Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) yesterday dropped his adamant opposition to having the D.C. Board of Education appoint the school superintendent, emerging from a four-hour meeting with the D.C. Council to say he would consider such an option, aides to Williams said.
Council members are still divided over how much to shrink the 11-member school board and whether the panel should remain elected, be appointed by the mayor--or be chosen by some combination of election and appointments.
But Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), chairman of the council's education committee, said a "very fragile" consensus is emerging that the school board--however it is structured--should appoint the superintendent, set policy and avoid involvement in personnel issues and other daily operations.
"It's very tenuous. It's very fragile. But I feel good about it," Chavous said. "Better than I've felt in weeks."
Chavous said Williams, too, had agreed to the role the school board should play. But a top aide to the mayor said Williams--faced with the council's rejection of his month-old quest to appoint the superintendent and the board--is willing to consider having the board appoint the superintendent.
The mayor "does not think having a superintendent who has more than one boss is an effective way to govern the school system," said policy director Gregory McCarthy, referring to an earlier council proposal that the mayor appoint the superintendent and the elected school board confirm the appointment and set policy.
Williams is weighing several options he discussed with the council, McCarthy said, but remains concerned about how the school board would be structured.
Only two of 13 council members supported Williams's original proposal, which was modeled after mayoral takeovers in several other cities. Some want to shrink the 11-member elected panel to nine, seven or five members. Others favor a hybrid board of appointed and elected members.
Williams has proposed letting D.C. voters choose from several options, but most council members say that would be confusing and potentially divisive.
"I really hope that a consensus can be reached . . . so we don't end up with a bitter, race-class, mayor-council kind of division," said council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who said he was encouraged by the meeting.
The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on restructuring the school board. Any legislation would have to be approved by the D.C. financial control board, which oversees the school system, and by D.C. voters and Congress.
Chavous said that the council would continue to discuss school governance options today and that he and council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) will speak with Williams tomorrow.
"The overriding goal is for the mayor and the council to embrace an approach that we can jointly sell to the voters," Chavous said.
The school board is slated to regain power over city schools in June after a 3 1/2-year takeover by the control board. But because of complications in approving and implementing a new board structure, the control board has said it would extend its oversight through the end of the year if city officials requested it.