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Hispanics, Ward 5 seek school board representation

(Published October 22, 2001)


Staff Writer

Political considerations reportedly are delaying Mayor Anthony A. Williamsí appointment of a new school board member to fill the vacancy that was created Oct. 1 when Robert A. Peck resigned to take over the helm at the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

The mayor is being lobbied heavily to nominate a Hispanic resident to add diversity to the D.C. Board of Education, which has not had a Hispanic member in about 20 years. Hispanics represent the fastest-growing ethnic segment of the cityís population, according to the 2000 Census figures, and many of the communityís advocates were angered when the mayor did not include a Hispanic resident among his original four appointees to the board.

In the forefront calling for a Hispanicís nomination to the board are Councilmen Jim Graham, whose Ward 1 constituency includes the bulk of the cityís native Spanish speakers, and Kevin P. Chavous, the councilís education committee chairman who is widely believed to be laying the groundwork to challenge the mayorís anticipated re-election effort next year.

Ward 5 Democratic supporters of the mayor also are known to be lobbying hard for the new appointee to be a resident of their largely working/middle-class ward, which is currently represented by District III elected board member Tommy Wells, who lives in Ward 6.

Peck announced his intention to resign from the school board Aug. 6, when his new position at the Board of Trade was announced. At that time, the mayor said he intended to seek the advice of the same screening committee that helped him select the original appointees last fall and expected to send a nomination to the D.C. City Council for confirmation in time for the councilís return from its Labor Day recess.

"I guess Iím late," the mayor acknowledged during a recent press briefing when asked about the status of his board member search. He declined to speculate how soon he will be ready to send a nomination to the council.

Mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock said the mayorís advisory panel has met and "theyíre starting with the folks they were looking at seriously but did not select for the last round." He said a person who can lend expertise about school facilities, which he identified as Peckís particularly strong qualification, also is being sought for the position.

"Itís obviously an important position and the mayor wants to take as much time as he needs to fill the position," Bullock said. "But we should be further along than we are now."

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator