- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2000

Former Montgomery County (Md.) schools Superintendent Paul L. Vance will take over the helm of District of Columbia Public Schools, the D.C. financial control board announced yesterday.

"I intend to fall in love with the citizens and the job," said Mr. Vance, 69, yesterday at Union Station.

"Nevertheless, my contract will be for no less than one year and no more than two. I will not be a candidate for permanent superintendent. And I won't be a lame duck."

As the new schools chief, Mr. Vance will take control of the 71,000-student system plagued with academic, transportation, procurement and governance problems.

Mr. Vance said he is ready for the challenge including multiple bosses.

"I was superintendent of Montgomery County schools for eight years," he said. "I am accustomed to dealing with many bosses. That won't frustrate me."

At the same time, with unanimous backing of the control board, the educational advisory committee and the D.C. Board of Education, observers say Mr. Vance may be able to bridge the tug of war over control of the school system.

"He's walking into a difficult situation with a great deal of support," said Larry Gray, legislative chairman for the D.C. Congress of PTAs.

"He's starting off with some unanimity. We'll see how long it will take for him to be picked at and taken down," he said.

Most city and school officials and activists applauded the choice.

"We have been pleased with the improvements of the test scores," said the school board chairman, the Rev. Robert G. Childs, at-large. "We wanted someone who understood what that meant and would continue that."

Delabian Rice-Thurston, director of Parents United for D.C. Schools, said: "Our only concern was the method used to choose the interim."

"They didn't allow the elected board to choose or engage the public in the process. If they had, he would be coming in with the good will of those in the process."

Mr. Vance, who stepped down in Montgomery last summer, said he would continue the educational reforms started by D.C. schools Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman, who leaves this month to run San Francisco's school system.

He pledged to examine special education, transportation, payroll problems and student achievement.

He also said he intends to meet with school administrators and other middle managers and visit the bus fleet and other departments of the school system.

But he rebuffed concerns over his health. Mr. Vance had two car accidents reportedly caused by dizziness and blackouts in 1996.

"I am a hands-on superintendent, a very active superintendent," he said.

"I start my day at 7 a.m. and end my day when its done. I walk three times a day, five times a week. Pretty soon, people are going to start commenting on my spindly legs."

When asked if he supported charter schools, Mr. Vance replied that "charters are a reality."

"I will do what a superintendent can do to see they are successful," he said.

"We can't forget these are our children, too, in these schools. There isn't time for philosophical differences."

During his career, Mr. Vance has served as a teacher and principal in Philadelphia schools, interim superintendent and deputy superintendent of Baltimore city public schools, and in 1973, as interim superintendent in the District for six months. In 1977, he joined Montgomery County schools as an associate superintendent before his promotion to deputy superintendent in 1987.

Mr. Vance said his contract, including his salary, has not been finalized. Still, he has begun his transition to the District.

"It is time for people to come together for one purpose: to reform the schools," he said.

"I want to be a part of that and look forward to the opportunity and the challenge."

"People have asked me, 'why D.C.?' " he added.

"Why not D.C.?"

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