D.C. chief of schools fi­nal­ists are iden­ti­fied

In­terim dis­trict leader, In­di­ana su­per­in­ten­dent have met with com­mit­tee

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY PERRY STEIN

Two fi­nal­ists to lead the Dis­trict’s pub­lic schools emerged Satur­day af­ter a six-month search for a chan­cel­lor, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple with knowl­edge of the process: Amanda Alexan­der, the in­terim D.C. chan­cel­lor, and In­di­anapo­lis Pub­lic Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Lewis D. Fere­bee.

In Alexan­der, the city would have a 20-year vet­eran of the school sys­tem who has built a team of deputies dur­ing her ninemonth ten­ure as in­terim chan­cel­lor of the 49,000-stu­dent sys­tem. Fere­bee is a high-pro­file fig­ure in the ed­u­ca­tion world who has led the In­di­anapo­lis schools since 2013, build­ing re­la­tion­ships with the tra­di­tional school sys­tem and the char­ter sec­tor. He was a fi­nal­ist to lead the Los An­ge­les school dis­trict but with­drew from con­sid­er­a­tion in April.

The names emerged fol­low­ing

last-minute meet­ing of the com­mit­tee ad­vis­ing Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on the se­lec­tion of a schools chan­cel­lor Satur­day. The panel ques­tioned the fi­nal­ists in a pri­vate meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to the mayor’s of­fice. That ses­sion lasted for about 21/2 hours.

The mayor’s of­fice de­clined to con­firm the iden­ti­ties of the fi­nal­ists but is­sued a state­ment about Satur­day’s meet­ing.

“The Our Schools DC Lead­er­ship Com­mit­tee had the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with the fi­nal­ists in or­der to pro­vide feed­back to the Mayor be­fore she makes her fi­nal de­ci­sion,” the mayor’s of­fice said.

Alexan­der and Fere­bee did not re­spond to calls seek­ing com­ment.

It was un­clear Satur­day night when a de­ci­sion on a chan­cel­lor will be made.

Dur­ing the pub­lic por­tion of Satur­day’s meet­ing, an aide to Bowser told mem­bers of the panel that more than 40 peo­ple had ex­pressed in­ter­est in run­ning the Dis­trict’s school sys­tem.

Steve Walker, di­rec­tor of the Mayor’s Of­fice of Tal­ent and Ap­point­ments, said su­per­in­ten­dents, deputy su­per­in­ten­dents, fed­eral gov­ern­ment work­ers and em­ploy­ees of univer­si­ties through­out the coun­try con­tacted the Dis­trict about the open­ing.

“That’s the pro­file of the peo­ple who ex­pressed in­ter­est,” Walker said.

Walker said the city de­ter­mined 20 of the 40 peo­ple were ca­pa­ble of lead­ing the school sys­tem. The city then whit­tled the list to eight can­di­dates in Novem­ber. As­pi­rants in­cluded busi­ness and com­mu­nity lead­ers.

Walker did not re­veal the names of the ap­pli­cants.

The pub­lic por­tion of the meet­ing at the Old Coun­cil Cham­bers lasted less than 15 min­utes. From there, the 15 pan­elists in at­ten­dance met with Walker and Deputy Mayor for Ed­u­ca­tion Paul Kihn be­hind closed doors, where they had been ex­pected to re­view ré­sumés of the fi­nal­ists.

By law, the mayor is re­quired to con­vene the panel and pro­vide mem­bers with the ré­sumés of can­di­dates that she is con­sid­er­ing for the job. The mayor is un­der pres­sure from ac­tivists and mem­bers of the D.C. Coun­cil to fol­low the law and have a trans­par­ent process.

The chan­cel­lor position — one of the mayor’s most po­lit­i­cally con­se­quen­tial ap­point­ments — has been va­cant since Ant­wan Wil­son re­signed in Fe­bru­ary amid con­tro­versy af­ter a lit­tle more than a year on the job. Wil­son skirted school sys­tem rules to get one of his chil­dren a spot in a her­alded high school.

Alexan­der has said she hopes to de­ploy more cen­tral-of­fice em­ploy­ees to work in the schools. This, she said, could give strug­gling schools re­sources they need to close the per­sis­tent achieve­ment gap be­tween stu­dents from low-in­come fam­i­lies and those from more af­flu­ent ones.

“I’ve stayed pretty true to my­self and my core be­liefs in this in­terim chan­cel­lor role,” Alexan­der said in Novem­ber. “If I were to have the priv­i­lege of serv­ing as per­ma­nent chan­cel­lor, I would def­i­nitely put more time and en­ergy into align­ing the work of cen­tral of­fice to what schools need on the ground.”

Alexan­der had ap­plied to re­place Kaya Hen­der­son when she left the chan­cel­lor’s post in 2016.

Alexan­der started her ca­reer in 1998 as a kinder­garten teacher in the Dis­trict. She left for New York for two years be­fore re­turn­ing to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, where she served as prin­ci­pal of Bunker Hill and Ross el­e­men­tary schools. At Ross, test scores rose dra­mat­i­cala ly un­der her watch.

In 2013, Alexan­der was tapped by Hen­der­son to serve as deputy chief of schools and rose to chief of el­e­men­tary schools a few years later. In her most re­cent role, she over­saw the city’s el­e­men­tary schools and su­per­vised six in­struc­tional su­per­in­ten­dents who man­aged and men­tored the lower school prin­ci­pals.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion on the web­site of the In­di­anapo­lis school sys­tem, Fere­bee pre­vi­ously served in po­si­tions in the Guil­ford County Schools in North Carolina, in­clud­ing as re­gional su­per­in­ten­dent. He also was a prin­ci­pal and as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal in North Carolina.

The In­di­anapo­lis web­site

More than 40 had ex­pressed in­ter­est in run­ning the sys­tem.

shows that Fere­bee has an ear­lier con­nec­tion to the Dis­trict: He re­ceived a mas­ter’s de­gree in school ad­min­is­tra­tion from Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity.

When Fere­bee with­drew from con­sid­er­a­tion for the Los An­ge­les schools job, he re­leased a state­ment, ac­cord­ing to the In­di­anapo­lis Star.

“Re­cently, I was an­nounced as one of the fi­nal­ists for the Los An­ge­les Uni­fied School Dis­trict su­per­in­ten­dent position,” Fere­bee said in April. “Af­ter fur­ther dis­cussing this en­deavor with my fam­ily, the In­di­anapo­lis Board of School Com­mis­sion­ers, and those han­dling the search process, I have with­drawn my name from con­sid­er­a­tion. It was an honor to have been con­sid­ered for an op­por­tu­nity of this mag­ni­tude.”

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