- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

The former chief of staff to Mayor Anthony A. Williams has been named chief business operations officer for the D.C. public school system, officials said yesterday.

Abdusalam Omer was hired by schools superintendent Clifford B. Janey to take charge of the system’s often-troubled business operations.

Mr. Omer, 53, previously worked as deputy chief financial officer and budget director in D.C. government and as the school system’s chief financial officer. He will replace departing CBO Thomas M. Brady.

“We have turned the corner in making some much-needed improvements,” Mr. Janey said “Dr. Omer will help us solidify those improvements and make other changes that will better support our No. 1 goal of providing high-quality teaching and learning for every child in every classroom.”

The school system’s hire comes in the context of a looming battle over who will control the struggling school system.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has introduced legislation to the D.C. Council that would place the system directly under the authority of his office, while school board President Robert C. Bobb introduced a counterproposal that would keep the system under the board’s direct purview.

In a council hearing Tuesday, Mr. Janey indicated that he supports the board’s proposal. WRC-TV (Channel 4) reported last night that Mr. Fenty would not retain Mr. Janey if the council approves a mayoral takeover.

Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said she could not confirm the report and that “no decisions have been made.”

When reached at home yesterday, Mr. Omer said he did not take a side on the school governance issue.

“It’s not my call,” Mr. Omer said. “I think a lot of people, including the superintendent, agree that things need to change, some of it is changing and the rest has to change.”

Schools spokesman John C. White also said Mr. Omer’s hiring did not indicate a position on any school governance model.

Mr. Janey “has said to the staff that we shouldn’t dwell on who ends up [having] the ultimate governance of the schools,” Mr. White said. “Our task is the kids.”

Mr. Omer’s hiring also comes a day after the release of an independent auditor’s findings that criticized the system’s failings in areas such as federal grants management, procurement practices, human resources and payroll.

The areas were identified by auditors as weaknesses that could affect the District’s financial future, and school officials said one of Mr. Omer’s first responsibilities will be to improve problems in the offices of human resources and procurement.

“This hire is not a direct reaction to the audit,” Mr. White said. “But this is a direct result of Dr. Janey wanting somebody who can tighten up our procedures around here.”

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