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Retired Army General Is Named D.C. Superintendent

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Washington

The federally appointed board that oversees the District of Columbia government unanimously approved a takeover of the city's troubled school system late last week and replaced Superintendent Franklin L. Smith.

The financial-control board named retired Army Lt. Gen. Julius W. Becton Jr. chief executive officer and superintendent of the 80,000-student district.

The control board also named a nine-member board of trustees, which includes Mr. Becton, that will assume many of the responsibilities of the current 11-member school board.

"Only fundamental change will reverse the deplorable neglect of students' education,'' Andrew F. Brimmer, the control board's chairman, said at a news conference in a church on the city's northwest side.

The existing board late last week was challenging the takeover in court.

Bruce MacLaury, a former president of the Brookings Institute, a Washington think tank, will head the board of trustees.

Mr. Becton is a former president of Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Tex., and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. ("D.C. Authority To Oust Smith And Seize Schools," Nov. 13, 1996.)

The widely expected announcements came three days after the control board released a scathing report that said the school system "fails to teach its pupils even the basics of education."

'No Authority'

The 53-page report harshly criticized the school board and Mr. Smith, citing numerous examples of what it called a lack of leadership in personnel management, budgeting, and maintenance.

Mr. Smith could not be reached for comment. Earlier in the week, however, he told reporters that he realized it was time to go and complained that the control board had given him little support in recent months. "I have the responsibility but no authority," The Washington Post quoted him as saying.

Mr. Smith's removal meant that he would step down as the chairman of the Council of the Great City Schools, said Michael R. Casserly, the council's executive director. The council is a membership organization composed of the largest U.S. urban school districts.

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