and, despite the fact that the meeting is not listed on the city’s public calendar, it is listed on the chancellor selection website as occurring tomorrow, Tuesday October 9, between 4 and 6 pm, Department of Employment Services, 4058 Minnesota Ave NE, in the community room.
Tomorrow’s meeting of the chancellor selection panel is, in fact, its second to last meeting–albeit the first meeting that includes new members added on September 13, in response to the lawsuit that I and five other plaintiffs filed against the city. The lawsuit alleged that the law was not being followed and that the panel should be comprised of parents, students, and teachers.
Those new panel members added in September are two students; one parent; and two teachers. That means that the chancellor selection panel is now comprised of 19 members, 7 of whom are not, by the city’s own description of them, parents, teachers or students.
In fact, each of those seven members have been appointed by the mayor as a “community member with a strong interest in DCPS,” according to the city’s filing in the lawsuit on September 19. Also in that filing, the city argued that the new members were actually there as of June 28—when the mayor first announced the panel.
(Time travel apparently IS real!)
As welcome as the new panel members are–tipping the majority of the panel to be actual DCPS stakeholders–reality is a bit, uh, grimmer.
At the lawsuit’s last hearing on September 28, to issue a preliminary injunction until the entire panel consisted of DCPS parents, teachers, and students, Judge Anthony Epstein of the DC Superior Court basically stopped us plaintiffs in our tracks.
In his oral decision (not written–a transcript of the hearing is here), the judge ruled that
—we plaintiffs did not show that the mayor’s decision would be rendered differently if the panel was constituted differently and
—removing people off the panel who aren’t parents, teachers, and students doesn’t serve the public interest, as that interest is in “ensuring that the mayor gets input from a full range of people” and
–having people who are not parents, students, teachers and union members “furthers the legislative intent” and gives parents, teachers, students and union members “an opportunity to directly influence” those non-parents, teachers, and student members the mayor appointed and
—leaving people the mayor wants on the panel who are not parents, teachers, or students protects “the right of the mayor” to get all the input she wants and needs and
—the statute itself doesn’t give us plaintiffs an interest in limiting the membership of the panel to just parents, teachers, and students and
—we plaintiffs did not show that the panelists currently there have different opinions than DCPS stakeholders or that there would be “substantial harm or irreparable injury caused by the current makeup of the review panel.”
The upshot is not only that we plaintiffs realistically cannot (and will not) proceed, but that in the future, the mayor could theoretically appoint only a few DCPS parents, teachers and students to the chancellor selection panel and be fine.
[Confidential to the DC council and the rest of DC’s 690,000 taxpayers: We plaintiffs were not the only people that judge ruled against.]
At one point, Greg Smith, our plaintiffs’ lawyer, was stopped from speaking about why who is on the panel matters. Shortly thereafter, the judge noted that if some panelists disagreed with the majority view of the panel, however it was constituted, they could issue a press release saying so.
So, here’s a little more about those seven panelists, who are–by the city’s own description of them in that September 19 court filing–not serving as DCPS parents, teachers, or students:
Sylvia Mathews Burwell: Lives in Ward 4 and is president of American University. She apparently never worked as a teacher, but headed the Gates and Walmart foundations. The Gates Foundation has openly supported charter schools, while the family behind Walmart, the Waltons (and their family foundation), support charter schools as well.
Both the Walton and Gates foundations have donated money to politicians as well to support charter schools and ed reform (see here).
In July this year, one of the Walmart heirs, Alice Walton, gave $150,000 to the local independent expenditure committee of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)—basically a political slush fund for local ed reform activists.
(Burwell herself has given more than $3000 to the Walmart political action committee (PAC) between 2011 and 2013. Walmart has gotten into trouble regarding misrepresenting the actions of its PAC, while employees were incentivized to participate in the PAC.)
Antwayne Ford: Lives in Ward 4 and was appointed chair of the workforce investment council by Mayor Bowser; is also the head of a private IT firm that does work for the city and potentially for DCPS.
He is also a former board member of Washington Mathematics, Science and Technology charter high school; the school was closed earlier this year by the charter board for fiscal problems.
Ford and his wife have given Mayor Bowser $3000 in campaign donations since the end of January. The CFO of Ford’s company, Andre Rogers, gave Bowser $2000 in January 2018 and $500 in October 2014.
Sean Gough: Lives in Ward 4 and on the website for the panel, he is listed only as an alumnus of Coolidge HS. However, on a prior incarnation of that list and on his own web page, he appears to work for Friendship Public Charter school as their government relations person. With the second largest amount of net assets in DC charters ($38 million) and many campuses, Friendship is a direct competitor to DCPS, occupying a host of closed DCPS schools across the eastern part of the city. Gough and his parents (who also live in Ward 4) have given Mayor Bowser $1700 in campaign contributions since 2007.
Danielle Hamberger: Director of education initiatives at the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, which supports ed reform interests and local charter schools, she previously worked for the CityBridge Foundation, which is a major supporter of education reform and charter schools in DC, headed by Katherine Bradley, a major donor to local politicians as well as to DFER. At Clark, Hamberger is in charge of finding grantees.
Charlene Drew Jarvis: Lives in Ward 4 and sits on the UDC board of trustees. A former Ward 4 council member and former KIPP DC board member, Jarvis along with her relatives (and a related LLC called Crestwood Holdings) have given Mayor Bowser $3000 in campaign donations since October 2017. In fact, since 2014, Mayor Bowser has benefitted from more than $7000 in campaign contributions from Jarvis and her family members. Jarvis has also headed up Venture Philanthropy Partners, which has provided major funding to DC charter schools.
Jeanie Lee: A parent at a Ward 4 DCPS school and president and executive director of the DC public education fund, Lee fundraises from private groups and organizations for DCPS, such as the foundations other panelists represent or have represented (Meyer, Clark, Gates). Before that, Lee worked for a private organization called Fight for Children, which has in the past funded local charter school efforts and promoted charter schools and ed reform. Its current board contains prominent local ed reform people, including two DC mayors, Fenty and Williams.
Victor Reinoso: Lives in Ward 4 and is CEO of Decision Science Labs (which could potentially have business with DCPS) and is a former deputy mayor for education. He is a former board member of EL Haynes charter school and former associate of NewSchools Venture Fund; Bellwether Education Partners, and DFER, all charter and ed. reform advocacy organizations. He gave Mayor Bowser $350 since 2014 in campaign funds. He has not been beloved by local teachers and was associated with a plagiarized school takeover plan. He also worked at the Federal City Council in a capacity in which he increased charter schools and ed reform in DC. (See his resume here.)
Sooo, bottom line:
The seven members of the panel who are categorized by the city as neither parents, teachers, or students overwhelmingly represent Ward 4 and have interests in charter schools, ed reform, and/or campaign or possible business interests with the mayor or city. Moreover, their inclusion on the 19-member panel means that a relatively large portion of the group (at least 8 of 19, by my count) is intimately connected with areas to the north and west of the city–that is, those areas with the most wealth and fewer public school students.
Anyhoo, the last meeting of the panel is slated for October 22, during which the panel will present its recommendations. According to at least one of the panel members, the panel has been told that it will not be reviewing candidate resumes, as the statute states, but compiling notes from public meetings and issuing recommendations for the mayor.
For the record, here’s the statute:
“Prior to the selection of a nominee for Chancellor, 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.”
(Hmm: If the panel does not in fact review resumes, maybe someone can issue a press release?)