- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2000

The District of Columbia Board of Education publicly rebuked the D.C. financial control board Thursday for its plans to appoint another school advisory panel to replace one that dissolved two months ago.

"They lied to the citizens of the District of Columbia," said school board member Dwight Singleton, Ward 4. "They need to own up to their obligation to relinquish control when they said they would June 30. Otherwise, there might be a legal [remedy] there for their breach of contract."

The control board earlier this week informed the school board of its intention to revive the panel, asking the board to nominate one of its members to serve on it. School board members said Thursday they will decline to send a representative.

"We are taking the position that we don't want to split the board this time," Mr. Singleton said. "Instead, we are asking them to honor their pledge to return authority to the school board instead of setting up another parallel body. It was this multiple levels of bureaucracy that led [the superintendent] to resign in the first place."

In March, four members of the emergency school board resigned, citing disagreement with the D.C. financial control board's decision to let a conversion charter school lease a city-owned building. The elected school board voted to have its representatives on the appointed panel resign as well.

"We all agreed the control board doesn't need to set up another [board of trustees]," said at-large school board member Tonya Vidal Kinlow. "We're perfectly capable of doing our job."

Control board members and their representatives were not available for comment.

The control board's intention to revive another advisory panel comes on the heels of schools Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman's resignation last week. The yet-to-be appointed panel will advise the control board on a new interim superintendent and a permanent superintendent to be appointed next year.

Although the control board was expected to announce its candidates for the panel last week, no decision has yet been made. The control board's power over the school system expires June 30 unless renewed.

City officials say privately that it is likely the control board will retain power until early next year. But school board members argue that would be a violation of a settlement to a lawsuit filed by the board of education three years ago.

In 1996, the control board stripped the elected school board of its power and appointed the Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees that included two school board members and the superintendent.

A 1997 court ruling in Shook vs. Financial Authority determined that the emergency board could not legally take over the duties of the elected body and could act only as an advisory body. In a settlement, the control board agreed to relinquish power June 30.

The control board's deadline to rescind its control comes three days after a referendum in which D.C. voters will decide on the makeup of the school board: the current nine-member elected board or a nine-member board with four members appointed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

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