- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2003

The District’s superintendent of schools, Paul Vance, announced his resignation yesterday afternoon. No one asked him to step down, he said, adding that he informed city and school leaders that he is not interested in a new contract. We fully appreciate Mr. Vance’s frankness and his willingness to serve as a public servant in the nation’s capital. The timing of his decision is just about right.

In recent months, Mr. Vance has faced a firestorm — political squabbles, money problems, disappointing student performance, school personnel preying on students, a teachers union scandal and student-on-student mayhem, including the death of a boy who was gunned down while leaving school.

Mr. Vance saw more of the same on the horizon.

City leaders recently began crafting legislation that would grant considerable authority over public schools to the mayor and the D.C. Council — including a mayorally appointed superintendent. Currently, all authority, including the appointment of the superintendent, rests with the school board. They also are considering proposals that would close underutilized schools and allow charter schools and traditional public schools to share the same facilities. Also, there is a concerted push for federally funded vouchers for poor children trapped in low-performing schools.

All of the above, coupled with Mr. Vance’s own problems, led up to yesterday’s announcement. Indeed, one of the city’s most promising high schools — Ballou, in Southeast Washington — has been marred in the recent weeks with a mercury scare and constant violence among students. Moreover, test scores — even under the leadership of the highly regarded Mr. Vance — just don’t measure up. Mr. Vance, who has been working under a month-to-month contract, said he simply wanted no part in the discussions on the governance issues, constant spending pressures or other serious matters.

Clinton OMB Director Alice Rivlin, at the time head of the control board, appointed Mr. Vance in 2000. Since his vitae touted successes in Baltimore and Montgomery (and he had been an interim D.C. superintendent), Mrs. Rivlin and others thought it a good match — and in some ways it was. Unfortunately, even the accomplished Mr. Vance could not turn around this city’s dysfunctional school system.

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