Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Wednesday she will start the search for a new D.C. schools chancellor after the Democratic primary for mayor on June 19.
Bowser, who is seeking reelection, faces no serious challengers and the deadline to enter the Democratic primary has passed.
Amanda Alexander has served as the school system’s interim chancellor since February, when Antwan Wilson abruptly resigned as head of the system amid revelations that he had skirted the city’s school lottery system to transfer his daughter to a top high school.
“Right after the primary, we will begin our search for the next chancellor,” Bowser said.
Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who chairs the council’s education committee, said Wednesday he wrote a letter to the mayor last week calling on her to formalize a timeline for hiring a chancellor and a deputy mayor for education, another position without a permanent occupant.
Bowser’s remarks came at a Wednesday breakfast event billed as a discussion on the state of education in D.C.
The D.C. Public Education Fund — a nonprofit group created in 2007 to raise money to support the school system’s overhaul efforts — hosted the event in the downstairs music venue at The Hamilton in downtown Washington.
Billionaire David Rubenstein, a philanthropist and founder of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group, led the conversation. Local education leaders and prominent donors to the school system attended the event.
But Rubenstein did not ask the mayor to directly address scandals plaguing the public schools — most notably, a city-commissioned report that found that one of every three graduates in 2017 received their diplomas despite missing too many classes or improperly taking makeup classes.
They also did not discuss results from a national standardized test released Tuesday, which showed that D.C. students made no substantial gains in math and reading between 2015 and 2017 and still lag their peers in other urban school districts.
Instead, Rubenstein steered the lighthearted conversation to potholes, statehood and the prospect of Amazon’s second headquarters landing in D.C.
“Explain why we have so many potholes,” Rubenstein asked at one point. The mayor explained that every big city has potholes but talked about her efforts to fix them.
Bowser did, however, discuss the growth of the school system and how the city is working to attract new families. Rubenstein asked if Bowser would urge new families to enroll in a traditional public school or a charter school, all of which are taxpayer-funded. The mayor said she has no preference.
“They are all public schools,” she said. “My job is to make sure there is a great school in every neighborhood.”
Bowser touted her investments in schools and defended mayoral control of education in D.C. In 2007, control of the District’s public schools shifted from an elected school board to the mayor’s office, paving the way for a decade of aggressive changes in the city’s schools by Bowser and her predecessors. Critics say that recent scandals are an indictment of mayoral control because there is too much political incentive for the mayor to make the school system look good even when it’s struggling.
“Having a single line of accountability doesn’t ensure nothing will go wrong,” Bowser said Wednesday, “but it does ensure there is a streamlined way to fix things.”
The first-term mayor said the city’s schools have made significant progress in the past decade, but acknowledged improvements are still needed.
Rubenstein concluded the event by asking audience members to raise their hands if they believed the mayor was doing a “good job.”
Most hands went up.