As Mayor Bowser Announces The Search For New DCPS Chancellor, Many Demand Transparency
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Tuesday that the process of finding a permanent Chancellor of DC Public Schools (DCPS) has begun.
Whoever gets the nod will have to work hard to rebuild the community’s trust. Previous chancellor Antwan Wilson resigned in February after just over a year on the job after reports that he evaded the school lottery system to transfer his daughter into a popular high school with a long wait list.
Wilson also struggled to deal with the fallout from a WAMU and NPR investigation that revealed nearly a third of DC graduates had not actually met their graduation requirements.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Bowser announced the leadership committee that will help her fill the position. By law, the committee is intended to be community-driven: it must feature teachers — including representatives of the Washington Teachers Union — parents, and students.
American University President Sylvia M. Burwell and Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis, who serves the board of trustees of the University of the District of Columbia will chair the committee, playing a special role in identifying candidates. Its other members feature Washington Teachers’ Union president Elizabeth Davis, parents from Ward 3 and Ward 7, a 10th-grade DCPS student and one DCPS teacher, as well as a handful of educators and advocates with roots in charter schools.
“Parents and community members are very interested in a seasoned educator — a person that has had experience in administration and the classroom, coaching and teaching,” said Bowser. The mayor added that she herself wanted someone well-versed in high and middle schools.
Jarvis identified a need for someone well-versed in preparing students for a successful college career. Burwell stressed community participation, saying, “part of the process is to make sure we’re hearing from the 700,000 citizens of our fine city.”
Amanda Alexander, the former chief of the Office of Elementary Schools for DCPS, stepped in as interim chancellor after Wilson resigned. Bowser said that Alexander is not out of the running for the permanent position.
Two hours before Bowser’s announcement, a diverse coalition of educators, parents, community members and advocates from all eight wards gathered for a press conference of their own. They released an open letter to Bowser, demanding full transparency and frequent public updates of the selection process.
The Washington Teachers Union, Teaching for Change, NAAPC DC, Citizens for Effective Schools and other signatories asked for a review panel of teachers (Bowser’s features just one) and stakeholder meetings in every ward, and asked that Bowser meet with the coalition to discuss priorities for filling the position.
Markus Batchelor, who represents Ward 8 on the State Board of Education, said the selection process is an opportunity for DCPS’ culture to change for the better.
“We need less people plucked from the halls of favor and influence,” he said. “We need more meaningful engagement and great weight given to educators, families and advocates who have the greatest stake in our systems success.”
Scott Goldstein, founder of EmpowerED, an organization committed to “building teacher empowerment” in D.C., emphasized the need for leadership that’s supportive of teachers, who see high rates of turnover in the District.
Bowser said that the committee would “make the decision as soon as we find the right, perfect chancellor.” She hopes that will be by January 2019.