The D.C. school board is negotiating a deal to have Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins resign, perhaps as early as today, in exchange for a settlement worth about $200,000, school system sources said yesterday.
The board has scheduled a meeting today to approve any agreement it reaches with Jenkins to quit. If there is no agreement, board members may postpone the meeting; or they may decide to fire him. In either case, a decision is imminent, according to sources on the board and in Jenkins's administration.
Jenkins, who has been resisting board overtures to resign, met privately with school board members yesterday for three hours. Earlier, he conferred with board President Nate Bush (Ward 7). Jenkins also met with the board Monday. Jenkins and board members have refused to describe those sessions.
Yesterday's meeting was the fifth time since late June that the board has convened in closed session to discuss whether Jenkins, whose contract expires next summer, should be dismissed.
The board has become increasingly frustrated with Jenkins's performance, most notably with his handling of school system enrollment discrepancies, with his speed in pursuing changes, and with how he has reacted to the many daily problems that the District's 175 schools face.
Last Friday, after a private board meeting, Bush said that Jenkins would finish his contract. Yet he apparently was not expressing the mood of the board's 11 members. Sources said at least eight members want Jenkins out now.
"It will probably all be settled in a few days," said one board member, who asked not to be identified. "And then we will move on."
By last night, Jenkins had not been offered a formal deal to resign. But sources said he and board members are discussing a settlement in which he would be paid for the last year of his contract (about $90,000), receive at least $100,000 more, and get full retirement benefits.
"I think we're reaching a point that will leave both sides satisfied," said another board member, who asked not to be identified.
Jenkins, who has harshly criticized the board for its secret deliberations on his fate, declined to comment yesterday on the negotiations. Last week, he said he believed he had done "an excellent job" and should continue working.
The board narrowly chose Jenkins to lead the 81,300-student system in 1988. He has worked for nearly 30 years in D.C. schools, as a teacher, principal, administrator and deputy superintendent. A board majority said it selected Jenkins with hopes that he would bring stability and inside know-how to the job.
Now, most members contend that Jenkins has not done much to revitalize the system, which is troubled by high dropout rates, mediocre student achievement, buildings in dire need of repair and a growing population of children burdened by poverty, drugs and violence.
A board majority has said for some time that it did not expect Jenkins's contract to be renewed next summer. But members have been hesitant to oust him because they did not believe anyone in the school system had the skills to be interim superintendent while the board conducted a national search. Yet it appears most members now want Jenkins removed before classes resume in the fall.
Last week, board members had Bush ask former D.C. school superintendent Vincent Reed and city administrator Carol B. Thompson about being interim superintendent. Reed and Thompson said publicly that they didn't want the job.
Sources said that board members are rethinking their position and may appoint an insider temporarily if they get Jenkins to resign. Though they are deeply dissatisfied with Jenkins, most members do not want to fire him.
Some say he has not had a fair chance to succeed because the board has meddled too much in school operations. Others say Jenkins is earnest and works hard, but has failed to manage a $500-million-dollar organization rife with politics and academic crises. They want him to leave with dignity.
The board's debate about Jenkins comes at a critical time. Teacher contracts expire in September, and a reform effort initiated by a team of civic leaders is entering its second year. Additionally, an unprecedented number of million-dollar corporate gifts are pouring into the District's schools.
Yesterday's board meeting lasted five hours. Discussions are expected to continue through today. The board's scheduled meeting is set for 4 p.m. "We're at a very delicate point," one board member said.