The elected D.C. Board of Education, as structured, is incapable of working with the D.C. Public Schools administration, which is trying to reform the system. It would be a major disservice to the District if the board's responsibilities were returned without a major overhaul.

D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous is moving in the right direction ["Smaller Board Gains Support," Metro, Nov. 30], but he doesn't go far enough. As long as the board members are elected from their separate wards (except for three at-large positions), the board will be in disarray. Eleven members also is too many, considering the population of the District.

If we were starting from scratch, I would have an appointed board, but home rule advocates would become unglued over this. So why not cut the board to five members and have each member run at-large, with the largest vote-getter becoming the chairperson? These new board members, unlike previous ones, must be committed to reform.

I also would eliminate the salary for board members, reimbursing them only for expenses, and insist that board members refrain from micromanaging.

Finally, given the growth of the charter school movement, I urge the consolidation of the chartering responsibility into one agency. The District also needs to reconstitute the state education office, which could ensure fair distribution of federal monies and enrollment certifications as well as provide the public with information on the finances and academic performances of all publicly supported schools.



The writer was CEO and superintendent of D.C. Public Schools from 1996 to 1998.