A former D.C. school board member was found fatally shot inside his Southeast Washington home yesterday morning, and police were scrambling to find the man's missing rental car, authorities said.

Terry Hairston, 38, was discovered by police officers about 11:15 a.m. in his home in the 300 block of Burns Street SE, police said.

Friends said Hairston's family became concerned yesterday morning when he did not show up for his sister's graduation from the University of Maryland. A friend visited the house, found Hairston's body and called police, they said.

Hairston represented Ward 7 on the school board from 1995 through 1998 and recently had been planning a political comeback.

Police said Hairston was shot in the body, but they provided few details. They made no arrests. Police were searching for a rental car -- a gray or silver 2004 Nissan Sentra with Virginia tags of YFU-2586 -- which Hairston had been using while his vehicle was in a repair shop, authorities said.

The killing stunned people who had worked with Hairston over the years. Former school board president Robert G. Childs said Hairston displayed a great deal of energy during his term.

"He had passion," Childs said. "He took stances, and he wasn't a pushover. He tried to work with each individual who was a member of the board. . . . He was younger than most of us and had a lot of energy, which was very useful. We used to tease him about being the youngest."

In 1996, Hairston unsuccessfully challenged D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), who yesterday called his challenger a "young, smart guy."

On Friday, Hairston filed papers announcing his intention to run for the Ward 7 seat again, said Irvin Reid, a close friend.

Just last month, Hairston had a fundraiser at the Islander Restaurant in Northwest Washington. Former mayor Marion Barry attended the event, friends said.

Hairston was born and raised in the District and graduated from St. John's College High School in Northwest Washington before heading to Morehouse College in Atlanta. He graduated from Morehouse in 1990 and soon took a job teaching at a Northeast Washington elementary school, friends said.

He eventually received a master's degree in international business from Southeastern University, Reid said.

In 1994, Hairston decided to run for the school board.

"He just felt, being on the inside, he could right some wrongs that he saw," Reid said. "He loved being on the school board."

He did not seek reelection in 1998, a time when much of the city's day-to-day operations were run by a financial control board. "He didn't want to be a part of that anymore," Reid said.

Last year, Hairston went to South Korea to teach English. Until last month, he worked as a long-term substitute special education teacher at White Oak Middle School in Silver Spring.

The school's principal, Carol Dahlberg, said he took over the math class of a teacher who was on leave and worked at White Oak from December to April 2.

"He was a fantastic teacher," Dahlberg said. "He was working on getting his certification in special education."

Staff writer Karlyn Barker and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

Terry Hairston, a teacher, was elected to the D.C. school board at age 28.