The Washington Post

Muriel Bowser commits to keeping Kaya Henderson as D.C. schools chancellor

At a January debate, Bowser said, “I have made no commitments to keep Kaya Henderson, and I certainly have made no commitments to get rid of Kaya Henderson.” (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

A long-running bit of political kabuki came to end in a Ward 2 living room Tuesday night: Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser confirmed that, if elected, she will keep Chancellor Kaya Henderson atop the D.C. Public Schools.

Bowser’s position on Henderson, who has led the District’s school system since the 2010 departure of Michelle Rhee, has been noncommittal ever since she announced her mayoral run in March 2013.

At a January debate, for instance, Bowser said the following: “I have made no commitments to keep Kaya Henderson, and I certainly have made no commitments to get rid of Kaya Henderson. … I will tell you, I have some principles that are important to me: That we have a chancellor who has a plan for each section of the city, that we have a chancellor who will act urgently and be visible in the community and be the face of school change. And I do value consistency.”

For parents who value consistency and believe that DCPS is on the right track under Henderson, formerly Rhee’s top deputy, Bowser’s commitment could offer some succor. Bowser’s most energetic opponent, David A. Catania, has also been noncommittal on keeping Henderson: “I’ve been clear that there are a good number of things that I support that the chancellor has done, and there are some things that I have a different point of view on and would hope for a greater sense of urgency in addressing,” he told The Post shortly after Bowser’s primary win.

Bowser campaign manager Bo Shuff confirmed Bowser’s comments were made Tuesday evening at a meet-and-greet of education activists. Shuff said he did not know why Bowser chose to make her declaration at this particular forum. “Somebody asked her the question, and she answered it,” he said.

One attendee tweeted about the exchange:

Henderson, for her part, has said she would like to stay in her post for at least another three years, to see through a number of five-year student achievement and satisfaction benchmarks she set out in 2012.

“If I can meet those goals by 2017, then I will have delivered a very different school district,” she said after the primary. “And then, I’ll be headed to a beach somewhere because the city will have beaten my good years out of me.”

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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