WITH COURAGE, determination and every good reason to do what they did, a solid majority of Washington's elected school board stood up strongly for better public education of this city's schoolchildren by voting 8 to 3 yesterday to fire School Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins. Though Dr. Jenkins had already made the case for his dismissal well before the board gathered, he sealed it with a disgraceful parting performance, egged on by a supporting cast that hurled debris at the board, struck one member in the head with a water pitcher, removed portraits of several members from the walls and destroyed them and vandalized one member's office. Not once did Dr. Jenkins try to dissuade the lawbreakers, reserving his words instead for a bitter outburst aimed at all who sought his ouster. He called them unethical, unfair, power-hungry pawns of The Washington Post and accused them of being racist as well.

But the board majority did not buckle to any of this last-resort ugliness. They spoke forcefully for the majority of Washingtonians -- parents, teachers, administrators and others who are deeply concerned about the education of every child in their city. They refused to accept mediocrity -- inefficiency and now insubordination -- of a superintendent who could not even deliver teachers or books to the classrooms on time, who concentrated more on building a bureaucracy than hiring new good teachers and who then tried to excuse the increasingly obvious shortchanging of students with racial innuendo.

This time, however, board members spoke up for the majority of District residents in every ward of this city who are sick and tired of apologies instead of services and of second-class learning conditions instead of efficient operations. There is no reason for Washington's parents to have to settle for ineptitude; past superintendents have shown how momentum, attention to detail, cooperation with the school board and a sensitivity to neighborhood concerns can make a difference.

But even the search for a new superintendent could not proceed effectively with a grousing, inefficient superintendent encouraging political insurrection. What serious educator anywhere would want to step into that kind of situation? Now District residents can look forward to the stronger school board they chose to build through the elections and to an opportunity to attract the best talent available to run the administration.