School Choice & Charters

Indianapolis Superintendent Lewis Ferebee to Lead D.C. Schools

By Corey Mitchell — December 03, 2018 1 min read
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Lewis Ferebee, the superintendent in Indianapolis, was named Monday as District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser’s choice to lead the city’s public schools.

During his five years in Indianapolis, Ferebee, an Education Week Leaders To Learn From honoreein 2016, has focused on forging partnerships with charter schools leaders and establishing choice-friendly policies, including a common-enrollment system for all the city’s students. That approach may be tailor-made for D.C., where about half of the 48,000 K-12 public school students are enrolled in charters.

“In his work with students, educators, and families, Dr. Ferebee has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving student outcomes,” Bowser wrote in a statement. “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 our young people. And he has experience building partnerships that ensure more students have a path toward success.”

Ferebee will succeed Antwan Wilson, who was forced out earlier this year amid a school transfer scandal. Wilson’s family bypassed the city’s school lottery system so his daughter could transfer into a highly coveted public high school. It marked a clear breach of a policy he helped draft to address the issue of high-ranking officials receiving special treatment in the school transfer process.

Wilson’s interim replacement, Amanda Alexander, was the other finalist for the top job.

This is the second high-profile job that Ferebee pursued this year: he was a candidate to lead L.A. Unified schools in the spring, but eventually withdrew his candidacy.

Before taking the top job in Indianapolis, Ferebee worked at several districts in North Carolina, including the Durham schools, where he served as chief of staff.

Given his start in education, Ferebee appears to be an unlikely champion of charter schools as Arianna Prothero wrote in this EdWeek Leaders To Learn From profile of him:

The son of educators whose own career has been built by rising through district schools' leadership ranks in the South, he has a decidedly traditional educational pedigree. His dissertation at East Carolina University argued that public-school-choice provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act didn't improve student achievement. And on top of all that, he's the head of a struggling urban school system that many argue has been hurt even more by a fast-growing charter sector. "There's this idea that you have to be on one side or the other--you can't wave both flags," Ferebee says of district and charter schools. "The more we encourage people to wave both flags, the more effective we will be in educating our children."

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Photo Credit: Lewis D. Ferebee

--Swikar Patel/Education Week-File

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.