Kaya Henderson, D.C. public schools chief, will join Georgetown University’s board

August 19, 2014

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson will be joining her alma mater’s board of directors. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Kaya Henderson has earned two degrees from Georgetown University, received an honorary doctorate and taught a course at the university’s school of public policy. Now the D.C. public schools chancellor’s relationship with her alma mater is set to deepen further: Henderson will join Georgetown’s board of directors later this year, the university said Tuesday.

The news of Henderson’s potential appointment was first disclosed in an advisory opinion issued last week by the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability and posted on the agency’s Web site Monday. It responds to a request from Henderson for ethics guidance on whether she can serve on Georgetown’s board while continuing to serve as chancellor.

Darrin P. Sobin, the city’s director of government ethics, concluded that she may. “Here, your service on the Board would be part-time, and I otherwise find nothing to suggest that that service would conflict significantly with the performance of your duties or impair the efficient operation of DCPS,” he wrote.

There are some caveats: Because Georgetown has two contracts with DCPS — one to provide law students to teach pre-law classes to high school students, another to run a program allowing selected DCPS principals to earn master’s degrees — Henderson has agreed to recuse herself in both of her roles from discussing or acting on any matter where DCPS and Georgetown intersect, particularly the two contracts. Sobin also advised Henderson that she “cannot accept gifts or anything of value from Georgetown for your service or otherwise as long as you are DCPS Chancellor” given the business relationship between the entities.

University spokeswoman Stacy Kerr said Tuesday that Henderson will serve a three-year term and will begin her service in October. “She is a leader in the District and nationally on education related issues,” Kerr said in an e-mail.

Henderson will join a board that, according to the university’s Web site, has 36 members who include titans of business, sports and academia — including Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, MedStar Health CEO Kenneth A. Samet, Hall of Fame basketball player Alonzo Mourning, and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the board’s current chair. Eight current members are women.

In an e-mail Monday, Henderson said she was first approached about board service earlier this year by Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, which prompted her to see whether she could serve while continuing  as chancellor. With the ethics guidance in hand, she said she accepted the offer. “I am honored that they considered me and look forward to joining the board in October,” she said.

And, Henderson confirmed, she will not be paid. She won’t even be getting an upgrade to her men’s basketball season tickets.

“I’m paying for my same old seats, just like every year,” she said.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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Mike DeBonis · August 19, 2014