- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The District’s new public-schools superintendent, Clifford B. Janey, said yesterday he was shocked by the condition of the school buildings and will make renovating them a priority.

“I find it embarrassing that in the nation’s capital, you would have buildings in such wretched condition,” he said. “It takes a lot of hard work to create this level of neglect.”

Mr. Janey officially has been on the job for about three weeks, but since mid-August, he has been inspecting the system’s roughly 150 schools, not including special schools.

“I stay tired,” he said yesterday on a visit to the John Tyler Elementary School in Southeast — a circa 1930 building with peeling paint and pocked with broken and patched windows.

Mr. Janey’s comments came the same day that D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said that the city has “limited resources” for fixing schools and that he will discuss the situation with Mr. Janey during an upcoming retreat.

Mr. Williams also said the spending plan must include finishing construction of schools, as well as repairing and updating others.

Mr. Janey, 58, came to the District after serving as superintendent of the Rochester (N.Y.) City School District, where he earned a reputation for improving reading and math scores and closing the achievement gap between the system’s roughly 55,000 white, black and Hispanic students.

However, he faces a tough challenge in the District, where the public-school system’s 60,799 students perform poorly on standard achievement tests.

In 2002, D.C. students scored lower than public-school students in the 50 states on the Stanford Achievement Test and the National Assessment of Education Progress.

Mr. Janey said he will use achievement tests scheduled for January to assess students’ educational needs.

He was uncertain yesterday about which grades would receive the tests, but said the results will be compared with those taken last year and ones scheduled for spring.

“If [there’s no progress,] then it will be our responsibility to make corrections,” Mr. Janey said.

He hopes that improved scores will encourage more families to send their children to D.C. public schools again.

Mr. Janey, who agreed Sept. 15 to a contract worth $250,000 a year, got his first test as an administrator on the opening day of school when students at Eastern High School in Northeast arrived to find they had no class schedules.

Three employees were fired as a result, and Mr. Janey publicly said further mismanagement will result in additional dismissals.

Mr. Janey also has demonstrated a no-nonsense approach to such enrollment problems as truancy and students with inadequate immunization and residency records, although administrators had started making corrective plans before he arrived.

Mr. Janey said yesterday the District’s teachers are “competent and able,” but there needs to be more coordination within the school system.

As a result, he plans to hire a senior management team composed of a chief academic officer, a chief accountability officer and a chief business officer.

Mr. Janey put together similar teams in Boston, then Rochester and said he would begin a national search, if necessary, to find the right people for the District.

“I think Janey is off to a good start,” said D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat. “I’m very encouraged by what I see, as a council member interested in the schools of my district.”

None of the nine members of the District’s Board of Education, including President Peggy Cooper Cafritz, responded to requests yesterday to assess Mr. Janey’s first few weeks on the job.

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