By: Davis Kennedy
Lewis Ferebee, who served as the Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent, was nominated by Mayor Muriel Bowser to be the next chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools. According to the Indianapolis school system biography, Ferebee has a strong record improving schools he was responsible for. His appointment is subject to City Council approval.
Ferebee said he understands the complexities of leading a large urban school district in a growing city. He knows there’s “no one-size-fits-all solution” to meeting the needs of young people. And he has experienced building partnerships that ensure more students have a path toward success. Ferebee, Bowser said, “has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving student outcomes.”
He started his education career as an elementary school teacher in Newport News, Virginia. Then, Ferebee led the Indianapolis schools superintendent since September 2013, after serving three years as Chief of Staff in the Durham public schools. He also served as the Regional Superintendent for Guilford County Schools in North Carolina, where he worked as an instructional improvement officer and a school principal.
Ferebee earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership from East Carolina University, a master’s degree in School Administration from George Washington University, and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from North Carolina Central University.
When he was in North Carolina, he reduced the number of schools in Durham designated by the state as “low performing” to zero. He implemented a “pre-Advanced Placement” curriculum accessible to all middle school students, and he increased secondary math performance to a proficiency rate above 95 percent. Ferebee managed to raise millions of dollars via the “Federal Race to the Top”.
According to the Indianapolis school system’s biography of him, he has “extensive experience in attenuating the impact of poverty on academic achievement goals, strategic turnaround for struggling Title I Schools, and aggressive reductions in the dropout rate with concurrent increases in the graduation rate as compared to state performance.”
Bowser further said Ferebee significantly increased the number of students in early education programs and was one of three finalists to head the Los Angeles, California school system.
Bowser publicly thanked Dr. Amanda Alexander, interim chancellor since February. “She ensured that were able to finish our last school year strong, continue our improvements regarding data integrity and begin the current school year better prepared to tackle long-standing challenge,” Bowser said.
Council member David Grosso, the chair of the Council’s Committee on Education, said the vetting of Ferebee “should not be taken lightly or hastily.” He added that the Committee on Education will not schedule public engagement sessions this month or move it through the Council before the end of 2018.
“When the Council returns in January,” Grosso said, “I intend to hold two public engagement sessions in the community, one in Ward 7 and one in Ward 1, before the confirmation hearing at the Wilson Building.”
However, Ferebee has faced previous criticism by some candidates in the recent Indianapolis School Board race decision to allow school choice. Candidates who support his policies have won spots on the board the last several elections.
Among his policies there were partnerships with charter operators, a system for students to enroll in charter and district magnet schools and the closure of three high schools. The coalition, which opposed him, was aligned with the local teachers union.