Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) plans to reconvene the panel advising her on the selection of a schools chancellor this weekend, indicating that a pick to lead the District’s public schools is imminent.
The mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments — the city’s employee recruitment arm — is scheduled to lead a presentation at the Saturday meeting, according to an agenda for the meeting.
The agenda says the panel, known as the Our Schools Leadership Committee, is expected to meet privately for part of the meeting.
Two panel members, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said they expect to review the résumés of finalists being considered for the position. City law requires the mayor to provide the panel with the résumés.
The pick will mark a turning point for the 49,000-student school system, which has endured a scandal-filled, turbulent year and operated without a permanent leader for nine months.
“The Mayor is reconvening the Our Schools DC Leadership Committee before she makes her final decision,” Bowser’s office said in a statement.
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.
Amanda Alexander, a school system veteran, was tapped as interim chancellor. She is a candidate for the permanent position and is expected to be one of the finalists.
The mayor launched the chancellor search in May and has received criticism from education watchdogs for how she has led it. Parents sued Bowser, arguing that her chancellor advisory panel did not include enough students and teachers. In response, Bowser expanded the board.
At a D.C. Council meeting in November, Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn testified that the selection committee had been disbanded after it submitted a report outlining what the public hopes to see in its next chancellor.
That riled parents and activists who said the committee had yet to review a single résumé, which is required by city law.
Two years ago, when Bowser selected Wilson to run the city’s schools, members of an advisory panel complained that they were shown résumés only after Wilson was chosen.
“I’m looking forward to finishing the process as quickly as possible with as much transparency as possible and to make sure that we are able to review the résumés of all applicants who are interested in the position,” said Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union and a member of the chancellor advisory panel.
D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), chairman of the council’s education committee, told The Washington Post this week that the city has struggled to recruit outside candidates for the job and that recent scandals have dissuaded people from applying. The D.C. Council must approve the mayor’s nominee for the position.
The city has a strong internal candidate in Alexander, who has been with the school system for nearly 20 years, specializing in elementary school instruction. She served as D.C. Public Schools’ chief of elementary schools.
In nine months at the helm, she has built a team in the school system’s central offices, including hiring two deputy chancellors — among the most powerful positions in the school system.
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.”
Arne Duncan — who served as education secretary in the Obama administration and is not involved in the D.C. selection process — said major school systems tend to look for leaders outside their cities, but he urged the District to consider homegrown talent.
“There’s a tremendous amount of talent in D.C.,” Duncan said. “I would strongly encourage the community to consider someone with strong ties to the city, who has roots there, knows the streets, knows the schools and knows the community.”