THERE ARE five school board seats on the ballot in the District next week and--imagine-- there are more than five good candidates to fill them. This election cannot clean house of all the board members who have hurt the schools, but it can begin the job.

In Ward 2, R. David Hall is challenging the incumbent, Alaire Rieffel. Our choice, Mr. Hall, is an outstanding candidate, filled with the attitudes and ideas that the board desperately needs. He emphasizes improving the schools' vocational training-- but not at the expense of academic preparation. He has already found several companies willing to help establish or enlarge training programs and pay the cost. He cites Xerox as one firm that would help the schools because it wants people who can fix its machines. He is founder of the successful D.C. Street Academy, which helps dropouts get back into school.

In Ward 3, incumbent Carol Schwartz is not running. Two excellent candidates seek to replace her: Mary Ann Keefe and--our choice--Wanda Washburn. Her 11 years of volunteer work in the schools, including service as the head of the Neighborhood School Council and parent groups at three schools, have shown high commitment and savvy. She is interested in stronger competency tests for teachers and in unraveling the mysteries of the school budget.

In Ward 8, incumbent R. Calvin Lockridge has two major challengers, Linda Hilliard Moody and Phinis Jones. Mr. Lockridge's work on the school board has thoroughly discredited him. The best nominee is Mrs. Moody, for eight years a parent- teacher association leader and an official of area- wide school groups. She has gathered community support for the schools, dealt effectively with system officials, and testified on school issues. The other challenger, Mr. Jones, is of high caliber, with his experience as a city council aide and in local unions. But he lacks a record of direct activity in the schools. The competition between Mrs. Moody and Mr. Jones should not be allowed to split the majority of the votes and benefit Mr. Lockridge.

The final two members on the board will be elected at-large, and in this race there is an abundance of challengers to incumbents Frank Shaffer- Corona and Barbara Lett Simmons. Mr. Shaffer- Corona and Mrs. Simmons--and Calvin Lockridge --are at the heart of the grandstanding and personal attacks that have debased the school board. It was in partial reaction to their behavior that former superintendent Vincent Reed quit. Of the three outstanding nominees, our endorsement goes to Phyllis Young and Manuel Lopez, though Jonas Milton is also impressive. Mrs. Young has been involved with the schools for years; her performance of late on the Parents United for Full Public School Funding has demonstrated her ability to benefit schoolchildren. Mr. Lopez, a longtime activist in Adams-Morgan, is director of technical training for the Navy's air systems command and is familiar with budgeting for a large organization. He feels that in this era of shrinking budgets the board should make clear decisions about what it wants to teach and then aim its money at teaching those subjects and skills.

All the candidates we have endorsed support Superintendent Floretta McKenzie and the Compentency Based Curriculum that former superintendent Vincent Reed put in place. With Mrs. McKenzie working with a rational board of education, the District schools could quicken the pace of their improvement. The city cannot afford to miss this opportunity.