September 22, 2017 – District of Columbia education leader and alumna Kaya Henderson (SFS’92, G’07) has joined Georgetown as Distinguished Scholar in Residence.
The former Chancellor of DC Public Schools (DCPS) will work with Georgetown President John J. DeGioia and Provost Robert Groves to conduct research and advise on a variety of issues that include affordable higher education models, racial justice, college access and success.
“Kaya’s extraordinary work and dedication to ensuring that our young people receive the very best education is exemplary,” DeGioia says. “We are deeply grateful for this opportunity to have her with us.”
Since graduating with her bachelor’s degree from the School of Foreign Service and receiving her Executive Master’s in Leadership (EML) degree from the McDonough School of Business, Henderson has maintained a steady relationship with the university.
She served on the university’s board of directors 2014-2017, taught graduate courses in education policy in fall 2012 and 2013 and has participated in numerous panels highlighting the university’s engagement with the city.
This past January, Georgetown awarded her with the Samuel A. Halsey Jr. award.
Halsey (SFS'53), who passed away in 2012, was the first African American undergraduate at the university. The award honors the outstanding contributions of Georgetown's African-American alumni.
“My overarching goal is to bring some of the learning and networks and experiences that I have had back to the community that gave me so much,” says Henderson, who received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the university in 2012.
“If it wasn’t for Georgetown, I wouldn’t be where I am today in terms of preparation.”
Improved School System
Henderson served as leader of DCPS from 2010-2016, during which time the school system became the fastest improving urban school system in the nation.
During her tenure, she also saw extraordinary growth in graduation rates, student satisfaction, teacher retention, participation in advanced placement classes and passing rates.
The National Assessment of Education Progress recognized DCPS as having the greatest growth of any urban school system over multiple years.
New Era of Leadership
As a 2007 graduate of EML, she credits Georgetown with the growth and development she needed to lead DCPS – so much so that she reached out to business professor and program founder Bob Bies for help in establishing a leadership academy for her principals.
“I took EML that I created and customized and added a couple of new courses that really reflected what she wanted for her principals,” Bies explains. “Kaya has always said that the most difficult job in DCPS is the principal’s. I think her point is well taken because literally the bucks stop with them.”
Henderson and Bies worked together to establish the first cohort of 24 DCPS principals and one central office leader to usher in a new era of leadership taught through the Executive Master's in Leadership for D.C. Public School Principals.
Earlier this year, the program broadened its scope by educating its first cohort of charter school principals and leaders.
“It has been the most amazing experience,” Bies says. “From the beginning, Kaya has been this motivating force allowing me to create and design a program that I believe has transformed education here in Washington, D.C.”
Prior to serving as chancellor, Henderson served as deputy chancellor of DCPS, where she led the city’s human resource and human capital work. She has also served as the DC executive director at Teach for America, along with a number of other posts within the organization and as vice president for strategic partnerships at The New Teacher Project.
Henderson believes she has much to contribute in finding innovative ways to promote educational equity while advancing the reach of higher education through Georgetown’s Future(s) in Higher Education initiative.
But she also is looking forward to exploring new areas within education.
“I received my bachelor’s degree in international affairs from the School of Foreign Service,” Henderson says. I think as I work with the university on its future in higher education, I also would like to explore education from a global perspective.”