THANKS TO the amplification that big dollars allow, most District of Columbia voters are aware of a ballot proposition next month on bottle deposits. But there is other important work to be done at the polls by everyone who cares about the next generation of leaders in this city and the quality of education it's getting in the public schools. With a new superintendent to be hired, the membership of the school board becomes all the more critical -- and it happens that a majority of the board seats will be up for election in less than three weeks. With crowded contests and the possibility of a low turnout, the chance of an unpleasant surprise does loom large.

By and large, the current board has been doing what it should to encourage improvements, chiefly by supporting Superintendent Floretta McKenzie, who has has worked wonders for the system. As she prepares to leave, sensible leadership of the board should continue in place, and with the votes to keep this board-superintendent relationship in proper perspective for the next superintendent. In the days ahead, voters should be asking candidates about their views on this relationship and about their ideas of what kind of superintendent the city should be looking for. One quality already cited by board president R. David Hall is the ability to understand and deal with the political structure here -- and to do it without grandstanding.

We, too, will be watching these contests and sharing more thoughts before Election Day. In some instances, incumbents seem to have established strong claims for new terms; in others the examination of challengers is worth some time. For now, at least, the prospect of an even better school board should be too good to ignore.