Washington DC mayor-elect Muriel Bowser has announced that Jennifer C. Niles will fill the role as Deputy Mayor for Education when her administration takes over on January 2.
Niles is the founder and head of a distinguished charter school in the area. Bowser added that her 25 years of experience in the field of public education makes her an excellent candidate for the position, stating that she will be working 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 been involved with charter schools for years, both within the District and as a former director of the charter school office for Connecticut’s Education Department. Bowser said it is this “impressive and innovative background” that she hopes will aid in the “increasing collaboration between all of our public schools — our traditional public schools and our public charter schools.”
She founded the E. L. Haynes Public Charter School in 2004, which serves more than 1,100 students in preschool through grade 12. The school currently has two locations and will be graduating its first class this year.
The school has become one of the city’s greatest success stories, frequently being recognized by both philanthropic and political leaders.
In addition to her work with the charter school, Niles is frequently mentioned in conjunction with citywide school reform efforts. She served on the city’s leadership team as it drafted its federal Race to the Top application, which gained a $75 million award.
That funding was then used to create a consortium of 22 public and charter schools that are geared toward helping teachers transition into the Common Core state standards in addition to the allowing teachers to share best practices. The funding was also used in the creation of a residency teacher training program in partnership with KIPP DC.
Niles has also been instrumental in promoting several aspects of education, including blended learning, special-education reforms, and competency-based graduation requirements, which will allow for more flexible paths to graduation.
Niles said she was “humbled to accept the responsibility for educating all students in D.C.” and is “very excited” about the new mayor’s education goals, which include increasing the partnership between traditional and charter schools, boosting area middle schools and improving transparency.
Niles will be taking over for Abigail Smith, who has worked closely with E.L. Haynes, both as a parent and former chair of the Board of Trustees.
The state superintendent of education, Jesús Aguirre, is expected to submit his resignation very soon. Bowser is currently looking for someone to fill that role.