REGISTERED VOTERS in D.C. Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4 will get a chance to cast their ballots not only for president of the United States but also for a member of the Board of Education. The outcome of the two board contests in District 1 (Wards 1 and 2) and District 2 (Wards 3 and 4) will have a direct bearing on the ability of new Superintendent Clifford B. Janey to reform and manage the city's nearly $1 billion-per-year, 65,000-student school system. The winners will join a nine-member board composed of five elected and four mayorally appointed members. Voters must decide which of the candidates is best able to serve as a sound policymaker and attentive monitor of the school system.
Voters in District 1 get to choose from among a fresh field of faces now that incumbent board member Julie Mikuta has taken herself out of the race. Of the three candidates vying for the job, Keenan Keller, a congressional committee counsel, parent of an elementary school pupil and member of a local school restructuring team, strikes us as having the range of skills and experience that makes for a good school board member. His knowledge of finance and school facilities issues and his talent at building coalitions are assets much needed on the school board. He also knows his way around the school system, having worked on a voluntary basis with various school task forces created by former superintendent Paul L. Vance. He understands the scope and limitations of a school board member's authority and is not likely to dabble in administrative operations. A second candidate, Jeff Smith, also emerges as a possible replacement for Ms. Mikuta. He knows the school system from the inside, having attended Eastern High School and having briefly taught at Gibbs Elementary School after graduation from the Howard University School of Law. Mr. Smith, a D.C. government employee, said he will resign from that post if elected. Neither Mr. Smith nor a third candidate, Christopher McKeon, however, has the experience to match Mr. Keller's. Mr. McKeon has business management credentials and, with children in the schools, is also a stakeholder in the system. That, however, is not enough. We expect that Mr. Smith, who is supported by key leaders in Wards 1 and 2, will do quite well at the polls. Mr. Keller, however, would bring more to the school board.
District 2, now represented by Dwight E. Singleton, offers a broad choice of candidates. Four years ago, we endorsed Hugh Allen, a well-grounded community leader with a firm grasp of school problems. He lost, however, to Mr. Singleton, who garnered a strong vote in Ward 4, where he lives. The politically ambitious Mr. Singleton, a twice-defeated D.C. Council candidate, is favored to win again by a plurality, but not on the merits. The field of six challengers is expected to split the considerable opposition to Mr. Singleton that exists in District 1. That is unfortunate, because former teacher, education policy expert and native Washingtonian Laura McGiffert Slover, Mr. Allen or Victor Reinoso would be a vast improvement over Mr. Singleton.
Mr. Reinoso has worked closely on an advisory basis with the public schools on special education problems, has helped charter schools with facilities issues and has a keen appreciation for the social concerns confronting the school system. The bilingual son of Latino immigrants, Mr. Reinoso understands the needs of an urban school system through experience he has gained performing professional and volunteer efforts with the D.C. system, including stints at Ballou and Spingarn senior high schools. It is no accident that Mr. Reinoso, a parent, enjoys the support of several respected local educators, the Ed Action DC organization and a diverse group of community leaders. Keenan Keller in District 1 and Victor Reinoso in District 2 would be excellent additions to the D.C. school board.