Acting Chancellor sits down with The Beacon

Ellida Parker, Zara Hall, and Elie Salem

Acting Chancellor Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee is visiting schools and learning about the issues confronting DCPS as he wraps up his first months leading the school system. In an interview with The Beacon, Ferebee outlined his agenda, discussing the achievement gap, early childhood education, and school choice.

Mayor Muriel Bowser nominated Ferebee in early December as the long-term replacement for former chancellor Antwan Wilson, who resigned last February after revelations that he bypassed the school lottery system to place his daughter at Wilson. Bowser opted to nominate Ferebee rather than Interim Chancellor Amanda Alexander.

Ferebee is awaiting confirmation after three public City Council hearings. The Council must vote on his confirmation by April 9 or he will be automatically approved.

Ferebee previously held the position of superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, where he was known for raising graduation rates, improving the district’s financial standing, and increasing school choice options.

His choice to turn struggling schools over to charter operators in Indianapolis has faced criticism from the Council and community members. Ferebee has stated that he will not replicate his Indianapolis approach in DC. “I don’t have a specific position on what the place of charter schools should be here in DC,” said Ferebee in his interview with The Beacon. “I think that when families express a desire to have a choice [between public and charter schools], they should have that choice. My goal is to ensure that DCPS is that prefered option that families choose,” he added.

As chancellor of DCPS, Ferebee plans to focus on closing the city’s prevalent achievement gap and ensuring equal distribution of resources at schools across all eight wards. “There are certain groups of students that haven’t performed the way that we’d like. My job is to better understand those gaps, and to fill in those gaps with the appropriate resources,” said Ferebee.

He pointed to early childhood education as one of the most viable methods for closing this gap. “I want to make sure that early childhood education is accessible, particularly to the students that are the farthest away from opportunity” said Ferebee.

Bringing technology to all DCPS students is another one of Ferebee’s primary goals. “We’ve made a 4.6 million dollar investment in technology that’s a part of a multi-year plan to have a one-to-one device ratio in all of our schools for all of our students,” said Ferebee.

Part of this focus on technology includes increasing career and technology education pathways in schools. “We’re thinking more about what other career pathways we might create that might align to high wage, high demand job opportunities here in the region,” Ferebee said. He would like to increase Project Lead the Way based classes, including engineering and biomed, to be offered at more schools, potentially middle and elementary.

Ferebee plans on increasing principal and community input over budgeting and school operations. “I believe that school communities know their students, their needs the best and should have the ability to make key decisions about their structure and program professional learning, and resources in the school they need to move forward,” he said.

As Ferebee transitions to his new role, he is focusing on learning about DCPS and what it means to be a DCPS student. He is hosting a set of events in each ward, titled “Ferebee Fridays,” in which community members and parents can meet and engage with him.