Yesterday, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Indianapolis schools superintendent, Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, as her nominee to be the next Chancellor of DC Public Schools. If confirmed, Dr. Ferebee would be DCPS’ fifth leader since 2016.
DC Public School students and families in Ward 8 and across the city have been outspoken about their desire for a leader that is focused on (1) finding evidence-based solutions to our most pressing challenges; (2) providing an honest accounting of our progress and rebuilding the public trust; and (3) working collaboratively with our community to champion our neighborhood schools and provide them with the equitable support they need to be successful. In the weeks to come, I look forward to learning more about how Dr. Ferebee’s record and vision fits our common hopes and desires.
Since the start of this selection process, I have been adamant that this process must be different than the ones before — more transparent, more representative of the voices that make up our system, and focused on the progress of our students most in need. When we thought the selection panel did not include enough students, parents and teachers, we advocated for more and got them. When we felt that the engagement process was not adequate, we created our own spaces and submitted a report that reflected our views. I want to thank the residents who stood up and worked with me to move this process closer to our ideals.
However, concerns about the future of this process linger. Yesterday’s announcement event demonstrated a lack of respect for the Council’s authority, as representatives of the residents of the District of Columbia, in Dr. Ferebee’s confirmation as our next Chancellor.
The Mayor’s failure to acknowledge the Council’s role in approving her nominee and their notable absence speaks to the Council’s routine lack of strong oversight of mayoral control of public schools, oversight sorely needed now more than ever.
I was taken aback by the perceived surety of Dr. Ferebee’s confirmation before public hearings were scheduled or before a vote was held. A welcoming to the team; an announcement of a start date; and talk of family transitions this early in the process speaks to a belief that the council is a rubber stamp, when families across our city are calling for leadership that will ensure we get the transparency, accountability and thoughtful consideration we need to move forward, together, as a system. No one person should have unlimited and unchecked control of our schools; our communities and families — all of us — should have it. The Council, and specifically the Committee on Education, must assert itself on behalf of the residents they represent, and remind everyone that this process is not over.
With a nominee before us, it is now time for the Council and our communities to lean in to this conversation and assess the candidate fairly, objectively and with the scrutiny absolutely necessary to ensure the next permanent leader of our system is the right choice for our schools, families and children. I look forward to engaging with the Council, Dr. Ferebee, and most importantly, DC residents in the weeks to come to ensure that Ward 8’s children and those across our city get the surety of a school system and leader they desperately need and deserve.