- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2000

The District of Columbia Board of Education will decide today whom to recommend to the D.C. financial control board as the interim superintendent of schools.

The interim superintendent will take control of the 77,000-student system when Arlene C. Ackerman leaves July 17 for San Francisco.

According to school board members and sources, the leading candidates include Wilma Bonner, assistant superintendent for senior high schools and former principal of Woodrow Wilson High School; Marie Gill, former principal of Murch Elementary; Ann Gay, assistant superintendent for special education and former principal of Janney Elementary School; and Ralph Neal, assistant superintendent of student services and the former principal of Eastern High School.

"We are looking for someone to continue the reforms started by Arlene Ackerman," said school board member Don Reeves, Ward 3. "All of these people would be excellent for continuity."

Mrs. Ackerman has been the superintendent for two years.

After she resigned last week, the control board began holding a series of meetings to decide how to fill the vacancy, city sources said. Last week, the control board, whose power over the school system expires June 30, decided to establish a search committee for a permanent superintendent. Still, a permanent replacement will not be hired for at least another year, after new school board members take office in January.

In the meantime, the school board wants its say in the selection of an interim superintendent.

"After all, we are the representatives of the citizens of the city," said school board member Tom Kelly, Ward 7. "Our choice would reflect their desires and wishes.

Some observers believe the vacancy is exacerbating the tug of war between the various city agencies that oversee the school system including the control board and the elected Board of Education as to who hires and who sets school policy.

"It's this dance going on," city activist Dorothy Brizill said. "No one is quite sure what the financial control board's role is in all this. It's a very strange situation."

Mrs. Ackerman blamed the layers of bureaucracy and lack of support from city officials for driving her out of the District.

She said she resigned after going public with her frustrations because she knew "it would be hard to repair that relationship" with her supervisors.

Meanwhile, city sources say the control board is gearing up to appoint a new advisory Emergency Board of Trustees just as voters will be asked to determine the shape of their elected school board in a June 27 referendum. Voters will have a choice of keeping the current nine-member elected board or opting for a nine-member board with five elected members and four appointed by the mayor.

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