- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2000

Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday nominated three educators and an urban planner for appointment to the District of Columbia's first hybrid school board, formed in hopes of reforming the public school system.
Named were Laura Gardner, a professor at Montgomery College's Takoma Park campus; Charles R. Lawrence III, a professor at Georgetown Law School; Roger Wilkins, a professor at George Mason University and a civil rights activist; and Robert Peck, director of the Public Buildings Service for the General Services Administration.
Announcing the appointees yesterday, Mr. Williams said they came to the jobs with "the tools, talent and commitment to make this board a success."
He said Mr. Wilkins has a lot of coalition-building experience and will be very good in seeing that schools address the needs of the most vulnerable children.
In discussing his appointees with reporters and editors at The Washington Times yesterday, Mr. Williams said: "Laura really is going to contribute a lot to the board in terms of overall needs of children, particularly vulnerable children. She is well versed to help us focus on that situation and sets high expectations."
He pointed out that Mr. Lawrence, a former principal, has experience with charter schools, and Mr. Peck understands the need for school facilities.
Mr. Williams said the final candidates, from a field of 88, had met "a set of rigorous criteria for appointment to the school board," including a depth of expertise, knowledge of the best practices used in the District and awareness of the board's role as leaders and policy-makers.
"I conducted interviews and came up with a list of four people who bring unique skills and abilities to the job. They put children first and have a history of consensus building.
Mr. Wilkins told The Times that reducing the achievement gap between the affluent and the vulnerable in the city would be among his chief priorities.
"Equity is a major issue, in my view… . I will work hard to make sure the achievement gap is bridged," he said.
He also said he would work with board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz and other board members "to establish the board as a stable, responsible body."
Mr. Wilkins, who lives in Southwest, teaches history and American culture at GMU and is known for working toward reform in the city's schools. In the mid-1960s, he and other parents of students at Amidon Elementary School introduced a tri-school plan to ensure equal distribution of resources for affluent and impoverished schools in Southwest.
He also served as a trustee on the board of the University of the District of Columbia, where he worked with programs for kindergarten-through-12th-grade students in D.C. public schools.
Mrs. Gardner, a professor of student development at Montgomery College, began her career as a research assistant in D.C. public schools. She's the mother of a D.C. public school graduate and lives in the Hillcrest neighborhood.
Mr. Peck, an urban planner who lives in Chevy Chase, is expected to shape the modernization and facilities management programs for the schools. His two children attend Lafayette Elementary School.
Mr. Lawrence, a professor of law at Georgetown University, served as principal of an alternative community elementary school near Boston. He has written about racism, political and economic equity, affirmative action and education policy. He currently serves on the local school restructuring team at Shepherd Elementary, which his two children attend.
The four appointees will join a nine-member school board, which includes four members elected earlier this month along with Mrs. Cafritz. The elected members are Julie Mikuta, representing Wards 1 and 2; Dwight E. Singleton, Wards 3 and 4; Tommy Wells, Wards 5 and 6; and William Lockridge, Wards 7 and 8.
The new board, which replaces an 11-member elected school board, merges eight city wards into four newly drawn districts and provides for one elected board member from each.
D.C. Council members in February approved the plan for a hybrid board, which is part of Mr. Williams' initiative to reform the public school system. D.C. residents voted in favor of the plan at a June referendum.
The hybrid school board will stay in place for four years, after which the council will decide whether or not to continue with it.
Proponents of the hybrid board hope it will help clearly define the board's role and eliminate some of the posturing, disagreement and distractions that have disrupted school board activities in the past.
Marlene L. Johnson contributed to this article.

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