In three weeks, District of Columbia voters have important work to do if they care about the next generation of leaders in this city -- kids whose education is in the hands of the D.C. public schools. How their classrooms are run, what subjects they learn and how they prepare for adulthood are all directly affected by the quality of those who serve as members of the D.C. school board. Their selection entails a set of decisions not just for parents of D.C. public school children but for all voters who seek the best for their city in the future. There is some comfort in the fact that the current board has become a generally constructive, low-profile body, but it could be better still. Or it could degenerate into the political circus it used to be.

Assuming that nobody wants the circus back in town -- in which members preferred doing numbers on each other instead of teaching kids about numbers -- one quality to seek in the candidates is support for Superintendent Floretta McKenzie. She is doing wonders with the system -- finding ways to involve civic and business leaders, to encourage parent participation and to make the system responsive as it never was in delivery of books, repairs and other services.

Sensible leadership of the board has made a difference, too, and two men seeking reelection have earned it on these grounds. They are former board president David Eaton, who is running for one of two at-large seats, and current president R. David Hall, who seeks to retain his seat from Ward 2. In Ward 3, Wanda Washburn is running unopposed, which in this case is not a sign of apathy in the ward but a tribute to the respect she has earned there as well as downtown.

This puts the focus on the other two seats -- one at-large and one in Ward 8. In each of these races, the question is which of the candidates has the understanding and ability to work with other board members for schoolchildren of all colors and neighborhoods -- with the understanding that there is no time for intramural pettiness and confrontational politics. We, too, will be watching these contests and sharing thoughts as the campaigns intensify. The possibility of an even better school board after Nov. 5 is too good to forfeit.