Bowser picks Indianapolis superintendent for new DC schools chief

WASHINGTON – D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has picked a new schools chancellor for the District.

Lewis D. Ferebee is currently the superintendent of schools in Indianapolis, Indiana. Previously he was chief of staff for the public schools in Durham, North Carolina.

Ferebee earned a doctoral degree in educational leadership from East Carolina University as well as a master’s in school administration from The George Washington University, in D.C.

He’ll start Jan. 31, 2019.

Ferebee has also been a regional superintendent, instructional improvement officer and school principal in Guilford County, North Carolina.

At a news conference Monday, Ferebee said, “I am excited about the opportunity of joining a phenomenal team of educators that have produced tremendous outcomes.” He put D.C. “at the top of the list” for “cities that are serving students and families well.” He added that he was impressed by the support from the community, including Bowser, for the public schools.

“I am very confident that I am well prepared to lead DCPS,” Ferebee said.

Mayor Bowser said Ferebee’s experience “focuses on low-performing schools … and high school redesign.”

Ferebee will be signed to a two-year contract with bonuses available. “He can walk away or we can walk away at any time,” Bowser said.

Ferebee comes to the top job after a difficult year for the D.C. schools:

Ferebee said his son will enroll in the D.C. schools, either in his neighborhood school or via the lottery system.

Assessing the state of the D.C. schools at this point, Ferebee said, “We’re obviously not at the point where we’re ready to run a victory lap,” but added, “We do have a strong foundation to build upon,” especially in the elementary grades. We are on a path [where] students have the prerequisite skills to be successful in high school,” but needed to continue efforts to help students succeed in high school and prepare them for colleges and careers.

He added that transparency was key: “Transparency in critical to community trust,” Ferebee said. “… It’s the prime way we build confidence.”

“I am not one of those leaders who believes he has all the answers,” Ferebee said in response to a question from a student. “Anticipate me listening and learning.”

Ferebee said he considered, but did not formally apply for, the same position in Los Angeles. He was “encouraged” to apply by “many … in the educational community” in the District to apply for the chancellor’s job.

When Ferebee took the superintendent’s job in Indianapolis, top administrators had to re-apply for their jobs. Ferebee said he wouldn’t automatically install those rules in the District, however. “I don’t come to the table assuming that I have all the answers” and said his first priority would be “getting to know the community.”

“I was presented with a very tough decision,” Bowser said, adding that other candidates “presented with outstanding credentials.”

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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