Mayor Vincent C. Gray

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March 09, 2011

Mayor Names Kaya Henderson Chancellor of DC Public Schools 

Gray says veteran educator with proven track record is natural choice to lead DCPS into new era of collaborative, inclusive reform.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced today that Kaya Henderson, who since November has served in an interim capacity as chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), would serve in that position permanently.

“I have now worked with Kaya Henderson for several years, first in her capacity as Deputy Chancellor for the school system and, since last fall, as the Interim Chancellor. I have seen first-hand that she has the compassion, the drive, the wisdom and the focus on results that we need at this moment in our history,” said Mayor Gray. “I have confidence in her judgment and her character, and I want her imprint on our schools, as we build a high performing system steeped in the notion that every single child can and will learn.”

Mayor Gray added that, while he has received some criticism for not holding formal interviews with other candidates for the position, he believes that doing so would have been counterproductive.

“Are there other candidates I could have considered and worked well with? Surely there are,” the Mayor said. “But I have already worked with Kaya and have certainty about her approach. Under the circumstances, it feels unfair to other candidates to run a search and pretend I do not have a candidate already in mind.”

Henderson said she was excited to accept the position.

“I am very excited that Mayor Gray has offered me the opportunity to be Chancellor of DC Public Schools,” she said. “I have learned a great deal over the past four months as Interim Chancellor and I look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Gray to make the critical decisions needed to ensure that DCPS becomes a first-class school district. The work that we will continue together is critical to the success of our students and the future of our city.”

CityBridge Foundation President Katherine Bradley, co-chair of the panel of teachers, parents, students and community leaders that advised Mayor Gray on Henderson’s selection, said there was a strong consensus among the group that Henderson was the natural choice.

“Five hours of conversation didn’t produce unanimity on all points, but we did surface strong support for Kaya Henderson by the large majority of panel members, who cited Henderson as an able leader, a diplomat, and a true champion for children,” she said.

Henderson is a veteran teacher and the daughter of an educator. She grew up in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., and graduated with honors from Mt. Vernon High School. She went on to receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University. Her education career began as a middle school Spanish teacher in the South Bronx, and she spent her summers overseeing the professional development of new teachers at summer institutes with Teach for America. She also served Teach for America as a recruiter and the national director of admissions. In 1997, she became the executive director of Teach For America-DC, where she was responsible for 170 teachers in more than 50 DC public schools.

In 2000, Henderson began her work with The New Teacher Project, where she eventually became the Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, overseeing the organization’s work on improving teacher hiring for school districts from a process, policy and capacity-building perspective. She also launched alternative certification programs -- including the DC Teaching Fellows Program -- in a number of districts.

In 2001, she worked closely with DCPS leadership and the Washington Teachers’ Union to make significant policy changes to improve teacher hiring in the district. She came to DCPS as Deputy Chancellor in 2007. She led the district’s human capital efforts, and served as chief negotiator for the groundbreaking 2010 contract between DCPS and the Washington Teachers’ Union.