- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2007

The mayor’s point man on education, Victor Reinoso, has taken a lot of heat ever since his appointment as deputy mayor for education. Some of it is justified, some of it not. But we’re not trying to pick a fight with Mr. Reinoso and we’re certainly not going to defend him. At this juncture — with barely a month to spare before school bells begin ringing in a new year — we’re giving him a head’s up.

We’re raising the bar. Merely seeing to it that schools open on time is a no-grader and a no-brainer.

When school doors swing wide on Aug. 27, they must be equipped with all the personnel (principals, teachers, custodians, bus drivers, etc.) and resources (books, lab equipment, computers, buses, etc.) necessary for teaching and learning.

That’s a tall order; it’s not been done in recent years.

Somehow, teaching and learning get pushed to the back of the bus. School employees ask for raises; they get raises. Employees ask for “planning” days on the school clock; employees get planning days. Parents ask for traditional home economics and health education classes and they get … what?

The deputy mayor’s plate runneth over. There’s a renovation/capitalization plan that’s running on two tracks — short term and long term — and it needs an additional $50 million to $80 million this fiscal year just to keep pace. (There’s even talk of reprogramming budget dollars, and that always raises our eyebrows.) No one — not even the mayor — knows exactly how much money will be needed to bring data systems up to speed to capture new data without erasing the old. (Hint: The human resources information on a superintendent disappeared from the system when she tried to do a simple task like changing her address.) And with the Fenty administration trying to integrate personnel-, school-, student- and human-services information systems all at once — with bureaucracies as onerous (say some treacherous) as D.C. Public Schools’ and D.C. government, well, we know that Mr. Reinoso knows it won’t be easy. What’s the saying? Garbage in, garbage out.

The D.C. Council isn’t making the mayor’s ambitious reform efforts easy either. Indeed, if heat and humidity don’t have Mr. Reinoso hot under the collar, the fact that the council recessed for the summer without confirming his appointment probably does. It’s just that time is marching on; the opening day of the new school year will be here before the council reconvenes. By then, however, whether Mr. Reinoso still has his job won’t stand on City Hall formalities.

Some so-called school advocates are waiting for the Fenty reform plan to self-destruct or be sabotaged. Any serious foul-ups between now and the sound of the gavel reconvening the council are going to make the news, and when they do, parents and other stakeholders are going to want to hold someone accountable. And that is precisely as things should be. Just a head’s up, that’s all.