For those with a finger on the pulse of the state of education reform in U.S., Kaya Henderson is likely a familiar name. Heading what has been perhaps one of the most closely watched districts of the last decade, Kaya Henderson has served as Chancellor of the District of Columbia’s Public Schools for an outstanding six years. And as of Saturday, October, 1st, she has stepped down from her post.
Whether she plans on enjoying a civilian life with afternoon grocery runs and leisurely strolls through Lord & Taylor, or is drawn to new and exciting challenges in the private or public sector remains to be seen. For now, a few Leading Educators staff who have had the privilege of getting to know her would like to reflect on their time with this tireless champion of educational equality and equity.
“We had the privilege of working at DCPS with Chancellor Henderson. She is a relentless leader who continuously pushed DC Public Schools to be better for every student in the city. She championed innovative programs like LEAP while raising the bar for teachers and students. We were lucky to have her leadership in the district for so many years.” - Kim Levengood - Andrews & Elizabeth Smyth, Managing Director and Director of Strategic Consulting
“Kaya exudes a warm confidence that is inspiring and makes you want to push yourself as far as you can for the students of DC public schools It was a gift to work under her!” - Matt Radigan, LEAP Leadership Coach
“A quote I’ve heard Chancellor Henderson reference more than once was Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Be sure you put your feet in the right place, and then stand firm.’
This quote was employed to address many changes that needed to occur, from closing down under-enrolled locations and reallocation of Central Office funds into schools, to the importance of rigorous evaluation systems. Each of these choices led to backlash and resistance, but because they were ultimately in the best interest of the children, the Chancellor would not be moved. When it came to pillars that positively impact students, the Chancellor consistently stood firm.” - Brian Blacklow, LEAP Leadership Coach
“At the official launch of LEAP - the system of teacher-led professional learning we had worked collectively on instilling in all DCPS schools - I was of course overwhelmed with pride and excitement when Chancellor Henderson proclaimed that DC Public Schools ‘would not be where it is today without Leading Educators’. But it was what followed that really galvanized me to grow our work to districts around the country. She said that ultimately, DCPS shouldn't need Leading Educators to carry forth their work; the job of developing and retaining great teachers via LEAP was now theirs.
In her tenure at DCPS, Chancellor Henderson showed that she is one of the rare leaders who has clarity of vision for what she wants her system to look like and to do. She has moved mountains (and budgets) to make it happen and forged partnerships toward self-sufficiency - all in the name of continually improving educational opportunity for her students and those yet to come. We are all grateful for her example. “ - Jonas S. Chartock, Chief Executive Officer