- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

Paul L. Vance, 69, retired in 1999 as superintendent of Montgomery County schools, and on July 5, 2000, with unanimous support from a selection panel, was named superintendent of D.C. Public Schools. He and the control board have ironed out a contract and, as far as anxious parents are concerned, he could have taken charge of the fractured school system minutes after the July 5 press conference. But will Mr. Vance really and truly be his own man? Or will the "new" superintendent make it easy for the status quo to continue calling the shots?
"He's walking into a difficult situation with a great deal of support," Larry Gray, legislative chairman for the D.C. Congress of PTAs said. "We'll see how long it will take for him to be picked at and taken down." Indeed, the PTA and other opponents of school choice always prefer the wait-and-see approach. They love nothing more than to wait for the elected school board to do nothing and see what ridiculous approach the D.C. Council will take.
They did not have to wait very long. Less than 12 hours after his appointment, Mr. Vance was right where the bearers of the status quo wanted him. The D.C. Council just so happened to hold a special hearing on school transportation woes on July 6. Mr. Vance responded with a press conference on the very same subject the same day. Obviously it wasn't just a coincidence.
Parents expect politicians, such as Council member Kevin Chavous, who is seeking re-election, to manipulate the media. School superintendents, especially those appointed two months before the new school year, have obligations that go beyond the day's headlines. They must respond to the needs of school children, not just council politics.
Mr. Vance has yet to publicize his agenda or give parents insight into how he plans to run the troubled school system. Nor has he given parents any inkling of what he truly thinks about the city's soon-to-be state education agency, which, eventually, should hold considerable sway over public schools.
Mr. Vance's record as an educator and manager, it's true, is as unblemished as the District is sullied. Nonetheless, the politicians and the so-called advocates have had their say. They were the ones who lured Mr. Vance out of retirement and back to the District (where he served as interim superintendent in the early 1970s). They were the ones who gave him unanimous support, and Mr. Gray informed parents Mr. Vance stands among them. Parents, however, need to know whether he stands with their academically starved children.

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