- The Washington Times - Friday, June 25, 2004

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ top choice to head the District’s troubled school system has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job, city officials said yesterday.

Carl A. Cohn, the former public schools superintendent for Long Beach, Calif., told city officials Thursday that professional commitments and personal considerations in California would prevent him from serving the District in a full-time capacity.

Mr. Cohn, 58, is the second candidate to withdraw in the past two months. Last month, Rudolph F. Crew, the former chancellor of New York City schools, opted out of contention for the D.C. job, choosing instead to take a job running the Miami-Dade school district in Florida.

“It’s been hard, and it’s gotten harder,” Mr. Williams said at a press conference yesterday in Richmond. “But we’re just going to continue to work.”

He expressed disappointment and regret over Mr. Cohn’s decision, but said that the District has “redoubled” its efforts to find a qualified candidate and that he is “determined” to make the search end well.

The school system has been without a permanent superintendent since November, when Paul L. Vance abruptly resigned his post. The system has about 65,000 students and a budget nearing $1 billion.

Mr. Williams, who critics said was disengaged during talks with Mr. Crew, strongly supported Mr. Cohn and even led a delegation to California to recruit him earlier this month.

The mayor continued to rally support for Mr. Cohn after the candidate said last week that he would only take the job for one year and only if changes were made in how the system is run.

Mr. Cohn advocated aligning the school system’s fiscal calendar with the school-year calendar, and he wanted the school system’s chief financial officer to report to the superintendent instead of the city’s chief financial officer.

In an effort to accommodate Mr. Cohn, Mr. Williams backed off efforts to get authority to hire and fire the superintendent and reduce the role of the school board. Mr. Cohn said stability in the school governance structure was necessary to attract the best personnel.

The D.C. Council last week passed emergency legislation that would keep the current hybrid school board of five elected members and four members appointed by the mayor for four more years before returning to an all-elected school board.

School board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz said interim Superintendent Robert C. Rice is committed to continuing in the position and that the school board and the superintendent search team will meet next week to discuss options.

“We’re going to move quickly but not desperately,” Mrs. Cafritz said.

She said another candidate with whom city officials had met, Superintendent Stephen C. Jones of the Syracuse (N.Y.) City School District, has indicated he is not interested in leaving his current job.

Christina Bellantoni in Richmond contributed to this report.

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