In his July 31 op-ed column, "Deadbeats and Doers in Our Schools," Colbert I. King wrote that I was "overcome with desire" for the council seat held by Sharon Ambrose. In fact, I was approached by a number of Ward 6 residents who urged me to run because of Ms. Ambrose's abrasiveness and her tendency to ignore the interests of residents in certain parts of the ward. I reasoned that the council would be a more effective platform from which to realize educational reform and that Ward 6 deserved someone who could represent the entire ward. But Mr. King saw a political power play.

Next, Mr. King criticized the manner in which I recently was elected vice president of the D.C. Board of Education, saying that I negotiated a deal with my colleagues into giving me the seat in exchange for my vote to remove Wilma Harvey from the presidency. Upon my arrival on the board, I was one of Ms. Harvey's strongest supporters. But it is my belief that she improperly used board staff to perform work of a personal nature, failed to attend meetings where the school board's presence needed to be felt, missed congressional hearings and failed to read prepared statements agreed to by consensus of the board. I allege that she did not participate at important gatherings, nor did she delegate the responsibility to then-Vice President Dwight Singleton or any other board member.

It is charged that Ms. Harvey raised the salary of a staff member without consulting the members of the board. In my judgment, Wilma Harvey has failed to provide the type of committed, ethical leadership that the D.C. Board of Education needs. Yes, I sought the vice presidency because I thought I have the ability to do a good job.

And finally, there is the re-reporting of the child-support issue I was accused of on the night before my election in 1996. Colbert King never asked me about it, yet he reported on a personal issue that was raised by a political opponent. I have explained this personal matter publicly on a number of occasions. I had a fire at my home. I was temporarily blinded, and my youngest daughter was hospitalized in critical condition. I needed time to rebound financially from the loss my family and I suffered. The mother of my daughter and I were in agreement as to the temporary waiver of the child support. That's it.

My board stipend has not been subjected to forced garnishment, as reported in the July 27 Metro story "For Bitterly Divided D.C. School Board, No Business as Usual." I signed a voluntary wage assignment to have the funds transferred directly from my stipend.

BENJAMIN BONHAM

Vice President

D.C. Board of Education

Washington