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Former Council Leaders Cliff Janey and George Walker Smith Remembered

  • Clifford Janey, a former chair of the Council of the Great City Schools’ Board of Directors and a former superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools, died Feb. 13 from a heart ailment. He was 73.  

    Janey led the school district in the nation’s capital for three years, after serving as superintendent in New York’s Rochester City School District for seven years. 

    According to the Washington Post, during his three-year tenure leading the District of Columbia Public Schools, he was credited with imposing rigorous academic standards and the number of students taking advanced placement classes and graduating from high school and attending college increased.  Clifford Janey

    After serving in Washington, D.C., Janey became superintendent of New Jersey’s Newark Public Schools for three years, the largest school district in the state.  

    Janey was also very active in the Council, having served as the chair of the organization’s Board of Directors twice in 2000 and 2001, the only person to do so.    

    “Clifford Janey’s skills, leadership, intelligence and commitment to urban education were outstanding and he made profound contributions,” says Council Executive Director Michael Casserly.  

    “He led the organization as it released several groundbreaking publications including Beating the Odds, the nation’s first city-by-city analysis of student performance on state assessments in reading and math, which provided valuable insights into the progress urban schools were making,” Cassserly remembers.   

    “He also was one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and I was proud to call him my friend and will miss him dearly.” 

    San Diego Leader Dies  

    Also remembered is George Walker Smith, a former school board member with the San Diego Unified School District, who died Feb. 15 at the age of 91.  

    He was elected to the San Diego School Board in 1963, the first African American elected to office in San Diego, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. During his 16-year tenure on the school board, he served four years as president and worked to diversify the district’s teaching force and recruit more African American teachers.  

    He also contributed to public education nationally, serving as chair of the Council’s Board of Directors in 1972 and president of the National Schools Board Association in 1976.