By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
A line of students from Anne Beers Elementary, 3600 Alabama Ave SE, walked through their school’s front entrance and were greeted by a new face. A tall distinguished man, with glasses and a ready smile, met each child with a handshake, a hug or a pat on the back.
It took only a millisecond for most kids to smile back and acknowledge Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee as their new Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. Winning over parents and the community will be a bigger task.
On his first official day with students, Ferebee toured the building, sat in on classes and talked to parents about the future of DCPS.
Ferebee has a long career in education. Most notably he was superintendent for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) which has more than 60 campuses and employs more than 4,500 educators and staff, serving 32,000 students and has a budget of over $500 million.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser offered her endorsement last month saying, “Dr. Ferebee is someone with experience leading at all levels of public education – from serving in the classroom and as an elementary and middle school principal to leading a system that serves more than 30,000 students. He is a strong leader and educator, and has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to providing all students and families high-quality educational opportunities.”
During the meet and greet Jan. 24 at Anne Beers, equity and quality of education immediately became the most pressing topics.
“Understanding what people are referring to when they talk about equity, my understanding is that we’re talking about allocation of resources,” Ferebee said. “First for me is getting a deep understanding of how resources are allocated to schools. How can we ensure their equitably distributed to schools and how can we bolster transparency?”
Ferebee addressed concerns about charter school and their increasing enrollment.
“Our focus has to be on the students that are enrolled in our schools,” Ferebee said. “We’ve actually seen an uptick in enrollment.”
And he realized that there needs to be some rebuilting of relationships between DCPS and parents.
“The best thing we can do at this point is be as transparent as possible of how resources are allocated,” Ferebee repeated. “When you’ve had difficulty with trust and there is a need to build confidence, which we obviously have, the one way I’ve found to do that is to be as transparent as possible,” Ferebee said.
“The community can anticipate greater transparency in how schools are funded and how resources are allocated.”
Ferebee has been praised in the past for some of his programs with IPS, but he said not to expect every initiative to be the same in D.C.
“I am proud that throughout my career my record has been to create innovative solutions, but those solutions have not been the same from district to district and community to community,” Ferebee said. “Our new and creative solutions for D.C. Public Schools will be different from solutions in indianapolis. You can’t transportat strategies from one city to another city.”
And just what is his idea of a successful DCPS?
“For me, this is a macro perspective, a high quality option in every neighborhood in every grade level where families can count on us that they see a continuum, that their child can matriculate to graduation in the District of Columbia Public School System,” Ferebee said.
Ferebee holds a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from East Carolina University, a Master of Arts in School Administration and Supervision from the George Washington University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from North Carolina Central University. He will earn a base salary of $280,000 in his position.
In December D.C. Council Member David Grosso (I-At Large), who heads the Committee on Education, did not hold back his opinion on the mayor’s nomination of Dr. Ferebee.
“In Dr. Ferebee, the mayor has chosen to nominate an individual from outside of the District of Columbia. The vetting of such a candidate should not be taken lightly or hastily. Due to the late nature of this nomination in the legislative process, the Committee on Education will not schedule public engagement sessions this month and has no plans to move it through the Council before the end of the legislative session. I encourage Dr. Ferebee to seize this time as an opportunity to meet with DCPS students, family, teachers, and staff in preparation for his confirmation process.”
Dr. Ferebee said he had conversations with Council members since arriving. A confirmation hearing for Dr. Ferebee is scheduled for January 30 by the D.C. Council.
Results of the hearing were not available by press time.