- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said the main issue left unresolved by his outgoing administration is streamlining the ailing public school system.

“This mess where you have 18 people in the kitchen doesn’t work,” Mr. Williams told The Washington Times in his first newspaper interview since announcing Thursday that he will not seek a third term next year.

The mayor lauded the reform efforts of Superintendent Clifford B. Janey, who took control of the school system after an exhaustive search last year in which two other superintendent candidates rejected the city’s attempts to hire them.

Mr. Williams also said he will watch closely how the Democratic mayoral candidates address education in their campaigns.

So far, none of the mayoral hopefuls who have formally announced their candidacies — D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, council members Adrian M. Fenty and Vincent B. Orange Sr., former Verizon executive Marie Johns and lobbyist Michael Brown — has announced a comprehensive plan for improving city schools.

However, Mrs. Cropp has touted her experience as a former teacher and school board chairman, while Mr. Orange has pressed for textbooks and laptops for students and Mr. Fenty has offered a bill for renovating schools to the D.C. Council.

“Obviously, I wish we had made better headway with the schools,” Mr. Williams said Thursday.

D.C. public schools have long been hampered by high truancy rates, dilapidated buildings, low standardized test scores, declining enrollment and violence.

Since taking office in 1999, Mr. Williams has sought to wrest control of the schools from the Board of Education. His efforts culminated in the formation of the current hybrid school board in which some members are elected by city voters and others are appointed by the mayor.

But in November, the mayor said his record on schools has been “questionable” and “flaky.” Mr. Williams even hinted that he would quit if his management efforts were unsuccessful during one of several bids to take over the school system.

Chief among his concerns was the D.C. Council having to spend an additional $15.1 million to save 306 teaching jobs in April.

Meanwhile, the District’s 60,799 public school students scored last on national tests in 2002.

This week, council member Kathy Patterson, head of the education committee, suggested using a year-round school calendar, which would end the traditional summer vacation.

“Research indicates that students lose a lot of what they’ve learned over the summer,” said Mrs. Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and a candidate for council chairman. “We need to do what we know works.”

Mrs. Patterson made the recommendation Tuesday at a community meeting in Northwest.

She offered no immediate plan to introduce legislation for year-round classes, but said she has discussed the issue with Mr. Janey.

“It would obviously be a major change, but it’s my responsibility as head of the education committee to share what the research shows,” she said.

Mr. Janey plans to address the issue in his 10-year master education plan, due by Dec. 31, school system spokeswoman Roxanne Evans said.

“The superintendent will also be looking at things in the plan like facilities and academics,” she said. “Plus, other factors such as the budget and the cost [of year-round schooling] must be considered.”

During the past school year, more than 2 million students were enrolled in more than 3,000 year-round schools in 47 states, according to the National Association for Year-Round Education, a nonprofit group of teachers, administrators and parents.

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