So, How is The Chancellor Selection Thing Going?

A few days ago, on August 30, the first of three community meetings was held (at Roosevelt HS) to get feedback from residents and others in the DCPS community about what they would like to see in the next DCPS chancellor.

The other two forums are September 7 and September 14, Eastern HS and Savoy Elementary, respectively. Each begins at 6:30 pm.

There is also a stakeholder phone call for September 27 at 2 pm. Sign up is here.

Around 200 people were at that August 30 forum, with members of the DCPS Rising Leadership Committee and mayoral and other city staffers in attendance. The deputy mayor for education, Jennifer Niles, gave (lengthy) opening remarks about how this is the most important decision of the mayor, DCPS is growing by leaps and bounds, etc.–and outlining the process for finding a new chancellor, with the search firm, Boyden, working on finding candidates.

Members of the audience were divided into groups, to discuss priorities of the next chancellor; his/her desired skills and qualifications; and the direction DCPS should take.

For the last, attendees were given three choices:

–DCPS is on a strong path to success and needs to continue its work.
–DCPS is on a path to success, but needs to make a few adjustments.
–DCPS needs to make significant changes.

(Hmm: How about “DCPS needs to have more public oversight, such that the public isn’t answering prepackaged questions in a short timeframe at one of only a few actual forums for public engagement about DCPS?”)

Now, don’t get me wrong: this is all a very nice-looking effort. But given the mayor’s self-imposed deadline of October to choose the next chancellor (possibly informed by the November election), this process is cutting it close to the bone. It’s not merely that the mayor announced the search on July 12, a mere month and a half ago.

It’s that the first actual ad for the chancellor went out–wait for it–on August 26.

The job ad is a fascinating read. Given that the first community forum was held after it appeared, one can conclude that no one in the public–i.e., none of the actual stakeholders IN our schools–had any involvement in what’s listed in the ad.

For instance, folks in neighborhoods whose by right schools were closed might take issue with this statement from the ad:

“The Chancellor . . . is responsible for ensuring that every student has a by-right school that he or she can attend.”

Hmm: did no one who wrote this ad understand that “ensuring that every student has a by-right school that he or she can attend” is a complete perversion of what actually is the duty of a by right system and the city it’s in?

It is, for instance, not realistic for elementary school children to cross Benning Road NE–a major, multi-lane highway–twice a day on foot to get to and from their by right school.

Yet, that is exactly what is expected of hundreds of young children because their neighborhood by right school, River Terrace, was closed, and its feeder changed to Thomas, across Benning Road.

(Oh, did I mention that both these neighborhoods are entirely enclosed by two highways and a river?)

But according to this new job description, it’s all good: River Terrace kids have a by right school–mission accomplished! And, as Katherine Bradley–DC’s patron of school choice and “shadow chancellor”–has presciently noted, DC parents have options of choosing what school their child attends, so if they don’t like this one, there’s always another.

(Which is great news, because 10 years ago, before the last round of school closures, over 2,000 DC students lived more than a half mile away from their by right schools. In this, we should not overlook the benefits of walking great distances, since the Healthy Schools Act isn’t being enforced anyway.)

In an attempt to suss out the role of the search firm, Boyden, in the hiring of the new chancellor (especially with its thin record of hiring school superintendents), schools activist Peter MacPherson FOIA’ed the deputy mayor for education (DME) and requested to see contracts and agreements between that firm and the DME, as well as documents regarding the search for the chancellor.

Despite the deadline having passed, he is still waiting. To be sure, it’s not clear what the search firm is actually doing. Yes, there is that ad, of course–weirdly late as it is. But how do they expect to get candidates when it is so broad?

Indeed, I fulfill all the “must have” qualifications listed in the ad, which is simply amazing, given that I (like Katherine Bradley) have no teaching or school administrative experience.

It’s amazing also, in that a bunch of folks in DC who actually DO have that experience have requested just such experience in the next chancellor.

(Wonder how ignoring that request works–oh, that’s how.)

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