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Bowser Meets With Henderson, But Won't Say If She'll Keep Her

Washington Democratic Mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser arrives for a news conference a day after primary victory, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at the National Press Club.
(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Washington Democratic Mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser arrives for a news conference a day after primary victory, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at the National Press Club.

Fresh off of her victory in Tuesday's Democratic mayoral primary, Muriel Bowser is already fielding questions on which agency heads she would keep — and one key figure in the city's school system isn't assured a job if Bowser wins November's general election.

On WAMU's The Politics Hour on Friday, Bowser said that she had met with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson on Thursday, but refused to say whether or not she would keep her if she became the city's next mayor.

"What I'm going to do over the next weeks leading up to my next race, is have a lot of conversations, including with stakeholders, now, that I'm the nominee, in addition to parents and students and I think we'll be able to make a decision about that," she said, referring to Henderson's stated desire to stay onboard until 2017.

"We had a very good conversation about what she thinks the school system is doing well and what things that she thinks needs to change or happen faster. And as I've always said, she has a lot of great ideas. She's been good for our city. And that was the first conversation in my process," said Bowser, who is likely to face independent D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At Large) in the general election.

Catania, who chairs the Council's education committee, has also not said whether he would keep Henderson or not.

Henderson succeeded her former boss, Michelle Rhee, after Gray defeated then-mayor Adrian Fenty in 2010. In spearheading ongoing reforms in the city's public school system, Henderson has been praised for being more inclusive and overseeing the stabilization of enrollment and an uptick in test scores. Still, critics chide her for closing 15 schools in 2013 and say that the pace of test score improvements has been too slow.

On The Politics Hour, Bowser said that she and Henderson had disagreed over the closure of McFarland Middle School and Sharpe Health School, which are both in Ward 4. She also expanded on her "Alice Deal For All" campaign pledge, referring to the high-performing middle school in Ward 3. As WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza has reported, the pledge was criticized for being short on details.

"I think that Alice Deal for all, in my view, means that we should have middle schools across the city that have incredible offerings, academically, have incredible offerings in an extra-curricular environment, great leadership, great teachers and a way to bring parents into the schools. So people should not take that to mean that we pick up Alice Deal and we plop it someplace else," she said.

Bowser also responded to apparent friction between her and Gray in the wake of the primary. Gray never made the traditional concession call, and has so far refused to say whether he would back her in November.

"When the mayor's ready I know we're going to have that conversation. I appreciated a very genuine handshake that he offered to me this morning," she said, referring to a unity breakfast offered by the D.C. Democratic State Committee on Friday that both Gray and Bowser attended.

"I do politics and, you know, elections are tough. I have had some disappointments in people that I have supported in campaigns, too. So let's, you know, it was just — it's a very fresh few days after the election. So we're going to give it some time," she said of the relationship with Gray.

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