After multiple requests, the mayor’s office finally released the report of its “Chancellor Selection Advisory Panel” Tuesday. It has a few interesting bits, most notably a suggestion from co-chair Michael Lomax that the city create its own version of a “Truth and Reconciliation” commission to unpack the anger and resentment lingering among teachers and other school community stakeholders in the wake of the Fenty-Rhee era.
But if you want to know what the 18 panel members had to say about Kaya Henderson, you’ll have to read deep between the lines. With the exception of Washington Teachers’ Union president Nathan Saunders--whose views on Henderson are well understood--and co-chairs Lomax and Katherine Bradley, the 12-page document contains no attributed comments.
“In order to balance fairness to the panel members with the Mayor’s desire for transparency, we have prepared this version of our report, which retains the color and nuance that personal commentary provides, but without personal attribution,” explained Bradley, who wrote the report. It was “reviewed,” according to the document,by Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright.
The panel was a carefully calibrated mix of parents, teachers, administrators and local education elders. It included former D.C. Board of Education chair Peggy Cooper-Cafritz; Ballou Senior High School principal Rahman Branch; Wheatley EC teacher Dwight Davis; Malcolm X Elementary PTA president Kenisha Groomes-Faulk and Dunbar Senior High School senior Fabian Givens.
There was no evidence of any vetting by staff or panel members.The sole piece of research was a copy of Henderson’s resume. Much of the report was filled with carefully scrubbed anecdotal observations such as: “An educator told a story about a long-unresolved problem that Henderson fixed immediately after it came to her attention; this educator praised Henderson’s responsiveness.”
A parent pushed back at the “Truth and Reconciliation” suggestion from Lomax. “This is not Rwanda,” the parent said, stating that public figures do damage by using phrases in public like “blood on the floor” (a phrase Saunders once used) .
“The parent admonished the room to hold adults to a higher conduct standard,” Bradley wrote, “and asked that adults tone down their rhetoric and limit themselves to language that could be used ‘in front of a first grade class.’”
Bradley said that in the end most panel members expressed support for Gray’s choice of Henderson. “No panel member felt Henderson was not an appropriate candidate, and even Saunders nested his objections in the lack of choice and history of acrimony that needs to be overcome.”