President Barack Obama, mere weeks after his election, wasted no time in announcing last Tuesday a slew of cabinet and advisory appointments, and the president tapped a local educator for a crucial education post.
Obama named William Penn Charter School leader Dr. Darryl J. Ford to become a member of the National Board of Education Science, which is an advisory board consisting of renowned educators, researchers and business specialists.
The president made ten new appointments altogether, including two to the National Museum and Library Services Board; including Ford, Obama appointed five new members to the National Board for Educational Sciences. The president also made a pair of selections to the Board of Visitors to the United States Air Force Academy and a single addition to the National Museum and Library Services Board.
“I am pleased to announce that these experienced and committed individuals have agreed to join this administration,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House, “and I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
The National Board for Educational Sciences is the advisory panel for the Institute of Educational Sciences.
“The overall mission of the Institute is to expand fundamental knowledge and understanding of education and to provide education leaders and practitioners, parents and students, researchers, and the general public with unbiased, reliable, and useful information about the condition and progress of education in the United States,” according to IES’ site. It is also tasked with doing the same for education policies, programs, and practices that will enhance the educational opportunities for all students.
Ford would seem to fit in well, as the career educator has gained most of his expertise in turning around troubled schools. Prior to heading William Penn, Ford served for ten years as William Penn Charter School Middle School Director.
According to information provided by the White House, from 1992 to 1997, Ford served as headmaster and executive director of St. Gregory Episcopal School in Chicago. Ford currently serves on the boards of the Friends Council on Education and the Villanova University Board of Trustees.
Ford received his B.A. and B.S. from Villanova University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago’s Department of Education.
“It was very exciting to get a call from the White House and hear from a staffer there that the president intended to announce his appointment,” Ford said, adding that he received the phone call and subsequent e-mail from the White House the day before Thanksgiving. “Picking up the phone, hearing ‘This is the White House,’ would be a thrill for anyone.”
Ford hasn’t been fully briefed on the particular details and nuances of the position, but he could confirm that it is an advisory/oversight position in the areas of educational research. While this is a significant appointment, it won’t require Ford to leave William Penn Charter School, meaning Ford can continue to chart the school’s recent run of success.
“In terms of the school, I’m the very proud head of an almost 325-year-old Quaker institution, the oldest in the world. Many issued remain in the realm of education and we want to be supportive of all of them, but in terms of a sector, we have very strong programs and we able to grow even during the economic downturn,” Ford said, adding that his appointment should be viewed as a victory for his entire staff. “I’m proud that as an old, private institution, we still give out $7 million in financial aid. It’s easy to be in charge of a strong and wonderful organization that has grown in the past five years.”
Deflecting credit, Ford attributed much of his appointment to his work in the Chicago area and the crucial connections he has made there. Still, Ford seemed most moved by a unique commonality shared between himself and the President.
“It is great to be recognized as the first African-American leader of William Penn Charter School,” Ford said. “But to get a call from the White House where the first African-American president sits, and he asks me to be [in his administration], I can’t say what a thrill that was.”