The Washington Post

Charter board close to picking executive director

The D.C. Public Charter School Board is wrapping up its search for a successor to executive director Josephine Baker. Two sources familiar with the process --who asked for anonymity because they don’t want to tick off the board--say three local names are on the short list: Thurgood Marshall Academy co-founder Joshua Kern, DCPS transformation management chief Abigail Smith and DCPS innovation director Josh Edelman.

Board Chairman Brian Jones declined Wednesday to discuss specifics, including whether any candidates from outside D.C. were in play. He said that the full board has interviewed a group of finalists and will make a decision by early September.

“Right now we’re talking to references and doing due diligence,” Jones said. “I’m satisfied that we’ve got a first-rate slate of applicants.”

Kern and Edelman did not respond to requests for comment. Smith, asked if she was a candidate, said in an e-mail: “Working hard at DCPS!”

The decision is a critical one for the board, which votes to open and close charter schools. The executive director runs the board’s staff, evaluates school performance, reviews charter applicants and represents the board with the District government and OSSE.

The next executive director will oversee the launch of a long-planned performance management system that establishes a standard set of measures to assess academic achievement, financial stability and governance at the 53 independently-operated schools. The new leader will also have to address growing sentiment on the board for selection of more innovative charter operators and a continued push to close underperforming schools.

Kern stepped down this summer as head of Ward 8 school, the highest performing open enrollment high school in the city. Earlier this year he was widely mentioned as a possible deputy mayor for education in the Gray administration, a job that ultimately went to De’Shawn Wright.

Smith, a one-time Teach for America recruit and leader, played a key role in bringing Michelle Rhee to the District while serving as a special assistant to former deputy mayor Victor Reinoso. As a senior manager for Rhee and current Chancellor Kaya Henderson, her portfolio has included enrollment projections, the out-of-boundary lottery and strategic planning.

Edelman, a former principal for SEED charter boarding school, directed Chicago’s charter schools before Rhee appointed him to the innovations post in 2009. His responsibilities have included DCPS’ partnerships with outside organizations that operate several schools.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.


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