Kaya Henderson


Henderson Not Budging on Hardy Middle School

Flickr: D. Clow

Councilmember Jack Evans agrees with parents in his ward who want to bring Pope back.

Candidate Vince Gray supported the reinstatement of popular former Hardy Middle School principal, Patrick Pope, who was removed by Michelle Rhee from his post in Georgetown.

Mayor Vince Gray is deferring to Interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who has angered some powerful, vocal parents by refusing to return Pope to Hardy.

The Washington Post asserts that “Contrary to overblown reports, Hardy is not a school in chaos but one that is experiencing stresses typical to a middle school.”

But that assessment doesn’t mesh with what NBC 4′s P.J. Orvetti wrote, earlier today: “Since Pope was removed, the school has recorded 41 student suspensions — compared to just one for the entirety of last year.

Unhappy parents have recruited a surprising ally to voice their concerns. According to the Georgetown Dish,

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown will hold an oversight hearing on District schools this Friday March 4 at 10:00 am in the Council Chamber. After mounting controversy at Hardy Middle School during the last year, Councilmember Jack Evans Tuesday introduced legislation to reinstate popular Principal Patrick Pope. The legislation is likely to be a topic of the hearing.

Mayor Gray has already indicated that even if the legislation passes, he won’t sign it. The Hardy Middle School saga continues.

Hey! Kaya Henderson is not Michelle Rhee!

Flickr: Barry S.

Dunbar High, marching at Obama's Inauguration.

Interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson wants everyone to know that she is a different, separate person from her predecessor, Michelle Rhee. Here’s a snippet of Bill Turque’s Q+A with Henderson:

BT: Do you have many “What Would Michelle Do” moments?

KH: Not many, maybe for two reasons. Michelle and I worked together for a zillion years. In many cases I know what Michelle would do. But the real question is what will Kaya do? Because everything that Michelle does is not what Kaya would do.

BT: What’s Kaya done that Michelle probably would not have done?

KH::I think probably Dunbar. I think Michelle might have provided Friends of Bedford more opportunities to correct the situation at Dunbar. I don’t know for sure…

BT: There is the view that philosophically there is no difference between you and Michelle Rhee, that you both believe in the singular importance of teachers as the determinant of success inside the school, and that poverty has been used as an excuse for mediocre education. Is that true?

KH: I think we’re philosophically aligned, but we’re two different people. Right? Because we have philosophical alignment doesn’t mean we’re going to do everything the same way. Poverty matters. However, I can’t control poverty. And I have a budget that allows me to deal with kids from sometime in the morning to sometime in the evening. So within the realm of my control I can only do what I’m going do.

Kaya Henderson: A Hugger and a Closer

Flickr: ghbrett

"Hugs": a word I don't associate with Michelle A. Rhee.

Interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson is a friend of Michelle Rhee’s; Rhee, the controversial former broom-wielder, is also Henderson’s mentor. And yet, Henderson does things a little differently:

Since becoming interim chancellor after Rhee’s abrupt departure in October, Henderson has brought a more naturally accessible style to the job. At meetings around town, her entrance often comes with a broad smile and a round of hugs. “She wasn’t a hugger,” Henderson said of her predecessor.

Some skeptics have already suggested that Henderson is simply “Rhee-light.” But friends say those who who doubt her toughness, or her resolve to preserve Rhee’s emphasis on teacher quality and accountability, are underestimating Henderson.

“People are just starting to learn about her because she was under such a shadow with Michelle Rhee,” said Jacques Patterson, chairman of the Ward 8 Democrats and project director at the Federal City Council, an influential group of business and civic leaders active in education reform. “Kaya is very focused, very clear thinking and knows where she wants to go. She can be as hard charging as Michelle Rhee but she won’t be a bull in a china shop, breaking china.”

See? She’s a “hugger”. As for “closer”, this is what happened after a meeting with students, staff members and parents from River Terrace Elementary in Northeast, a school marked for closure:
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Kaya Henderson to “smooth things out”

Perhaps the city residents who miss Michelle Rhee shouldn’t worry so much? Here’s the Washington Examiner on interim D.C. schools chancellor, Kaya Henderson:

“People keep asking me how I’m different from Michelle Rhee. I’m different than her because she’s a petite Asian woman and I’m a large black girl,” Henderson told The Washington Examiner.

But the style of leadership that was necessary in June 2007 is different than what people crave now, Henderson says. “Rhee had to come in and break some china,” she says. “We’re tired of breaking china.” Rhee’s job was to create a revolution of reform; Henderson’s job is to smooth things out.

So she smiles more than Rhee, and she meets with skeptical education boards in the various wards, broaching topics like “healing” and “acknowledging missteps.”

But as Rhee’s deputy chancellor, Henderson was silently pulling the strings of the most high-profile, and most controversial, reforms that Rhee — and Mayor Adrian Fenty — took the public hit for.

Henderson was D.C. Public Schools’ chief negotiator of the union contract, which allowed Rhee to fire 165 teachers rated ineffective during classroom observations. Henderson led the team that developed Impact, the teacher evaluation tool that determined those firings.