- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Peggy Cooper Cafritz, arts patron and co-founder of the well-known Duke Ellington School of the Arts, last night won the presidency of the D.C. Board of Education the first such election in D.C. history. She and two other newly elected members, Julie Mikuta of District 1 and Tommy Wells of District 5, will join four other newcomers who will be appointed by one of Mrs. Cafritz's major supporters, Mayor Tony Williams. Under her stewardship the board is expected to do big things.

While the school board amassed a huge turnover, voters returned most other incumbents to office. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton won a sixth term. Mrs. Norton's voice will be crucial next year, when the congressionally created control board dissolves. Mrs. Norton helped draft the legislation that created the board, which since 1995 has had considerable oversight of the District's fiscal and legislative concerns.

Also expected to change in 2001 is the role of the D.C. Board of Education, which the control board weakened in 1996. Mrs. Cafritz and the newly constituted board will be sworn in in January and, in the absence of any unforeseen problems, should have the full powers restored by that time.

For the most part that board's agenda is already decided: Academic achievement, an efficient and effective school bureaucracy, and a facilities plan that looks farther into the future than next year's budget. What had been missing was leadership from the school board and from the council.

The council, however, has presented yet another question. While Mrs. Cafritz has won, will she really and truly have the opportunity to lead? The question must be posed for several reasons, chief among them fact that the president's term is only two years, the mayor is up for re-election in two years, and the chairman of the council's education committee, is weighing a run for mayor in two years.

The good news is Mrs. Cafritz has been duly elected, and here's hoping she can lead the board around the political rigmarole of the next two years.

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