The new chancellor for D.C. Public Schools should be someone who is deeply committed to closing achievement gaps in the District, according to a community engagement report released this week by the search committee.
More than 400 parents, students and community members submitted feedback to the 17-member search committee, with the majority of respondents noting that they want a leader who is going to focus on equity and improving education outcomes for the city’s lowest-performing schools.
For the past decade, D.C. Public Schools chancellors focused on increasing enrollment, graduation rates and test scores. While the system has seen improvements in those areas, the school system still has vast achievement gaps between white students and students of color.
“To have listed those things as a priority means that people are listening to the whole city and not just their little corner of it,” said Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer C. Niles, who led the community engagement sessions.
The search committee sent Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) a list of priorities for the next chancellor, who will succeed Kaya Henderson. She stepped down last month. In addition to closing achievement gaps, the committee said, Bowser should look for someone who will increase communication with parents and the community, prioritize teacher retention and improve school culture and safety.
The committee has no say in who will become the chancellor. That decision belongs to Bowser. She was expected to name a new chancellor in October, but Niles said the timeline has been pushed back after community members and the committee raised concerns that the search felt rushed.
Niles did not provide a new timeline, saying that Bowser will begin interviewing candidates soon and will “name the chancellor as soon as she finds the right chancellor.”
“She is not going to name somebody because the due date is coming up. She is going to make sure she has found the right person,” Niles said.
Bowser tapped John Davis, the system’s chief of schools, to serve as the interim chancellor after Henderson left Oct. 1. Davis told The Washington Post last month that he wants to keep the job permanently.
Niles said Davis is not a shoo-in for the job and will have to compete with other candidates.
“[Bowser] is going to look at what the community said and weigh that against the strengths of each of the candidates she is considering,” Niles said.