- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

District officials sharply opposed to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s plan to control city schools now say they will cooperate in the face of widespread support for the change.

D.C. public schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey said yesterday he is now focused on his responsibilities to the school system and is not concerned whether Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, will fire him.

“I’m not slowing down my energy,” said Mr. Janey, giving only indirect answers to questions about whether he was worried about keeping his job.

The D.C. Council on Thursday voted 9-2 in favor of the takeover plan.

Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, and Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, voted against the plan.

The bill goes to Congress for approval because it contains an amendment to the District’s Home Rule Charter.

If the plan is approved by Congress, the mayor will gain control of the school system and have the power to appoint a chancellor. Students would start attending Fenty-run schools by next October.

Mr. Fenty said it is too early to say whether he will make Mr. Janey the first chancellor.

“We’re not at that point,” he said.

School board President Robert C. Bobb, among the most outspoken critics of the plan, joined Mr. Fenty, Mr. Janey and others at a press conference yesterday. Mr. Bobb said he also now is focused on improving schools and that the school system’s best employees will stay.

“It’s never been those who are at the top of their game who feel the need to move on,” said Mr. Bobb, who originally promised to resign if the mayor’s plan was approved.

After the council gave preliminary approval to the plan in April, Mr. Bobb said his promise was made in the “heat of battle.”

“I’ve been in politics for a long time, and one thing you have to come to grips with is reality,” Mr. Bobb said after the council’s first vote.

Mr. Fenty, at the meeting yesterday, said he is focused on fixing weaknesses in the school system’s 2006 fiscal budget that were exposed in an independent audit.

The audit, released in January, cited issues with the system’s federal grants management, procurement practices, human resources, payroll and Medicaid services.

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi has said the issues could hurt the city’s ability to borrow money.

Mr. Fenty, a Ward 4 council member before becoming mayor in January, has said his primary reasons for the takeover are the school system’s lack of academic progress, financial concerns and poor capital-improvement efforts.

Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said the mayor has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday with Mr. Janey, Mr. Bobb and Mr. Gandhi to make a plan to improve the system’s finances.

Mr. Bobb sent letters yesterday to Mr. Janey and Mr. Gandhi asking them to identify resources by Friday needed to resolve issues raised in any audits.

Mr. Bobb said sloppy accounting and improper use of funds would be points of concern, though he has not seen data to suggest either is the case.

“It’s more than safe to say we’ve broken parts of the system,” said Mr. Janey, adding there has been some significant improvements since he was appointed superintendent in September 2004.

Gary Emerling contributed to this report.

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