Kaya Henderson: 'I Love D.C. And I’m Not About To Leave' | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Kaya Henderson: 'I Love D.C. And I’m Not About To Leave'

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Henderson has served as D.C. schools chancellor since 2011.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Henderson has served as D.C. schools chancellor since 2011.

With an ongoing transition in New York City, plenty of rumors have emerged as to who will lead up important agencies for mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. There's one person that can probably be crossed off the list for the City's top schools job: D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

In a letter to Central Office employees on Friday morning, Henderson said while she's had discussions with de Blasio, she would not take the position in New York if it was offered to her: "I love this city. I love our students. I love working with all of you, and I am not about to leave when our students have so much riding on the work we do every day," she wrote.

Henderson's name recently emerged as a possible contender for New York's top schools job, along with that of Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr. While Henderson admitted in the letter that leading New York's public school system would be the "pinnacle of school district jobs," she also said that "nothing can compare to the opportunities and responsibilities that we have here in Washington, D.C."

Henderson has been on the job since 2011. She succeeded Michelle Rhee after Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his re-election bid in 2010. While she has been credited for being more inclusive than Rhee, stabilizing enrollment and overseeing an increase in test scores, she has come under criticism for allegations of cheating on standardized tests and for closing 15 schools earlier this year.

But in the letter, she says that de Blasio's conversation with her serves as evidence that school reforms that started in 2007 are bearing fruit. "The fact that NYC is looking to us for leadership is just one more indication that we have the right approach," she wrote.

Henderson's next challenge could be local, though: while none of the current mayoral candidates have said they would replace her, a number of them took the opportunity at a debate sponsored by the Washington Teachers' Union earlier this week to criticize the pace and performance of reforms.

See the full copy of Henderson's letter below:

Dear Central Office,

You have probably read in the papers by now that my name has shown up on the short list of possible new Chancellors for New York City Schools and that I have spoken with Mayor-elect DeBlasio about his education plans going forward. The New York Times, The Daily News, and EdWeek have all reported that my name has been in the mix and our local media has joined the speculation as well.

First, I want to be very clear with all of you that this is wonderful recognition for the work we have done. I have spoken with Mr. DeBlasio. I was flattered by his call and I absolutely love that DCPS is being recognized as a leader in high-quality urban education. The Chancellorship of NYC schools is, in many ways, the pinnacle of school district jobs. With over one million students, 80,000 teachers, and almost 2000 schools, NYC schools is not just the biggest district, but of a completely different scale than DCPS.

It is a tremendous testament to the work that each of you has done over the past three years that NYC wants to replicate our successes. Of course, we have great gains in student achievement that we can point to as demonstrated in the DC CAS and the NAEP. We also have more students taking and passing AP classes and higher SAT scores than at any time in the past five years. At the same time, we have increased our student enrollment, have more students who like their school than ever before, and have reduced our number of truant students. We have the best teaching workforce of any urban district. We really are a district where every measure of success is going in the right direction.

The fact that NYC is looking to us for leadership is just one more indication that we have the right approach.

The second thing that you should know about the Chancellorship of NYC is that I will not take the job. I love New York City -- it is where my career in education began 20 years ago – but nothing can compare to the opportunities and responsibilities that we have here in Washington, DC. We have helped take our students so far in the past few years and I can’t possibly leave before I see how much farther they can go. Our ambitious Capital Commitment goals for 2017 are now well within reach and I am excited to continue to work with you as we achieve them. I love this city. I love our students. I love working with all of you, and I am not about to leave when our students have so much riding on the work we do every day.

So please, take a moment to see the fact that we are part of the conversation about the next NYC chancellor for what it is. It is a compliment to us for the hard work we all do. It is a testament to the fact that we have chosen the right course and we have stuck to it. It is an endorsement of our strategy.

And that is what it will remain. I love DC and I’m not about to leave. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have the best job in the world.

Sincerely,

Chancellor Henderson

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