By C.N. Staff Writers
The Bowser administration is losing two of its senior positions held by women. District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced she is leaving before the new school year begins and Chief of Police Cathy Lanier is resigning in mid-September. Henderson has not stated where her next move will be, but Chief Lanier has announced that she is moving on the National Football League (NFL) to serve as senior vice president of security. These changes will affect the operations of the school system and police force, Mayor Bowser’s administration needs to replace two strong women and District employees with very capable people so that Washington maintains its current improvements.
Lanier will oversee the security of all 32 NFL teams and their venues, working with federal, state and local law enforcement and handling security for the Super Bowl. Lanier has a 26-year history with the District’s police force, joining the force in 1990. In 2006, she was tapped to be the commanding officer of the department’s Office Homeland Security and Counter terrorism Known as (OHSCT). A year later, she was named chief of the police, becoming the second woman to hold the position. She maintained her position over three mayoral periods.
Lanier focused her tenure on reducing crime in a number of special tactics, but has also been heavily criticized during her 9-year tenure as chief. In 2015 more than 1,000 police officers voted (in a survey) that they had “no confidence” in her ability to lead the police department, citing her “All Hands on Deck” initiative, which she first instituted in 2007. The initiative focused on flooding the streets with police to limit spikes in crime. The Fraternal Order of Police has also been critical of her during her tenure. However, Mayor Muriel Bowser stood by Lanier and continued to assert her confidence in her ability. Still the chief said her biggest challenge was the media.
In an emailed letter to the 3,700 officers Lanier said, “I came to this difficult decision with mixed emotions, but in the end, I am confident that MPD has the most exceptional police officers and leadership that will continue to move this agency and the city forward.”
While she has seen some successes during her tenure like a 23 percent drop in violent crime across the city, she has also presided over big stories to hit the region, like the Navy Yard Shooting and the disappearance of 8-year old Relisha Rudd, who has yet to be found.
Lanier is originally from Maryland and comes from a family of police officers. She was a high school dropout in 9th grade and a mother by the age of 15. However, she earned her high school diploma equivalency and went on to attend college. Lanier has often said, “never stop working” and says her personal story can be used for inspiration to where you can go in life.
Chancellor Henderson joined D.C. schools in 2007 working under then Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Three years later in 2010 she became the new Chancellor after Michelle Rhee unexpectedly left the post. Henderson took over from where Rhee left off, and she ran the system during a tempestuous time. Under her leadership, the District became known as a leader in the education reform movement and a darling of President Barack Obama’s administration.
According to DCPS, Henderson has championed the launch and expansion of a range of innovative programs – such as blended learning, the Schoolwide Enrichment Model and extended–day – to increase academic achievement for all students. As a result, students across the city are performing at higher levels in reading and math; high school graduation rates have increased; more classrooms are led by highly effective teachers; more families are choosing DCPS, with enrollment increasing after decades of decline; and student satisfaction is high. She spent five-year as Chancellor and has done a remarkable job in getting test scores improved, schools to beef up academic and extracurricular offerings.
The DC Public school system was once considered among the most dysfunctional school districts in the nation. President Obama hailed Henderson and her team for the turnaround efforts and achievement she accomplished during her tenure. The public school system has and continues to experience reform and more parents are choosing D.C. Public Schools.
It is worth noting that she has outlasted the average time Chancellors have spent in the position with DCPS. She had earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University, and holds honorary doctorates at Georgetown and Trinity University. She will take a break to spend some time with her family, she noted and then decide what’s next for her.
These two women leaders have left the Bowser administration with shoes to fill as the mayor will now be tasked with finding their replacements. A national search for a permanent chancellor has begun, but a replacement likely won’t start until the 2016-2017 school year concludes. John Davis, the school system’s chief of schools, was asked by the mayor to serve as interim chancellor beginning Oct. 1. An internal search will begin for Chief Lanier and likely a national search will get underway soon.
Washingtonians will now have to wait to see who replaces these top two roles.