"There are two types of school board members. One gets on the board to make important things happen. Then there is the member who gets on the board to become important."

-- Clifford B. Janey, D.C. school

superintendent, Oct. 5.

THE DISTRICT of Columbia's Nov. 2 ballot will include more than a presidential contest and D.C. Council races. At stake also are two school board seats in districts that include 65 schools. District 1, which encompasses Wards 1 and 2, includes 34 public schools ranging from Oyster Elementary on Calvert Street in the city's Northwest sector to Amidon Elementary on Eye Street in Southwest. District 2, which spans Wards 3 and 4, occupies a similar broad swath, taking in 31 public schools ranging from Janney Elementary on Albemarle Street NW, west of Wisconsin Avenue, to LaSalle Elementary on Riggs Road in Northeast. Each school has one thing in common: It is governed by a board of education that is charged by law with the task of adopting policies for the schools and holding the superintendent accountable for managing the system. Consequently, in next month's election, residents of Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4 will have the responsibility of choosing candidates who can best perform the policymaking and oversight roles inherent in D.C. school board membership.

The District 1 race (Wards 1 and 2) will pose a particular challenge for voters inasmuch as incumbent board member Julie Mikuta, frustrated with the pace of change in the school system, announced last month that she will not seek reelection. Voters have the task of becoming acquainted with four candidates for the vacant seat: Eleanor Johnson, Keenan Keller, Christopher McKeon and Jeff Smith.

The District 2 (Wards 3 and 4) contest offers a longer list of candidates, from incumbent Dwight E. Singleton to challengers Hugh Allen, Tom Dawson, David A. Jordan, Mai Abdul Rahman, Victor Reinoso and Laura McGiffert Slover.

With less than a month to go, the candidates have little time to spare in making themselves and their positions known to voters. But voters in Districts 1 and 2 also need to set aside time to become familiar with those individuals who seek to govern the city's nearly $1 billion school system. We also look forward to becoming better acquainted with the candidates in the days ahead and will offer further thoughts. In the meantime, residents are encouraged to get out to those candidate forums and candidate meet-and-greet sessions. Nothing less than effective governance of the D.C. school system is at stake.