Most D.C. Mayoral Candidates Would Keep Schools Chancellor, Dump Fire Chief | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Most D.C. Mayoral Candidates Would Keep Schools Chancellor, Dump Fire Chief

D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe may not stay on the job if Mayor Vincent Gray loses his re-election bid.
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D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe may not stay on the job if Mayor Vincent Gray loses his re-election bid.

Fear not, Kaya Henderson — your job seems to be safe.

A majority of D.C. mayoral candidates said at the WAMU debate on Wednesday night that they'd keep the D.C. public schools chancellor, saying that she had helped move the long-troubled school system forward.

"I am an unequivocal supporter of Kaya Henderson," said Mayor Vincent Gray. "I'm proud of what she's been able to do with our schools. I unequivocally think she's the best person for the job, and she'll be retained."

Gray was echoed by Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).

Restaurant owner Andy Shallal, though, said he was more skeptical of the gains Henderson is said to have made and her style of leadership. Shallal has been one of the fiercest critics of school reform efforts in D.C., saying they focus too much on testing.

"It's not about Kaya Henderson. It's about having a more collaborative type of school system rather than having blame and intimidation," he said.

Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), currently polling in second place behind Gray, did not commit to keeping Henderson, saying that she would make the decision if she's elected.

"We have a great chancellor, I think she has good ideas and she's moving the ball in the right direction. I want the opportunity, just like for every director of every agency, to make sure that her commitment and vision matches my own. She will have her opportunity to make her case with me, so I haven't made that commitment or decision," said Bowser.

Henderson's job security won't extend to D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, though.

None of the challengers said they would keep the embattled fire chief, who has faced criticisms for the state of the department's fleet and low morale within the rank-and-file.

And though Gray defended Ellerbe when Wells called on him to resign earlier this week, he sounded less definite on whether Ellerbe would remain on the job in a second term.

"I think that Chief Ellerbe has done some good things in that job, and that is an issue that we talk about as we move to a second term," he said.

Current agency heads in D.C. may have the most to fear from Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large), who said that he would make them reapply for their jobs.

"All people that serve at the pleasure of the mayor will actually have to resign and reapply," he said.

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