- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2000

D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous, chairman of the education panel, said he would like to speak with former Milwaukee schools chief Howard Fuller about becoming the District's new superintendent. It's about time the District began considering someone such as Mr. Fuller, a school-choice advocate. But don't get too excited. Mr. Fuller is not the only prospective candidate, and Mr. Chavous does not have carte blanche authority regarding an appointment. Lots of other names and voices are out there, too.
The D.C. Board Education has compiled a list of names and forwarded them to the control board. Those names include Rudy Crew, former New York schools chancellor, and Wilma Bonner and Vera White, two former D.C. principals. Outgoing Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, whose last day on the job is July 17, threw Mr. Crew's name in the mix, too, and thinks highly of Ms. White and Mr. Bonner, who she promoted to assistant superintendent posts. None of the candidates, though, is at the top of the list and no interim superintendent has been named.
To the surprise of absolutely no one who has followed the political whims of D.C. officials, the control board wants to appoint an advisory panel to select a new schools chief, and squabbles have already begun regarding who shall have a seat on that panel. About the only thing officials have pretty much agreed on is that no permanent superintendent will be named until January 2001, when the new school board is seated. At least that is the agreement at this time. The way the city's elected and appointed leaders keep shuffling and reshuffling the school governance deck that timeframe could change anyday now. So stay tuned.
In the meantime, expect the usual cast of D.C. characters to take center stage as they jockey for their respective candidates. Of the names already put forward only three Mr. Fuller, Mr. Crew and Paul Vance, immediate past superintendent in Montgomery County have actually run large school systems. Mr. Vance left in 1998 when his bosses chose not to renew his contract. Ditto for Mr. Crew left the New York City after bickering with the Big Apple's more prominent Rudy, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, over school choice.
Of those three former superintendents, however, only Mr. Fuller is a true advocate of school choice. In an article published by the December 1998-January 1999 issue of the Center for Education Reform, Mr. Fuller argued that "choice is not the issue in America. The issue is who has choice." Hear him out.
"While poverty cannot be used for an excuse not to educate our children, you also cannot ignore the impact of not being white, and poor in America. It does have an impact on your life's chances," Mr. Fuller wrote. "Poverty, crime, hunger and gangs are all factors in these children's lives, and those of us who are out here for them have got to fight to deal with those conditions as hard as we fight to deal with those conditions once they get into the (school) building."
There are other important reasons D.C. officials should seriously consider engaging Mr. Fuller, founder of the Institute of the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. He says the critical links to student achievement are students and teachers, and teachers and teaching. "The most powerful innovations in education must occur in the classroom between teachers and children. Yet in order to be a successful teacher today, you have to break rules to educate children."
Refreshing, is it not, to hear an educator say that and know there is a possibility he may become superintendent of the District long-troubled school system? Now read, for a moment, and compare Mr. Fuller's perspective with that of another prospect. "I oftentimes want to go to the map and cut out Milwaukee. You're causing me pure hell in New York." Mr. Crew, then-chancellor of the New York City school system, made those remarks during a speech at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They were published in the Oct. 15, 1999, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
And this is what Mr. Crew, who heads the University of Washington's Leadership Institute, had to say last week when informed by The Washington Times' Jabeen Bhatti that he was a candidate. "I didn't know anything about being a candidate. The outgoing superintendent put my name into the motion, but I had not heard from the board. … I will do anything I can can to help."
Beware, though. Mr. Crew's idea of "help" and yours probably differ. Before the N.Y. school board gave him his walking papers in January, Mr. Crew's school system was rocked with allegations of inflated enrollment figures to lure more state money and with teachers cheating on standardized tests on behalf of students.
D.C. Public Schools have enough problems of their own, and so do the 70,000 mostly poor, mostly black student who attend them. Yes, they need all the help they can get. Particularly, they need from people like Mr. Fuller to replace the public school monopoly.

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