Georgetown alumna Kaya Henderson returned to the Hilltop Tuesday evening as the newly appointed chancellor of D.C. Public Schools.

Henderson (SFS ’92, GRD ’07) spoke about her recent promotion to the position at the Woodstock Theological Center’s forum “Faith in the City,” which focused on enacting social change in the District.

“The question was not ‘Do I want this job?'” Henderson said to the audience. “The question was “‘Will I answer the call to serve?'”

In an interview with The Hoya, Henderson said that she recognized her call to educational policymaking during her time as an undergraduate in the School of Foreign Service.

“I was watching all of my friends make plans to go abroad and work on issues of education, issues of poverty, issues of social justice,” she said. “I felt a lot of the issues people were going to solve abroad we hadn’t really solved here.”

While at Georgetown, Henderson primed herself for a career path in teaching by working with various campus organizations assisting children and the underprivileged, including the D.C. Schools program and Campus Ministry.

After graduating from Georgetown, Henderson entered Teach for America, and her experience as a Spanish teacher in the Bronx led to a lengthy career within the organization as both a recruiter and an administrator.

Now a veteran DCPS employee, Henderson served as Deputy Chancellor to former DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee from 2007 to 2010. She said she is excited to continue to advance the city’s educational system as permanent chancellor.

Henderson plans to create a more rigorous, diversified curriculum, featuring the arts and the humanities alongside the sciences.

“I feel like providing our kids with a multidimensional, multidiscipline academic course of study that focuses on the arts, focuses on the humanities and really provides our kids with that same kind of academic experience that kids at Sidwell Friends or in Beverly Hills get,” Henderson said.”A well-rounded education is what I am most excited to deal with.”

DCPS and its newest leader face the challenge of offering students such a holistic education under the strain of increased budget cuts in the District.

Despite financial constraints, Henderson said the continuation of extracurricular activities and non-traditional courses remains important to her administration and to the city.

“It would have been easy for me to cut P.E., art and music,” she said. “Those are the things that some people say are dispensable, and I made it very clear that we cut other things.”

Improving the quality of the District’s teachers is also a priority for Henderson and DCPS.

“We do a ton of professional development. So, for teachers who actually want to improve, there are a zillion resources,” she said.

Teachers will have the opportunity to continue to boost their own education through classes provided by the teachers union, inquiry groups and workshops.

Looking back on her entrance into educational policy, Henderson said she is proud that she chose to pursue public service.

“When I think about my career trajectory, choosing teaching and choosing education ended up providing me with a more rigorous, more relevant and certainly more lucrative career than many of my friends who pursued the legal or business professions,” she said.

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