Stacking The Deck: Chancellor Selection Edition

So, we now have a small group of people not representative of the population helping select someone unelected for an important public position to make decisions that could last for generations.

Oh, you thought I was talking about the new supreme court justice?

Well, I was talking about the search for our new DCPS chancellor.

Let’s look at the legally required selection panel, just announced by the mayor:

* = ties to DCPS
# = ties to charter and ed. reform interests

Co-chairs:

*#Sylvia Mathews Burwell, American University president; not a DCPS teacher, parent or student, Burwell worked for the Gates and Wal-Mart foundations, both charter supporters [Update 7/3/18: See comment below noting that Burwell is a DCPS parent]

#Charlene Drew Jarvis, UDC board of trustees; a former KIPP DC board member, and not a DCPS parent, teacher, or student, Jarvis and her relatives have given Mayor Bowser $2000 in campaign donations since October

Committee Members

*Anita Berger, Banneker HS principal and not a DCPS parent, teacher, or student
*Rosa Carrillo, DCPS parent and language services program director of Multicultural Community Services
*Tumeka Coleman, DCPS Walker-Jones EC teacher
*Elizabeth Davis, president, Washington Teachers’ Union
#Antwanye Ford, chair of DC’s Workforce Investment Council; not a DCPS parent, student, or teacher, but a former board member of Washington Math, Science and Technology charter high school, he and his wife have given Mayor Bowser $3000 in campaign donations since the end of January
*#Nicky Goren, DCPS parent; works for the Meyer Foundation, which supports local charter schools
#Sean Gough, director of government relations at Friendship charter school; not a DCPS parent, teacher, or student
#Danielle Hamberger, director of education initiatives at the Clark Foundation, which supports local charter schools, and not a DCPS parent, teacher, or student
*Arnebya Herndon, DCPS parent
*Jeanie Lee, president of DC Public Education Fund; not a DCPS teacher, parent, or student
*Zion Matthews, DCPS student
*#Victor Reinoso, DCPS parent, former deputy mayor for education, former board member of EL Haynes charter school; and associate of NewSchools Venture Fund; Bellwether Education Partners, and Democrats for Education Reform, all charter and ed. reform advocacy organizations.

All told, of the 14 people on the selection panel, half have ties to charter and ed reform interests. And several were the source of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for the mayor.

[Confidential note to Mayor Bowser: Does this mean that if I and two of my DCPS BFFs donate $5000 to your current campaign, one of us will be named by you to serve on the charter board? I mean, this is the selection panel for the DCPS chancellor we’re talking about here! Why have any charter reps at all, as there have been zero purely DCPS reps. EVER on the charter board? Or is this all OK here because, um, well, because cross sector something something?]

Then, too, of those 14 people on the selection panel, there are a total of 1 teacher; 1 student; and 4 [Update 7/3/18: 5, including Burwell] parents, [with more than] half of the parents having ties to ed. reform and charter interests.

The law regarding chancellor selection states (boldface mine) that “the Mayor shall establish a review panel of teacherS, including representatives of the WTU, parentS, and studentS to aid the Mayor . . . in the selection of the Chancellor.” The law also says nothing about principals or officials from organizations unrelated to DCPS serving on the selection panel.

Notwithstanding the (remote) possibility that the singular student and teacher selected for this panel have multiple personalities, the math here simply doesn’t add up: there are more than a hundred THOUSAND parents and students in DCPS and several THOUSAND teachers.

And yet we have a rep from Friendship charter school on this panel and not even TWO DCPS teachers or students??

Gees, Mayor Bowser: it’s nice that you’re soliciting limited feedback on the next chancellor from us unwashed masses, but can’t you dial back the public dissing?

Amazingly, all of this is downright familiar in DC public education:

For instance, several years ago the process to change school boundaries showed that people wanted, overwhelmingly, a strong system of by right public schools in every neighborhood.

Since then, our city leaders have enacted policies and taken actions that ensure that remains a pipe dream:

–Thousands of new seats have been created in the charter sector, with little public notification. (One–Statesman–will start this fall without any public notification or input whatsoever beforehand. Yeah: check out these public comments.) Without commensurate growth in the population of school-age children, the result is a declining share of DCPS enrollment–all without any public agreement whatsoever.

–A closed DCPS school (Kenilworth) was offered to a charter school in violation of several DC laws, including public notification; RFO to other charter schools; and approval of the council. (I am still waiting for my FOIA request to DCPS about this to be answered, since no one on the council, at the deputy mayor for education’s office, or at DCPS ever answered my questions as to how this offer actually came about.)

–A test-heavy school rating system was approved, which tracks closely with what our charter board uses, without any consideration for what the public actually said it wanted. (And with a private ed. reform lobbying organization phonebanking to ensure it got what it–not the public–wanted.)

–Ours is a public education landscape in which wealthy privatizers set the conversation (watch the linked video starting at 1:21:25); determine the way in which schools are judged; and profit from it all, while the public is left far, far behind.

–Despite clear data showing problems in both sectors for graduation accountability and absences, there has been little movement in city leadership to ensure both sectors are equally analyzed.

In the same manner, in our new chancellor selection panel the public is disenfranchised and the law not followed, while personnel from private groups are heavily involved and stand to profit in a variety of ways.

Hmm: Familiar indeed.

9 thoughts on “Stacking The Deck: Chancellor Selection Edition

  1. Not sure what you mean: The 14 people on the panel include one student, one teacher, and four parents. That leaves 8–more than half the panel–who are not parents, teachers, or students. Moreover, the law is very clear what is required of the panel’s composition–and it isn’t just one teacher and just one student.

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  2. Thanks for the update–I updated the post to reflect your comment. This means that of the 14 people on the panel, there is one student, one teacher, and FIVE parents. That leaves half of the panel not parents, teachers, or students–and the entire panel without the plural teachers and students required by law.

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  3. Silvia Mathews Burwell ran one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world — HHS — for three years.
    And she did it well. She knows something about how to improve big systems.

    Making her a co-chair isn’t like parachuting in a businessperson or activist (whose voices are needed too of course) — Burwell as the co-chair is choosing a leader who has substantial experience dealing with government bureaucracies.

    We as DCPS parents should be happy to have her.

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  4. Thanks for the note about Burwell’s accomplishments. Unfortunately, this is not a process in which anyone on the panel can “improve big systems.”

    Rather, it is a process of selecting someone to lead a school system–and in that role, this panel is advisory only.

    Moreover, the law is very clear in stating who comprises the panel: parents, teachers, and students. The law does not state that bureaucrats, businesspeople, or really anyone who does not have some intimate connection to the school system should serve on the panel.

    That aspect of the law is almost entirely lacking here–and for no reason that I can see except political. After all, there is no mysterious shortage of DCPS parents capable and willing to serve on the panel who are also unencumbered by ties to charter and ed. reform interests! And certainly with more than 50,000 students, DCPS has plenty who could serve beyond the ONE student currently selected–which is in fact not what the law requires anyway.

    In all of this, it’s not a matter of whether the current panelists are excellent in what they do–it’s that the mayor is not following the letter or even spirit of the law, which in this incarnation is also disrespectful of DCPS’s student, parent, and teacher communities.

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