Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amount of time that Mahaley Jones has been absent from her job due to her husband's health. She has been caring for her husband since April, not since late winter as reported earlier. This version has been corrected.
The District’s state superintendent of education, Hosanna Mahaley Jones, is stepping down to help her husband recover from a heart attack.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) announced Mahaley Jones’s departure Tuesday.
“I applaud Hosanna for her leadership,” Gray said in a statement. “I thank her for her service to all of our residents, and send my best wishes and prayers to her and her family.”
Gray said he would launch a nationwide search for a replacement to lead the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, an agency responsible for policies that affect learners from early childhood to adult education in both traditional and charter schools.
OSSE’s duties included administering federal grants and college tuition assistance, conducting the city’s annual school enrollment census and overseeing the administration of standardized tests.
Mahaley Jones, who was chief of staff to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan during his tenure as chief executive of Chicago’s public schools, has led OSSE since 2011. Under her leadership, the agency won a waiver from the most burdensome provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. OSSE also succeeded in regaining control of its own school buses and winning the dismissal of a 17-year lawsuit over the transportation of D.C. special education students.
But the young agency, established in 2007 under the same law that established mayoral control of the city’s schools, has often struggled to find its footing.
Charter school advocates have resisted OSSE’s efforts to establish citywide policies on discipline and other issues, arguing that charters are not subject to most city regulations. And high staff turnover has hampered OSSE’s ability to meet goals under the District’s $75 million Race to the Top grant, according to federal officials.
Judith Sandalow, executive director of the Children’s Law Center, praised Mahaley Jones for laying the groundwork for OSSE to be stronger and more effective. But Sandalow said the agency is failing to meet the needs of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, including illiterate adults and special-needs children younger than 3.
Mahaley Jones has been largely absent from her post since early April, when her husband of 18 months, who lives in Chicago, fell ill. Her last day at OSSE is scheduled to be July 26.
Gray named Emily Durso, assistant superintendent for post-secondary education, to lead the agency on an interim basis while the mayor searches for a permanent replacement.
Durso has served on the boards of directors of the University of the District of Columbia and Hospitality High, a D.C. charter school. Durso’s professional experience has largely been outside the field of education. She has been president of the Hotel Association of Washington and vice president of marketing for Techworld Trade Associates.