- - Monday, December 3, 2018


Drum roll, please, for the new leadership of D.C. Public Schools (DCPS): Paul Kihn, who’s slated to become the deputy mayor for education, and Lewis D. Ferebee, named Monday as the incoming chancellor.

Both nominees must be confirmed by the D.C. Council. So, why the request for a drum roll so soon?

Well, unless you were a D.C. parent or a D.C. leader privileged enough to have had a sitdown with either of these gentlemen, you haven’t a clue as to who they are and what their agendas are.

So, honor them now, because from here on out, it’s going to be a bumpy road.

Either Mr. Kihn is the kind of leader who can lift all DCPS boats out of the swamp, especially those with youths and unintended casualties, or he’s not.

As for Mr. Ferebee, suffice it to say he’ll have to face more competing political, fiscal and community factions to public schooling in the District than there are U.S. senators.

And, perhaps, Mr. Ferebee will occasionally tune into the council’s CCTV channel before he attends his own confirmation hearing, considering that Mr. Kihn had no HOV, uh, hall pass to hand the council before his own confirmation hearing last month. Mr. Kihn failed to give detailed responses to lawmakers’ queries, and many observers construed that as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mandate.

Oh, well.

Mayor Muriel Bowser usually gets what she asks for, and she wants a school system that will be wiped clean of the headline-making scandals at DCPS over the last two years:

⦁ A grading-fixing scandal in one of the newest school facilities in the city, Ballou High School, which “graduated” scores and scores of students who hadn’t earned diplomas.

⦁ A residency scandal involving scores of students at the Ellington School of the Performing Arts, an internationally acclaimed arts magnet school, and enormous cost overruns for a complete modernization. (Benjamin Banneker High School, a math and science magnet school is up next, and opponents of the mayor’s plans are united and very vocal, as they should be.)

⦁ A hierarchical scandal that opened the vacancies in the office of the deputy mayor and the chancellor.

⦁ A leadership and oversight vacuum on the council and in the mayor’s seat, prompting the questions: What did you know about the scandals, and what did you do about them?

⦁ An unacknowledged unemployment situation in too many teens and young adults are jobless unless they are part of the annual D.C. summer jobs programs.

The council must play hard ball this go round, as the scandals over the last two years have proven that lawmakers’ oversight of Mr. Ferebee’s and Mr. Kihn’s predecessors unveiled not a thing. Even Miss Bowser was relatively mum.

Lawmakers, especially members of the Education Committee, must keep in mind that a nominee’s CV isn’t designed for deep dives, and that DCPS’ pass or fail grade also depends on how the school system is viewed by the White House and Congress — where you can never count chickens before they are hatched.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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