- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Business and community leaders yesterday expressed support for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s proposal to take over the District’s public school system but said the measure should include specific goals for student achievement.

“What does success look like? Currently in the legislation it doesn’t say that,” Barbara Lang, president and chief executive officer of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. “We would like to see, ‘Year one: What are we going to do?’ ”

More than 150 witnesses were scheduled to testify during yesterday’s hearing, the sixth of seven scheduled public hearings on Mr. Fenty’s proposal. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray said he is considering scheduling an eighth hearing on the proposal at the request of Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat.

Yesterday’s marathon session — which began shortly after 1 p.m. and lasted well into the night — included testimony from city business leaders who said they would be on board with a mayoral takeover, especially if they see more specific goals and metrics for academic achievement.

“The council and the citizens of the District need to know what to expect and when,” said Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, which supports Mr. Fenty’s proposal.

Some council members agreed that they would like Mr. Fenty to include in his plan specific targets for student achievement.

“This is somewhat trailblazing,” said Mr. Gray, at-large Democrat. “But at the same time, we ought to be able to set out where we expect to be.”

Mafara Hobson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Fenty, said Victor Reinoso, Mr. Fenty’s deputy mayor for education, and his staff plan to draft an outline of student achievement goals for the education initiative but said that it will not be added to the legislation.

The council, which could vote on Mr. Fenty’s proposal in April, also heard from community activists, parents and teachers on both sides of the issue of a mayoral takeover.

Crystal Sylvia, a parent and social worker in the public school system who opposes Mr. Fenty’s plan, said Mr. Gray was “haranguing” her after the chairman attempted to interrupt her testimony because she went past her time limit. She said she was not given as much time as previous witness John Hill, president of the Federal City Council.

“There are about 90 people behind you,” Mr. Gray said.

“Right, and I’m No. 10, and it’s already been an hour and a half,” Ms. Sylvia replied.

Mr. Fenty’s plan would give the mayor’s office direct authority over the 55,000-student system. It would also give the council line-item veto authority over the school system’s budget and reduce the role of the D.C. Board of Education, among other measures.

Proponents of Mr. Fenty’s plan have argued that the change in governance would increase accountability and improve results in the classroom through a trickle-down effect.

Mr. Reinoso has said the mayor plans to implement reforms laid out in the Master Education Plan developed by schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey.

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