School (Chancellor) Choice

In DC, the legislation that delivered mayoral control of public schools (the Public Education Reform Amendment Act, or PERAA) also specified a clear process for the mayor selecting the head of the by right system, DCPS:

“[The mayor shall]

“(A) Establish a review panel of teachers, including representatives of the Washington Teachers Union, parents, and students (“panel”) to aid the Mayor in his or her selection of Chancellor;
(B) Provide the resumes and other pertinent information pertaining to the individuals under consideration, if any, to the panel; and
(C) Convene a meeting of the panel to hear the opinions and recommendations of the panel.

“The Mayor shall consider the opinions and recommendations of the panel in making his or her nomination and shall give great weight to any recommendation of the Washington Teachers Union.”

Since Kaya Henderson, the current DCPS chancellor, announced she was leaving at the end of September, we DC public education consumers may now see this legally codified process for the first time (it didn’t appear to be followed (publicly, anyway) for either Henderson or her predecessor).

Today, deputy mayor for education (DME) Jennifer Niles held a conference call with what she called “education leaders” in DC, including invited PTA/PTO leaders, members of the cross sector task force, and ward education councils. The phone call, wherein the DME talked, and a few callers asked questions, was to outline the process of selecting a new chancellor.

According to the DME, Mayor Bowser is currently selecting members of this review panel, which Niles noted will have geographic and experiential diversity and will include teachers, principals, students, parents, and community reps. The DME also noted that the mayor expects to name the panel co-chairs next week.

That said, it is not clear what the timeline of the panel is nor whether its meeting(s) (also unspecified) would be public. The DME did note that there will be two or three citywide community engagement forums over the future of DCPS. The DME said she wanted members of the advisory panel to be in attendance at each forum and garner input from across the city on what the priorities for the new chancellor will be in the next 5-10 years.

The DME also promised the creation of a website on the search, while noting that a professional firm will be doing a nationwide hunt.

This could all go well. That said, the history of citizen involvement in our public school governance has been, well, rough.

The state board of education itself–our only directly elected overseers of public education in DC–was apparently not initially invited on the call, because the DME’s office did not include email addresses for the board members on the emailed invite from this past Friday.

As it is, I got an invite only yesterday evening, after days of phone calls and emails to the DME’s office, asking what was the process for selecting a new chancellor. Don’t get me wrong–I was glad to be part of the phone call–but have to wonder if everyone who similarly pestered got an invite.

(Or who might have pestered to get an invite had they known this phone call even existed.)

Given my (unsuccessful) attempts to ask questions during the phone call, and the fact that only seven people were able to do so, perhaps citizen involvement in this process is more abstract than I or others (who were also attempting to ask questions–and could not) might like.

But in this election year, council education committee chair David Grosso appears to be listening. Grosso is holding a couple of public meetings for DC public school teachers, wherein they can discuss with him their concerns. The meetings are from 6:30-8:30 pm on July 18 (Anacostia Library) and August 2 (Petworth Library). You can RSVP here.

Some DC public school educators may prefer anonymity to an RSVP, however: a few days ago, DCPS parents received an email from the central office, touting the great new principals at 22 DCPS schools, without any recognition that 22 schools is about 20% of DCPS schools and not all those principals were exercising their choice.

(But what’s disturbing for some is, oddly, a success for others.)

2 thoughts on “School (Chancellor) Choice

  1. It would have been great if Council member Grosso had reached out to the Washington Teachers’ Union about his community meetings for DC public school teachers. One of Michelle Rhee’s opening remarks at her introductory press conference was that “collaboration is overrated”. I beg to disagree.

    On the subject of mayoral control the researchers for the PERRA study cited that the effectiveness of mayoral control depends on forging “ongoing relationships with disparate groups, ranging from business elites and labor unions to grassroots community activists, and to draw on broader civic capacity.” If done right, mayoral control can bring about increased school accountability, better citywide coordination, better mobilization of civic capacity on behalf of schools and better student results, particularly for the neediest kids.

    Cross sector collaboration is all dressed up with no place to go.

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  2. The governing legislation, which is a part of the Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007 (PERRA), also states that “prior to the selection of a nominee for Chancellor, the Mayor shall;

    -Establish a review panel of teachers, including representatives of the Washington Teachers Union, parents, and students (“panel”) to aid the Mayor in his or her selection of Chancellor;

    -Consider the opinions and recommendations of the panel in making his or her nomination and shall give great weight to any recommendation of the Washington Teacher’s Union.

    -Communicate with the collective bargaining unit for the employees under his or her administration;

    If DME Niles is acting on behalf of the mayor, she has failed to collaborate with “representatives of the Washington Teachers’ Union. Such representatives can only be designated by the organization leadership.

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