Acting DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson Is No Longer Acting.
It’s official: Henderson, who was named interim chancellor by newly elected Mayor Vincent Gray last year in the wake of the apparently mutually arrived at departure of controversial and high profile chancellor Michelle Rhee, was recently confirmed unanimously by the DC City Council, making her neither defacto or in waiting, or interim or acting anything, but THE DC Schools Chancellor.
No surprise there. Gray had already made her position permanent earlier this year. Henderson, who came with Rhee when she was named Chancellor by then mayor Adrian Fenty, is very much in the Rhee vein philosophically—accountability being the trump card when it come to teaching and teachers—but has a very different operating style.
Rhee became a national and highly visible figure when she engaged in a school reform program that included large numbers of teachers being fired, trying to get private funding for merit pay, reaching a hard-fought contract with the teachers in spite of a combative, tense relationship with the teachers union, and generally making her a national figure in school reform advocates.
Henderson’s style—while following some of the same tenets espoused by Rhee, to whom she was very close—was much more people friendly and pro-active and was more adept at building relationships with and listening to parents and teachers. Some Rhee foes from previous hearings which tended to get combative said they would vote for Henderson, including At Large member Michael Brown and Wards 8 Councilman Marion Barry. Even the head of the Washington Teachers Union Nathan Saunders, a vocal critic of both Rhee and Henderson’s reform efforts at times made nice.