The Washington Post

New Orleans courted Henderson

Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson confirmed Friday that Louisiana officials made a strong pitch last fall for her to become the next head of Recovery School District, which operates most of New Orleans’ schools.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Thursday that State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek “came close” to hiring Henderson before she was named acting chancellor in D.C. Louisiana announced Friday that it had selected deputy New York City schools chancellor John White to replace Paul Vallas, who is leaving May 1.

Henderson said in an e-mail that Pastorek contacted her a day after the September 2010 Democratic primary defeat of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. She said she told him that she wasn’t interested.

“I explained that, while flattered, the superintendency wasn’t interesting to me, nor was moving to NOLA a viable option for me..”

But Pastorek peristed, Henderson said, asking her a few weeks later to meet him for coffee in D.C. They spoke in more detail about the unique post, which oversees 112 underperforming schools in New Orleans, most of which were placed in the special state-created district in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The dsitrict also operates schools in East Baton Rouge and other parishes. Nearly half of the schools are run as charters.

But again, Henderson said, her answer was no. She also said that all the discussion took place before she was named interim chancellor after Michelle A. Rhee’s resignation in October. It also played no role, she said, in her nomination by Mayor Vincent C. Gray for the permanent chancellorship on March 9.

She did hint that there had been other job feelers but declined to discuss them.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.


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