Good morning Chairman Grosso and members of the committee. My name is Markus Batchelor, a resident of Ward 8, an ANC Commissioner representing district 8C04, and the Ward 8 member-elect to the DC State Board of Education.
It has been 16 days since Mayor Bowser announced her nominee for the next Chancellor of DC Public Schools. In 12 days, the Council is expected to vote on his appointment. Since the announcement, I have had countless conversations with Ward 8 residents about how the selection process was conducted and about Mr. Wilson’s record and vision for public education; some of which, this committee heard during Monday’s roundtable in Ward 7.
However, the final decision on this nominee lies with the Council, which I think has been extremely handicapped by this short timetable — both to consider his qualifications and record, but also to allow these conversations specifically about the nominee to legitimately be conducted with the public — many of which had very little lead time to hear about the opportunities to inform their elected representatives on such a very important decision.
We’ve all heard the many frustrations from residents about the method and haste to which the executive came to their final decision on a nominee. In my short time, I cannot speak to all of these, but you have and will continue to hear testimony from the public that casts this process as secretive at best and, at worst, illegal. I urge this committee to take its duty of oversight very seriously in regards to these critiques. As stewards of the public trust, it is important that we demand adherence not just to the letter of the law, but also to the spirit of the law. While the decision to allow him to serve depends on your confidence, the ability for him to effectively lead depends on the confidence of the public and it is this Council’s charge to ensure that both are accomplished through this process.
In regards to Mr. Wilson’s vision for DCPS, I have been optimistic about his words in the brief conversations I have been a part of over the past couple weeks. However, I hope this Council digs further into how his words and his vision fit with those of the Mayor, of which, ultimately, he will be charged in executing. Priorities for DCPS in Ward 8 focus on equity in resources; support for high-quality teachers and their right to collective bargaining; true community school models that effectively support the non-academic needs of students and families; reforming the special ed system that is failing our most vulnerable students; an aversion to public school closings guised as turnaround efforts; and policies and investments that make our traditional, neighborhood schools not the last choice for our parents, but the first. It is this Council’s job to ask about the nominee’s plans to make our priorities the priorities of DCPS and how his record in Oakland informs his future work.
It is not this Council’s job to hastily rubber stamp this critical choice because of the political implications in delaying it. We hope you will be as informed by this nominee and by the public as you possibly can and, after voting, feel confident in the ability of the public to be a part of the process. As our only safeguard on these decisions, it is ultimately this Council who we will have to hold accountable.
Thank you and this concludes my testimony.