Eugene G. Kinlow, 40-year-old former head of the Anacostia Community school board and an outspoken critic of former school superintendent Vincent E. Reed, was elected president of the D.C. school board last night, with the support of some of Reed's harshest adversaries on the board.
Kinlow was selected on the second ballot on a 6-to-0 vote, with four board members abstaining and another out of the country. Nevertheless, his election appeared to signal emergence of a new majority on the once bitterly divided board at a time when the panel must pick a successor to Reed, who retired Dec. 31.
Many of the new majority have criticized Reed for having too much control over school operations and not sharing sufficient information with the board. They believe the 11 elected board members -- not the appointed superintendent -- should have the upper hand in setting school policy and directing operations.
Most members of the new majority in some way support Reed's back-to-basics Competency Based Curriculum (CBC). Kinlow has consistently opposed Reed's proposal for an academic high school. The board's refusal to support that plan was one of the reasons Reed said he left.
Kinlow declined to say yesterday what criteria would be used in choosing the next school superintendent. But he said he agreed with a statement made at the meeting by outgoing board president R. Calvin Lockridge that "the board controls pulic education in the city."
Thus, Kinlow's election yesterday appeared to indicate that the new school superintendent would be someone not as combative with the board as some members considered Reed.
Kinlow's election to the school board was supported by Mayor Marion Barry, who has blamed the board for many of the problems in the city's public education system.
But it was unclear last night what type of relationship would develop between the mayor, who has bottom-line control over the school budget, and the new board, because the three other board members who have been supported by Barry -- Linda Cropp (Ward 4), Frank Smith (Ward 1) and Nathaniel Bush (Ward 7) -- abstained from voting.
Voting for Kinlow were Kinlow, Lockridge (Ward 8), John E. Warren (Ward 6), Alaire B. Rieffel (Ward 2), Bettie G. Benjamin (Ward 5), and Barbara Lett Simmons (At-Large).
The fourth board member who abstained was Carol L. Schwartz (Ward 3). Board member Frank Shaffer-Corona (at-large) was in Beirut.
However, two other Board members -- Nathaniel Bush and Frank Smith -- said in the closed caucus that they would fully support Kinlow as president although they would not vote for him for the record, according to a well-informed board source.
The source said that Lockridge and Kinlow had tried to persuade Smith supporters to vote for Kinlow in exchange for Smith getting the vice presidency. But Smith supporters would not go along with this plan, especially since Kinlow would not promise them the committee assignment they wanted in exchange for their votes. That is when Kinlow offered the vice presidency to Benjamin, who in turn persuaded Warren to support Kinlow.
The new alliance of Kinlow and Lockridge is a highly unusual one. A year ago, Lockridge was pitted against Kinlow for the board presidency. Lockridge often made known his personal dislike of Kinlow, whom he criticized as not knowing enough about the board functions and not putting in enough time at the board because of his full-time job as a management consultant with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
However, Lockridge nominated Kinlow, praising him for the work he did as chairman this year of the board's management systems committee, which handled personnel matters and some contracts.
Kinlow, who has a low key manner and is usually dressed in a three-piece suit with a silk handkerchief in the breast pocket, will provide a stark contrast to Lockridge, who often dresses in jeans, sports an earring and a full beard.
Lockridge, whose diction was often blurred, pointed out the stylistic differences between himself and Kinlow in a self-mocking manner yesterday, saying "Someone once commented if speaking were a crime, I'd be in jail."
He said of Kinlow, "His leadership, character and speech will be much more distinguished than what I could give the board."
Kinlow has generally been one of the less disruptive board members at the often raucous and divisive board meetings and board members said that they were clearly looking for a new president who can improve the image of the board.
"Mr. Kinlow is the strongest leader on the board at this time. He's got good judgment, he's self possessed, judicious and moderate," Rieffel said.
She said that some Kinlow supporters had sought to strike a compromise with Smith that would have made Smith, who also sought the presidency, vice president. But that those efforts failed since Smith voters would not switch their votes to Kinlow. Benjamin was elected to the largely honorary position of vice president of the board, succeeding Simmons.
Kinlow, one of 11 children of a Dumas, Ark., cotton farmer, is a graduate of the former Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College, where he majored in mathematics. He taught high school in Little Rock for a short time and then came to Washington as a statistician for the Census Bureau.
After working in several other government jobs, Kinlow assumed his present GS-15 job in 1977. He and his wife Nan, who owns a furniture store, have five children. One graduated from Ballou High School, two others are students there now, and two more attend Leckie Elementary.
He was first elected in May 1979 to complete the unexpired term of at-large member Betty Ann Kane, who won a seat on the D.C. City Council. Six months later, Kinlow was elected to a full four-year term.
Benjamin, a lawyer, is in her seventh year on the board.
The new acting superintendent, James T. Guines, said he was pleased with the election of both Kinlow and Benjamin and said there was "no question" that he could work with both of them, while Kinlow pledged "harmony" between the board and the Guines administration.