Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced a series of top-level management changes late Friday, including the departure of a key figure from the Michelle Rhee era.
Abigail Smith, chief of the DCPS transformation management office, will leave next month to consult with other school systems on reform issues. Cate Swinburn, currently president and executive director of the D.C. Public Education Fund, the city’s non-profit fundraising arm, will become the new chief of the Office of Data Accountability, replacing Erin McGoldrick, who left earlier this summer. Anthony deGuzman, director of facilities modernization, is the new chief operating officer, a post that has been vacant since Anthony Tata left late last year.
Smith was a major player in some of Rhee’s most controversial initiatives, such as the 2008 closure and consolidation of 23 schools and Capital Gains, the now-defunct program that paid cash to middle schoolers in exchange for good grades and behavior. She also took the lead in enrollment projections, the annual out-of-boundary lottery and the system of internal performance indicators known as SchoolStat. Henderson said her duties will be spread out across other offices.
A former vice president of planning and research for Teach for America, Smith was reportedly on the short list of candidates for executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, but recently withdrew her name from consideration.
She joins several other key Rhee deputies, including McGoldrick and special education chief Richard Nyankori, who have left in recent months. In announcing Smith’s exit Friday, Henderson called Smith “one of our most passionate and effective leaders.”
The appointment of Swinburn, also a Teach for America alumnus, was a mild surprise. As head of the education fund, she has been point person in raising more than $80 million from private foundations to support changes at DCPS, including performance bonuses for teachers. She did the same job in New York City before coming to the District. As data and accountability chief, she’ll be responsible for the office that collects and analyzes test data. Henderson said in her announcement that she will continue to direct the fund’s flagship event--the annual “Standing Ovation” for teachers set for Sept. 19 at the Kennedy Center-- “and manage its strategic direction.”
Henderson called Swinburn “an ideal choice to lead ODA given her knowledge and familiarity with DCPS, her strong leadership and project management skills, and of course, her focus on supporting great teachers and using robust data to drive results.”