- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

About two dozen people who supported D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s run for mayor were outside his Northwest house last night to voice their opposition to his plan to take over the city’s schools.

“Our fear is that this will derail the progress made” under schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey, said Gina Arlotto, co-founder of the group Save Our Schools D.C.

Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, stopped by the protest outside his house off of 17th street in Northwest shortly after it began at 6:30 p.m. He briefly addressed demonstrators, who responded with loud calls for “democracy not bureaucracy.”

The mayor spoke to members of the crowd and told Cherita Whiting, chairman of the Ward 4 Education Council, that he would schedule a meeting next week with some of the demonstrators.

Mr. Fenty said he would meet with the citizens next week because “you never know what good information you’re going to hear.”

Some protesters criticized Mr. Fenty for not putting his plan, which must be approved by the council and by Congress, before voters in a referendum.

“My position is clear on that, but I still want to hear people out,” Mr. Fenty said.

Other protesters said that the council, which is expected to vote on the plan in April, should postpone its decision until voters fill two seats left vacant after the November elections. A special election May 1 will fill the Ward 4 seat Mr. Fenty vacated when he was elected mayor and the Ward 7 seat vacated by Vincent C. Gray when he was elected council chairman.

Renee Bowser, a candidate for the Ward 4 council seat, said having discussions about the schools plan before the vacant seats are filled is “anti-democratic.”

Mr. Fenty has said he wanted to move the plan forward because the school system needs change immediately.

Mr. Fenty’s plan would give him direct authority over the 55,000-student system and allow him to appoint a public schools chancellor.

Under the plan, the council would have line-item veto authority over the school system’s budget, and the Board of Education would have an almost strictly policy-making role.

Those at the rally said it leaves the school system susceptible to the interests of private businesses rather than parents.

“The people who drafted the plan are what I call educationalists, not educators,” said Save Our Schools D.C. co-founder Zein El-Amine.

William Lockridge, who represents Wards 7 and 8 on the school board, said the mayor lacks original ideas for improving education and only wants control of the school system’s assets.

“He has no magic wand, and education in the city is not going to change because the mayor wants to take over the schools,” Mr. Lockridge said. “Politics and greed are driving the mayor’s plan to take over the schools.”

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