In an attempt to bolster the sagging image of the D.C. school board, President R. Calvin Lockridge yesterday proposed establishing a code of ethics for board members and a blue ribbon commission to study how to improve the board and the school system.
Lockridge said the code of ethics would, set forth procedures to "censure or ostracize" members of the board who were "destructive and disruptive."
Appearing alone before TV cameras at the board offices, Lockridge said he was concerned that the actions of a few board members were making the public feel that the full board was incompetent and ineffective.
The idea for a commission to study the school board is nothing new. In 1976, a commission whose members included several prominent Washingtonians, completed much the same task, but the school board never acted on its recommendations.
"I don't know why Mr. Lockridge didn't check with me or anybody else," before making his proposal. Superintendent Vincent E. Reed said yesterday. Reed said that the 1976 report also included suggestions for the proper conduct of board members.
Both of Lockridge's proposals must be approved by a majority of the 11-member board. Four of seven board members reached yesterday dismissed the idea of a commission as unnecessary. Four of the seven, including Lockridge, said they would support a code of ethics.
Explaining why he felt an ethics code was necessary, Lockridge said yesterday, "I certainly feel there are certain members of the board who embarrass the board as whole . . . But whenever we receive criticism, the media tends to lump together all board members."
Lockridge, whose leadership has been sharply attacked by some of his colleagues in recent weeks, singled out board members Frank Shaffer-Corona, John E. Warren, Bettie Benjamin, and his vice president, Barbara Lett Simmons, for critcism, stating he could "say nothing positive" about them. Shaffer-Corona is heading a movement to oust Lockridge as president and Simmons and Warren are among Lockridge's sharpest critics.
"I don't think they have been supportive of the leadership . . . Their total agenda seems to be to undermine the president. They are destructive and abusive to other members of the board, the board staff and the [school] administration," Lockridge said.
Warren and Shaffer-Corona called Lockridge's recommendations an attempt to switch the public's attention away from efforts to remove him as president. As Lockridge detailed his proposals to reporters, Shaffer-Corona stood at the rear of the room, laughing loudly.
Warren said after the speech, "I don't intend to get into a name-calling thing with Calvin . . . He has a responsibility to communicate to me any concerns he might have." Simmons said she did not care what Lockridge had to say, since "I have no respect for his judgment." Benjamin was unavailable for comment.
Lockridge said the code of ethics would cover incidents of "improper conduct" by board members. Asked to give examples of that, he cited the time earlier this year when Shaffer-Corona charged hundreds of dollars worth of phone calls to Iran to the school system, and a time when Warren submitted expense vouchers twice for reimbursement for a trip to California.
Warren later returned the money he had received through one set of vouchers. Shaffer-Corona's phone calls are in dispute.
The blue ribbon commission, Lockridge said, should act as a consultant to the board of education, making periodic recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of the board and the quality of public education in the city. It would also help plan the school system's future, Lockridge said
Its members would include business and labor leaders, as well as citizens and a student representative, he said. Funding for the commission would have to come from outside the financially strapped school system, he said.
Lockridge said the code of ethics also should deal with board members who refuse to follow standard parliamentary procedure at board meetings, and make "constant personal attacks" on other board members.
Lockridge has often had difficulty keeping order at board meetings. At a recent meeting, he told Simmons, who had the floor, that she was out of order.
"I'm not out of order . . . Who in the hell are you to tell me I can't speak?" Simmons shouted back at him.
Lockridge's recommendations came less than a week after 14 members of the board's staff charged in a memo that they could not get any work done because of "vulgar tirades . . . physical intimidation and verbal harassment" of staff members by some board members.
Lockridge also recommended that the board adopt a "code of conduct" for staff members, which would spell out their rights and responsibilities.