The Chancellor Game: Naming Names

[The following is by Erich Martel, retired DCPS teacher.]

According to a confidential source, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has put together a short list of candidates for chancellor of DCPS. An official announcement may be made as early as tomorrow (Monday, November 21). If that is the case, then the members of the chancellor search review panel will not be given sufficient time to review and give feedback. There is no need to rush. So far, the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor for Education have chosen to ignore specific language in the description of the chancellor selection process of the 2007 PERAA (see below).

Here is the purported short list of candidates, with DCPS hire date:

–Amanda Alexander, DCPS: Deputy Chief of Elementary Schools (11/26/1999)
–Rahman Branch, DC Government: Executive Director, Office of African-American Affairs; former principal, Ballou H.S., DCPS (7/1/2005)
–Jean-Claude Brizard, partner and VP, Cross & Joftus, an education consulting firm; former superintendent, Chicago PS, Rochester, NY PS
–John L. Davis, DCPS: Interim Chancellor; previously, Chief of Schools over the ten DCPS instructional superintendents (6/25/2007)
–Eugene Pinkard, DCPS: Deputy Chief, School Turnaround (7/6/2009)

Additional background information on these candidates would be valuable. Here are a few bits of information:

Mr. Brizard is also a graduate of the Broad Academy, the major “education reform” trainer and a board member for education reform group Teach for America. Mr. Pinkard is a Class of 1992 classmate of former chancellor Kaya Henderson from Georgetown University and former principal at Marie Reed ES, DCPS. The other three potential candidates have all been with DCPS since the appointment of former chancellor Michelle Rhee and the implementation of mayoral reform (6/12/2007). Mr. Davis was in the same Teach for America cohort as Michelle Rhee (Baltimore 1992).

At a time when there is growing concern that our president-elect may ignore legal procedures, the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor for Education should be setting an example of compliance with clearly spelled out legal procedures.

The 2007 PERAA law, which established mayoral control of DC schools, lists very clearly the categories of membership on the canceler selection review panel.

It reads:

“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 to aid the Mayor in his or her selection of Chancellor.”

Right now, only eleven of the seventeen members of the chancellor selection committee (otherwise known as the DCPS Rising Leadership Committee) meet those specific criteria. The PERAA calls for “students” (plural)–but only one was appointed. It calls for plural “representatives” of the WTU–not one, as currently exists. Moreover, three panel members are foundation officials, two of whom represent donor organizations with a history of shadow influence on DC public education policies (IMPACT, bonuses, excessing) via donor funding to bypass the Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

2 thoughts on “The Chancellor Game: Naming Names

  1. Well, we already have a public school system out of mayor control (at least according to the deputy mayor for education). That school system is DC public charter schools. Despite the happy parades of publicity about charter school test scores, the jury is completely out regarding whether our governance structure of charter schools is thorough, sustainable, and fiscally responsible and transparent–and even whether those vaunted test scores tell the whole story. We need to have an honest conversation about what we want from our public schools, how we want to have oversight, and how involved (or not) we want the public to be in all of that. And that doesn’t mean a hand-selected group of people having that conversation or city officials holding a few roundtables around the city every once in a while. It means deep public involvement, over years, that we just do not have here in DC right now (and for all I know, maybe never have had). I was hoping that the cross sector task force would be a start of that–but it’s very far removed from the ground in many respects and is very closed-off in terms of public engagement. IMO, having true public oversight of our schools involves a combination of factors–elected school board; no mayoral control; OSSE reporting to the school board, not the mayor; and term limits for school board members and/or strict campaign finance limitations, since we have seen that charter organizations and advocates have deep pockets to spend to ensure their interests are at the fore of our elected city representatives.

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