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As if they needed any more evidence that their Election Day votes meant nothing, D.C. voters woke up on Wednesday morning to find news of the District’s school board putsch right alongside the results of the school board elections. The banner story in the Washington Post’s Metro sectiona scoop that would have landed above the front-page fold any other dayannounced that the board has decided to fire D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Franklin Smith, strip the newly elected school board of its powers, and set up an unelected five-member panel to run the schools.
For weeks the control board has refused pleas from city officials to disclose their plans for the school system. And so the Election Day news leak looked like the sort of high-handed, arrogant behavior you might expect from an unaccountable, appointed board. The timing sparked outrage from school officials.
But no one could have been more outraged by the Nov. 6 Post headline than Washington Times reporter John Mercurio, who had the story ready to print on Election Day morning. After a bout of stonewalling and misleading statements by control board officials, however, Mercurio and Times editors decided to hold the story. And when control board staffers learned Election Day afternoon that Mercurio had gotten independent confirmation, they immediately leaked details to Post reporter David Vise, according to a source familiar with Tuesday’s events.
The control board would have preferred to keep its plans out of the media until at least the end of next week. But staffers also wanted to protect Vise, a favorite of control board Executive Director John Hill. Some reporters complain that Hill favors Vise so much that he won’t even return their phone calls.
The control board appreciates Vise, according to one source, because he always gets “the right slant” on the leaks from his sources.