THE DISTRICT school board made the right choice: Floretta D. McKenzie was the best candidate to be the next school superintendent. She has sufficient experience inside the District school system to know the terrain, and sufficient outside experience to have the requisite degree of distance from the cliques and minor intrigues that run wild in the school hierarchy. She is a graduate of Dunbar, who taught in the city schools and later was acting superintendent. She also served as deputy superintendent in Montgomery County and worked for the U.S. Department of Education.
The question now is how she will do the job. Her predecessor as permanent superintendent, Vincent Redd, was impeded by non-stop fights with the school board and by debris left by the coming and going of so many superintendents in the last decade. Even so, Mrs. McKenzie has been appointed at a time when the policies laid down by Mr. Reed have given some coherence and direction to the wark of the schools and have resulted in three consecutive years of improved test scores.
But much remains to be done. There was evidence of backsliding into turmoil and confused policies in the tenure of acting superintendent James Guines. Mrs. McKenzie will have to surround herself with a team of energetic people capable of sending clear signals to the school board, its employees and the public. The board is an easy target for any angry statement from a superintendent. It would better serve this city, however, if the superintendent approached the board with sharply delivered ideas and programs that forced the board to take its job seriously.
It may be that Mrs. McKenzie will have to change the way the school bureaucracy is organized. Are decentralized schools, with regional superintendents and innumerable assistants, necessary in a time of budget cutbacks? And how will the city's financial crisis affect schools that have declining enrollments? Can she have success in recommending which schools to close? These problems await Mrs. McKenzie as they awaited other superintendents before her. Most of those superintendents tried to deny the existence of the swamp only to disappear into it. The only one to escape with his reputation intact was Vincent Reed. Mrs. McKenzie has the knowledge, experience and good reputation in this community to get a great deal done. Her coming brings high hopes for the schools.