LOOSE LIPS (6/9) REPORTS that former D.C. School Superintendent Vincent Reed is leading a movement to oust current Superintendent Franklin L. Smith. This is bad news indeed. My children attended the D.C. Public Schools during the tenures of Vincent Reed, Floretta McKenzie, Andrew Jenkins, and Franklin Smith, and I am truly grateful that Dr. Smith has come to Washington.

Reed is widely remembered for having brought discipline to the school system, but the abrupt firing of more than 700 teachers and the chaotic opening of school in September 1980 occurred on his watch. Furthermore, his leadership brought no lasting educational progress to our schools. The widely acclaimed McKenzie was a great cheerleader for the system, but consistently denied that there was a dropout problem and never supported parents who fought (successfully) to reduce class size. Jenkins was a home-grown superintendent with strong support from those insiders who thought the school system was just fine the way it was.

Smith lacks support in some segments of the community because he is a reform-minded outsider who has tried to staff the central administration with qualified professionals, whether from D.C. or not. His main problem is that he is saddled with inept, highly paid, entrenched administrators hired and promoted by his predecessors, going back to the days of Reed and beyond.

Handing the schools over to an education control board headed by Reed would satisfy many people because the “insiders” would again be in control. The result would be the restoration of a system based on old friendships and favors owed to those who have perpetuated mediocrity in our schools for decades. This would mean the end of any prospects for meaningful school reform. Once again it is the children who would be the losers, but why worry about them when there are prestigious boards to head and political scores to be settled?

Friendship Heights

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