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School board elects Childs as president

(Published January 10, 2000)

By EMORY JULIAN MILLS

Staff Writer

The D.C. Board of Education has elected the Rev. Robert Childs and Ward 8 representative William Lockridge as its new president and vice president for the year 2000.

"We’re going to give leadership," said Childs, an at-large board member who defeated Ward 5 representative Angie Corley by a vote of 7-4. Members Benjamin Bonham of Ward 6, Donald Reeves of Ward 3 and Dwight Singleton of Ward 4 supported Corley over Childs.

Childs vowed to meet with Mayor Anthony A. Williams to discuss a vision for school governance. The day before Childs was elected to lead the elected school board, media reports revealed Williams’ plan to seek replacement of the elected board with a five-member body that the mayor would appoint.

Corley, who has served on the school board longer than any of her colleagues, urged the board to unify to stave off attempts by Williams and the council to take away the board’s powers.

"We have an opportunity over the next several months to see if we can remain an independent agency," she said. She encouraged the board to launch a citywide campaign to publicize its cause.

Childs recommended that the board’s theme for the year be "Renewing the Spirit of Education." He said his goal is to improve the board members’ relationships with each other, with superintendent Arlene Ackerman and her administration and with D.C elected officials.

Prior to his election, Childs presented his board colleagues with a list of 15 recommendations focusing on three themes: unifying the board, making the board the primary policymaker on D.C. educational issues and strengthening the board’s chartering authority. Some of the recommendations included facilitating an environment of respect and enthusiasm among board members; holding weekly board briefings; establishing a better relationship with the mayor, city council and the council’s education committee; organizing the board’s records and establishing a records room; and recommending that Congress cap the total number of charter schools that can be established in the District.

Lockridge, who defeated Corley and at-large member Tonya Kinlow by a vote of 5-3-3, said his vision for the year is to carry on with the board’s transition plan and save the board from attempts by the mayor and council to change the board’s structure. Board members Tom Kelly of Ward 7, Wilma Harvey of Ward 1 and at-large representatives Gail Dixon and Childs supported Lockridge for the post.

"The issue of what is happening with the Board of Education is not about politics but about power," said Lockridge. He noted the board has made no major decisions since 1996, when the control board stripped all of the board’s powers except the authority to grant charters to some of the charter schools.

"When you look at other jurisdictions outside the metropolitan area, everyone is moving away from an appointed board. We’re moving to restore respect for the Board of Education," he said.

The board held a meeting Dec. 15 to elect its new officers but was unable to reach agreement.

Kinlow predicted that Childs will do a good job as president, based in part on his ability to build coalitions.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator