DCPS Chancellor: Moving Forward In the Dark

A few weeks ago, I got a rather triumphant email from the deputy mayor for education, Jennifer Niles, highlighting two documents from the DCPS Rising Leadership Committee. As you may recall, the committee was formed by Niles to assist in the search for a new DCPS chancellor.

One of the documents mentioned in that email was a report of feedback that the public provided in a number of public meetings and online regarding what it wanted in a new DCPS chancellor.

The second document was a memo from the committee itself to the mayor, drawn from public feedback the committee obtained, with questions to ask candidates.

As far as I could see, those questions are excellent and include addressing systemic racism in public schools; facilitating conversations about social justice in education; sussing out the rate of teacher turnover in previous positions held; ideas for improving teacher retention; and how parents and students were engaged in prior work.

But whether any of those questions will be asked of candidates for the DCPS chancellor position remains to be seen. The committee is only advisory—and despite its detailed memo, the City Paper just reported that the committee has neither met with the mayor about that memo nor seen any candidate resumes—and apparently has not even been told how many candidates there are, much less who they are.

The deputy mayor was then quoted, noting that “we do not want the finalists to be known right now.”

(Um, maybe someone should tell the deputy mayor that it’s her hand-selected advisory committee that’s in the dark—not just us unwashed masses—and that the committee might be better able to advise the mayor if they actually know about the candidates. Just a thought.)

The committee did promulgate one question for candidates that perhaps reveals the sentiments of several charter advocates who are on the committee:

“What opportunities do you envision to collaborate with the Public Charter School sector in DC to improve educational outcomes across the city?”

Imagine how different that question would be if reversed:

“What opportunities do you envision for the charter school sector to collaborate with DCPS in ensuring improved educational outcomes across the city?”

We can ask ourselves why this question wasn’t cast in the latter manner: did the committee not want to “burden” charter operators with the task of collaboration? Or did they see collaboration as a responsibility only of DCPS, to conform to what charters want or need?

(Or not.)

One thing is for sure: we live in interesting times.

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