Dr. Lewis Ferebee
Dr. Lewis Ferebee Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Call off the search. Mayor Muriel Bowserhas selected Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee to lead the District’s public school system.

“Dr. Ferebee presents with a long record of success focusing on some of the issues that are very critical to DCPS at this time,” Bowser said at a Monday afternoon press conference.

Ferebee is expected to continue the vision of predecessors Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson. He led Indianapolis’ 32,000-student public school system for five years and is a former teacher at and principal of elementary and middle schools. He has a Doctorate in educational leadership from East Carolina University and a Master of Arts in school administration from The George Washington University.

He begins a two-year contract on Jan. 31 and will earn an annual salary of $280,000.

If confirmed by the D.C. Council, Ferebee would take over a school system that has since February been under the interim leadership ofAmanda Alexander, who has served in DCPS for 20 years and was a contender for the permanent position. Alexander took over for former superintendent Antwan Wilson, who resigned from his post when it became known that he circumvented the school lottery system to transfer his daughter to a new high school.

At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, the chair of Council’s education committee, announced that he plans to hold public meetings regarding the nominee in the new year.

“In Mr. 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,” Grosso said in a statement. “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 this Council Period.”

Ferebee said he will be moving to the District with his wife and son, and plans to enroll his child in a city school, be it a neighborhood byright school or via the schools lottery process.

The Bowser administration has now completed two schools chancellor searches in as many years, fielding criticism both times from education advocates and the Washington Teachers’ Union. In 2016, critics said a search panel of parents and union officials was not presented with the resumes of candidates until Bowser had settled on Wilson.

This year, an advisory panel of parents and was not shown resumes as late as Nov. 27, The Washington Post reported.

“I was presented with a very tough decision,” Bowser said of choosing between Ferebee and continuing with Alexander, who appointed a number of top officials during her time as interim chancellor. “Obviously we had wonderful candidates who applied, who presented with outstanding credentials.”

The mayor touted Ferebee’s work on low performing schools, college and career readiness, and redesigning high school curricula. While praising the District’s school system, Ferebee said that he did not plan to “transport strategies for Indianapolis as a panacea” to its problems, which have included many of the issues that ail urban school systems, including a stubborn achievement gap.

“We’re obviously not at a point where we’re ready to run a victory lap, but we do have a strong foundation that we can build upon,” he said. He raised the idea of pursuing further collaboration between high schools and the District’s universities.

“I am biased to the notion that, as much as possible, we should blur the lines between K-12 and higher ed,” he said.