MEMBERS OF the D.C. Board of Education now know quite a bit more about the problems surrounding inaccurate student enrollment counts. Board president Nate Bush acknowledges that "it's fair for people to be exasperated . . . and we have to face it." But this should serve as an incentive to move rapidly, thoughtfully and responsibly forward in the selection of a new superintendent, and not as a reason to delve deeply into day-to-day management of the schools.
Four months ago, a majority on the board decided that School Superintendent Andrew Jenkins would complete the final year of his employment contract and that a search for his replacement would begin soon. What is the board waiting for? It is now October, and a search team has not been appointed. We hear that the board wants an outsider for the post this time, but there has been no formal declaration of what the board wants in a new superintendent.
Ideally, the board should be in a position to vote on its choices for superintendent by early spring. Several steps must be taken first: the search committee must be appointed and the selection criteria determined; advisory panels must be created and outside experts hired to assist in the search if those procedures are followed; the availability of the post must be advertised and then the wait begun for applications. The fact that all this will take considerable effort and time is one clear reason why the board should focus squarely on the search effort.
As for the enrollment problem, Dr. Jenkins says he is the "messenger" who brought the issue "out in the sunshine." He, more accurately, is still the school system's chief administrator and the one most responsible for correcting problems. An independent audit -- at a cost of $100,000 -- provides some guidance.
It says to: 1) appoint a central administrator, perform a manual count of students in conjunction with the problem-ridden computer system upon which the count now depends and then update that system to reconcile discrepancies. 2) Internally audit the data before the "official" count is released. 3) Review alternatives to the current enrollment and attendance software. 4) Make certain that all data critical to the count is kept, and not erased. These tasks are hardly insurmountable.
The school board has an oversight role to play in these matters, but only that. It's time will be more properly spent by conducting a search that results in a promising pool of potential superintendents, by early 1991.