recent weeks as the feuding with Harvey became public.
One former control board member has urged that the elected board be abolished in favor of an appointed panel. Chavous said elected officials are privately questioning whether the board should regain its powers as scheduled June 30.
"I have always been committed to an elected board but . . . we also have to look at what's best for our children," said Chavous. "I would like to see us have a democratically elected board, but I am open."