There is no question that the D.C. Public School System longs for and needs a visionary leader to help pull it from the morass of its disorder (of which the fracas over the firing of Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins is only the most recent example) and create a positive climate for teaching and learning.

It is also clear that the board of education does not know what its job is. As it is constituted, the board has too much time and money at its disposal and is, therefore, unable to resist opportunities to interfere in the work of the superintendent and that of other administrative offices. Reduce these, define the board's mission and train its members for their roles, and we will create an environment in which a new leadership can be effective.

A reformed school board would welcome to its ranks those who understand, when they run for office, that:

Public education policy-making should address all children equally, regardless of political boundaries.

School board membership is a service opportunity with no financial rewards save a stipend and expenses.

Minimal staff will be provided to the board as a whole to support agreed-upon research priorities. Clerical and other staff support will be pooled and managed for collective use.

The board budget will be tailored to fit the board's mission to make and monitor policy.


The writer is a former principal of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.