- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2007

Board of Education President Robert C. Bobb said yesterday that a change in governance alone will not fix the District’s struggling school system, but he acknowledged that the D.C. Council is unlikely to consider his reform plan.

“At the end of the day, whether the mayor is in control of the District school system or whether the school board is in place, it’s incumbent on our entire community to hold either governance structure accountable for one thing and one thing only, and that is to improve student achievement in the District of Columbia,” Mr. Bobb said at a community forum held at The Washington Times.

Mr. Bobb was one of four panelists who participated in The Times’ 10th Citizens Forum, which focused on how a takeover of public schools by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty would affect education in the District.

The other panelists were Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso, Robert Brannum, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner and substitute teacher, and Terry Goings, president of the Calvin Coolidge High School PTA.

Mr. Reinoso said the mayor’s proposal, which would give Mr. Fenty direct authority over the 58,000-student system and reduce the school board’s role, will bring about change through greater accountability.

He also said Mr. Fenty’s proposal would lead to a more rapid implementation of the Master Education Plan developed by schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey and greater interagency collaboration to improve early student achievement and adult literacy.

“Within the context of the city controlling education from birth through adulthood, I think you’ll find much tighter coordination and higher success,” Mr. Reinoso said.

Mr. Bobb and the school board also have submitted legislation to the council that focuses on giving the board greater authority and sets specific goals for student achievement.

The school board president said that “we don’t believe [the board proposal] is going to have a hearing” in the council, but that board members will move forward with their agenda as the council considers Mr. Fenty’s plan.

Council secretary Cynthia Brock-Smith yesterday confirmed that the board’s legislation has been officially circulated to members, meaning it could be introduced from the council dais.

Mr. Bobb pointed out that at the board’s first meeting last month, members approved a $75 million campaign to improve school buildings. He also said the board has set up oversight committees to ensure school reforms are implemented.

“I am not there to accept things the way they are but to work with the superintendent and his team, and to show them how to advance real reforms,” Mr. Bobb said.

Iris Toyer, chairman of Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools, told the panel that the mayor’s proposal was about “power and property,” and that the D.C. government has enough problems to fix without adding public schools to the mix.

“How do you layer dysfunction over what you characterize as dysfunction?” she said.

The council could vote on Mr. Fenty’s proposal in April.

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