Clifford B. Janey, a 29-year education veteran from Boston and Rochester, N.Y., yesterday won the endorsement of Mayor Anthony A. Williams and other key officials to run the District's public schools, according to people close to the search process. The Board of Education is to vote on the appointment today.
Janey, 58, won the support of a seven-member panel responsible for recommending a superintendent to the school board. The decision, at 12:30 a.m. yesterday, came after a larger search committee re-interviewed and discussed four candidates, including Janey, in a marathon session that began at 4 p.m. Monday. The panel that made the final recommendation includes Williams (D), Board of Education President Peggy Cooper Cafritz and D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D).
Janey is the latest person to emerge from a protracted search process that began in November after the resignation of Paul L. Vance, who had been superintendent since 2000. The search has highlighted the difficulties in finding someone willing to manage the 64,000-student system, which is among the worst of large city systems in the United States in terms of student performance. The D.C. schools have had 10 superintendents, not including temporary administrators, since the modern Board of Education was created in 1968.
The panel had tried to maintain secrecy in the past month. Its members vowed not to discuss the search, saying that they felt humiliated by the publicity about two previous front-runners. Both Rudolph F. Crew and Carl A. Cohn turned down the job.
Janey edged out Toledo Superintendent Eugene T.W. Sanders, who has been interviewed four times since July 23, and Virginia official Maurice A. Jones, a lawyer without education experience. In the end, panel members believed that Sanders, a lifelong Ohio resident, did not have enough varied experience and that Jones, Virginia's commissioner of social services, would be too risky a choice, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, the 17-member search committee, which includes the seven panel members, interviewed the three men, along with Illinois State Superintendent Robert E. Schiller, who initially emerged as the top-ranked finalist last month but then lost support from the panel. The seven panel members stayed on to discuss Janey and Sanders after the rest of the search committee left.
In turning to Janey, the panel decided on an instructional leader who has focused his career on the teaching of low-achieving urban children, the type of children who are the majority of the District's students.
Janey grew up in a Boston public housing development and received a bachelor's degree in 1969 and a master's degree in 1973, both from Northeastern University. He was awarded a doctorate in education from Boston University in 1984.
He began his career in 1973 as a reading teacher and quickly rose to become principal of a middle school and then headmaster of a vocational high school. From 1989 to 1993, he was superintendent of the East Zone, including parts of South Boston and Dorchester. In 1993, he became chief academic officer. The same year, he was a finalist to be superintendent in Minneapolis and Worcester, Mass.
In 1995, Janey left Boston to run the schools in Rochester, an aging industrial city on Lake Ontario. There, he won praise for improving teacher retention, reducing class size and raising the test scores of minority students. However, by 2002, when Janey accepted a buyout of his contract, he had attracted intense criticism from Mayor William A. Johnson Jr. and from several of the school board's seven members over a $45 million deficit that amounted to nearly one-tenth of the system's annual budget.
Bolgen Vargas, president of the board from 1998 to 2002, said Janey improved school safety, raised reading and literacy levels and implemented a comprehensive reform plan at the city's low-achieving Franklin High School. "He built a very solid coalition with parents and teachers," Vargas said.
Robert E. Brown, a board member since 1998, said Janey laid a foundation for academic success. "What Dr. Janey did was to put much more emphasis on the principals and the teams in the individual schools and to reorganize certain of the schools," Brown said.
A critic, James R. Bowers, said he would rate Janey's performance "below average, particularly in the area of fiscal management." Bowers, a board member since 2002, was chairman of the board's finance committee while the system struggled with the deficit.
He attributed the deficit to cost overruns and to a failure by Janey to realistically anticipate state revenue. Janey's supporters have blamed the downturn in the state economy that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but acknowledge that the deficit damaged Janey politically.
"I still think he could have been the number one superintendent in the country, but I think he got involved in politics more than he should have," said Darryl W. Porter, a board member since 1994. Porter said Janey angered some board members when he supported legislation that weakened the board's oversight on personnel decisions.
Janey has been a vice president at Scholastic Inc., the New York-based educational publisher, since May 2003. His wife, art therapist Janaya Majied-Janey, died in 2000.
Staff writer Valerie Strauss and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.