- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

District of Columbia Council member Kevin P. Chavous, chairman of the education committee, is considering Howard Fuller as his choice to lead the city's schools after Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman leaves July 17.

Mr. Fuller, former superintendent of Milwaukee's schools, is a nationally known supporter of school choice, vouchers and charter schools.

"He's the type of person we would like to see take control of the schools," said Mr. Chavous, who, along with Mr. Fuller, was being honored at an awards banquet sponsored by the D.C. Public Charter School Resource Center last night. "He's very well respected. I would like to talk to him further about the possibilities."

Mr. Fuller responded in kind. "I am flattered to be considered and would like to sit down and talk to [Mr. Chavous] further."

During his tenure as superintendent of the 104,000-student Milwaukee school district, Mr. Fuller became a leading figure in the national debate advocating charter schools and voucher programs as a way to increase the academic achievement of children from low-income families.

In Milwaukee, about 8,000 students from low-income families are attending private schools, using vouchers that transfer about $5,000 per student to the private schools. Mr. Fuller resigned in 1995 after Milwaukee's school board blocked many of his reforms including an initiative requiring students to take algebra. He currently leads the Institute for the Transforming of Learning at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Mr. Fuller as the District's new schools chief would give a boost to the pro-charter-school movement, which has faced some strong opposition from the current administration, one school official said.

Meanwhile, the elected school board, trying to gain influence in the selection, yesterday chose four candidates out of 13 to recommend to the D.C. financial control board the list includes former New York City schools Superintendent Rudy Crew and former Montgomery County (Md.) schools Superintendent Paul Vance.

Mr. Crew expressed surprise at the news. "I didn't know anything about being a candidate," he said in a phone interview from Seattle. "The outgoing superintendent put my name into the motion, but I had not heard from the board," he said.

Mr. Crew, who is currently heading the University of Washington's leadership institute, declined to elaborate on whether he was interested in the position.

"I will do anything I can to help," he said.

Mr. Vance was unavailable for comment.

School board members also searched within the school system for candidates and chose Assistant Superintendents Wilma Bonner and Vera White, both former principals, as possible successors.

Despite expressing concerns about the two candidates' ability to maneuver through city politics, board members said both veterans of the system would be "excellent choices to ensure continuity," according to Dwight Singleton of Ward 4.

After Mrs. Ackerman's resignation last week, the control board, whose power over the school system expires June 30 unless renewed, decided to establish a search committee for a permanent superintendent. That hasn't yet happened, although sources close to the board say it is imminent.

Even though the elected school board can only recommend, it is taking action to ensure its say in the decision.

"We are moving in a direction that any elected school board would move in," said Gail Dixon, at-large member. "First, we had to decide among ourselves. And we certainly intend to have a say in the selection process. We speak for the citizens."

Meanwhile, a city official who asked not to be identified said a permanent superintendent will not be hired for at least another year, after new school board members take office in January. City officials add that it is more likely an interim will be appointed after a June 27 referendum deciding what the elected school board will look like: the current nine-member elected board or a nine-member board with four members appointed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

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