- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

An exhaustive nine-month search for a new leader to take charge of the District’s troubled public school system ended yesterday with the appointment of Clifford B. Janey, former schools superintendent in Rochester, N.Y.

Mr. Janey, 58, said he will resign his position as a vice president with Scholastics Inc., a New York publishing firm, to replace former D.C. school system Superintendent Paul L. Vance, who retired in November.

“This work will not be done on the quick,” Mr. Janey said at a news conference yesterday. “I’m here and in it for the long term.

However, he has not yet signed a contract with the school board.

The D.C. Board of Education yesterday voted unanimously to start negotiating a contract with Mr. Janey “with the goal of offering him the position.”

School board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz said the panel would not discuss the terms of his contract until September.

Mr. Janey, who has 29 years’ experience as an educator, said he plans to start his job later this month even though the contract won’t be approved until the board’s September meeting.

“It’s going to get done, and it’s going to get done quickly,” Mr. Janey, a former chief administrator for the Boston public school system, said of contract talks.

Mr. Janey faces numerous challenges. In the past year, hundreds of teachers lost their jobs owing to budget cuts. The school board and city officials have engaged in a bitter power struggle over control of the school system. And student test scores continue to rank among the worst in the nation.

“It’s going to require constant focus as we get into the deep, heavy lifting” of improving the school system, Mr. Janey said.

Mr. Janey was not the District’s first choice. Two other high-profile candidates — former New York schools Chancellor Rudolph F. Crew and former Long Beach, Calif., Superintendent Carl Cohn — turned down offers from the city despite intense lobbying by school board members and D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

But city officials yesterday said Mr. Janey’s track record in Rochester proves he can fix the D.C. school system. Mr. Janey’s experience shows “he’s going to be able to accomplish something we’re looking for — [to] improve student achievement,” said Mr. Williams.

“He has raised student achievement dramatically [in Rochester],” said school board member Robin Martin. “That’s the kind of superintendent we need here.”

“He has a record of being very inclusive with the principals and teachers,” D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp added.

Rochester school board member Darryl W. Porter yesterday called Mr. Janey “a good visionary” who did not always pay close enough attention to school district finances.

“He was good at getting different types of programs up and going to raise academic achievement,” Mr. Porter said. “The ideas he was coming up with were good ideas, but the district could not afford all of them.”

Mr. Porter was one of six on the seven-member Rochester school board who voted to fire Mr. Janey in 2002 amid a worsening budget crisis.

“I think he needed to give more time to the financial piece,” Mr. Porter said.

“He had a halfway-decent relationship with the [school] board. He wasn’t always quite inclusive, and that caused some problems. That’s why the D.C. school board should sit down with him and tell him exactly what their expectations are of him.”

John Pavone, treasurer of the Rochester Teachers Association, said Mr. Janey was blamed for a “runaway budget” in the city’s 35,000-student school system.

“He made the wrong selection for his chief financial officer, but I think he learned from that and will give the finances more attention,” Mr. Pavone said.

The relationship between the city’s teachers union and Mr. Janey usually went without major controversy, according to Mr. Pavone.

“It started a little bumpy, but then it smoothed right out,” he said. “He always used to say, ‘When you’re in the same boat, it doesn’t make a difference what side leaks.’ It’s important to work together. I think that the city of D.C. made a good choice.”

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