Jennifer C. Niles, the founder and head of a prominent charter school in the District, was named the next deputy mayor for education on Monday.
Mayor-elect Muriel E. Bowser cited Niles’s 25 years of experience in public education and said she will work closely with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson to make “the goal of a quality school in every neighborhood a reality for all our families.”
Niles has deep roots in charter schools, in the District and as a former director of the charter school office for Connecticut’s Education Department. Bowser emphasized that her “impressive and innovative background” will make her well-equipped for “increasing collaboration between all of our public schools — our traditional public schools and our public charter schools.”
E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, which Niles founded in 2004, has become one of the city’s most oft-cited examples of success, with frequent recognition from philanthropic and political leaders.
The school serves more than 1,100 students in preschool through grade 12 on two campuses and will graduate its first class this year.
Niles has become a prominent figure in citywide school reform efforts. She served on the city’s leadership team to draft its federal Race to the Top application, which resulted in a $75 million award.
Through Race to the Top funding, her school created a consortium of 22 public and charter schools to help teachers transition to the Common Core state standards and share best practices. It has also developed a residency teacher training program in partnership with KIPP DC.
Niles has also been active in promoting blended learning, special-education reforms and competency-based graduation requirements, which offer more flexible, expedited paths to graduation.
She is a graduate of New Leaders for New Schools, a year-long program to prepare urban principals. She’s also a part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Niles will succeed Abigail Smith, who also has close ties to E.L. Haynes, as a parent and former chair of the Board of Trustees.
At the event Monday, Niles said she was “humbled to accept the responsibility for educating all students in D.C.” and that she is “very excited” about the next mayor’s education goals, including increasing collaboration between traditional and charter schools, improving middle schools and boosting transparency.
She said it was a tough decision to leave E.L. Haynes. “I never thought I would have two dream jobs,” she said.
Henderson also emphasized collaboration in her comments Monday. “She’s not just about charter school kids; Jennie is about all kids,” the chancellor said.
Bowser’s education transition team hosted a four-hour hearing last week, and more than 80 people testified. The team, which Niles is a part of, will create a report with short- and long-term recommendations for the new mayor.
Bowser said Monday that Jesús Aguirre, the state superintendent of education, is expected to submit his resignation in the coming days, and she plans to hire someone new for that role as well.