Marcia Brown, a recruiter for American University, told city councilman John Ray that when she searched for 20 high school students who had done well enough academically to qualify for tuition scholarships, counselors told her she was waisting her time looking in District of Columbia schools.
Jim Waddie, a parent with children in city schools, told Ray he has no faith in a school board that he said isused by board members to begin their city council campaigns instead of to work on public schools' problems.
Rose Young, a graduate of the city's Wilson High School who just finished her freshman year at Spellman College in Atlanta, told counsilman Ray: "I don't think an adequate education is being offered in the city.... city.... know because all I have to do is look at my friends in Maryland to see how much more they were offered in school...."
Brown, Waddie and Young were among about 50 witnesses who testified last week at three hearings Ray conducted on the city schools. More than a hundred persons - a surprisingly large crowd - crowded council chambers for two weeknight hearings, and about 80 attended the last, day-long hearing yesterday.
"The tremendous outpouring...," Ray said yesterday, "both of people who have long been active in education and people who have never before showed concern for the schools is a good indicator of the amount of concern and interest now in the city regrading the public schools."
Ray plans to present the recommendations the witnesses made this week to a task force of politicians, parents, educators and students. Ray wants to organize the task force and have it redesign the District's public school system.
The end result, Ray said, will be his attempt to put an initiative on the November 1980 ballot asking District voters to approve a special tax that would pay for redesigning public schools.
"The whole (school) system needs to be revamped," Ray said in an interview before the hearings began."Not to cater to 1930 ideas of what education should be, not to be a vehicle for '60's experimental ideas in education but to be a system that can teach inner city kids...how to learn the basics, how to read, write and spell and then to start to doing other things."
Some city officials have criticized Ray for holding the hearings. School board members have complained that Ray is overstepping his authority and interfering with their leadership of the system. And some council members have accused Ray of making a grandstand play for publicity by holding hearings on school system already known to have problems.
School superintendent Vincent E. Reed and school board president Minnie S. Woodson both refused invitations to testify. Principals and other school administrators said the word was out that taking part in the hearings would not be good for their careers.
"I see them (Ray's hearings) as unnecessary," Woodson said. "When the city has the opportunity to go into any educational matter with the board at committee meetings and hearings every month. I wonder why he sees the need for further hearings.
"When Mr. Ray asked me to testify I told him "I don't know your intentions, if it is for the good of the community or for political gain. I don't know your agenda."
Before the hearings began, Ray said he felt compelled to have them because he believes lack of faith in the school system has reached the crisis level. He said middle class families are leaving the city so their children can attend surburban schools, and many poor families are sacrificing money to send their children to parochial schools.
"I'm telling you we don't have long in this city," William Spaulding, councilman from Ward 5, told the mostly black audience. "...We had all better be very concerned about the state of education because the fate of our city, the fate of our young people, the fate of our race is at stake...."
Among the proposed ideas for improving the schools were the establishment of a high school for academically talented youngsters and greater parent participation in evaluation of teachers and principals.
"The ultimate goal of these hearings," Ray said before they began, "is to get the mayor, the city council, the board of education and everybody else in the city serious about education."