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DC Principals Graduate as Change Agents

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To Kaya Henderson, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), what happened in Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall Saturday afternoon was the realization of a personal goal. She choked back tears when she took the stage to address the inaugural class of the DCPS Executive Master’s in Leadership (EML) program during their commencement on December 7. [Watch the webcast.]

“Have you ever had a dream come true? That’s what today is for me,” she told the 25 principals and administrators earning their degree. “To see you all in Gaston Hall, to see you empowered, to see you transformed, to see you ready to go out and turn this entire city upside down is a dream come true.”

The program was founded just one year ago as a partnership between Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and DCPS, inspired by the Chancellor’s own experience as a 2007 graduate of the Georgetown McDonough Executive Master’s in Leadership program. Also a 1992 graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Henderson returned once more to her alma mater with a vision of a tailored version of the EML program specifically for her top principals. After a rigorous year of study, the principals turned students were tasked with more than professional leadership. They were tasked with transformational leadership that has the potential to make a positive impact on the world.

“We are not here to change one life. We are here to change countless,” said commencement speaker Tim King (SFS ’89, L ’93) founder, president, and CEO of Urban Prep Academies. “We are not here to change one mind. We are here to change the mind that will change the mind that will change the world. Our work can be tireless and our work can seem thankless, but our work is never ever pointless. Our work is not for us. Our leadership is not for us. Our schools are not for us. All we do, all of it, is for the children. And what we do for them will change the world.”

During the ceremony, King discussed his own experiences leading a network of public college-prep boys schools in Chicago for African American males, mostly from low-income families. He told stories of lives that had been transformed by education. And, at the end, he added that his stories were not exceptional – they are representative of many urban school systems around the country, including Washington, D.C.

“We cannot just sit around and hope for something to change,” he said. “We cannot just believe in change. And think it is just going to happen while we wait for it. We have to get up after we pray for change and make the change occur. We have to create the change. We have to be the change.”

David Thomas, dean of Georgetown McDonough, talked about how the participants in this program already have proven that they are positive change agents, living the school’s collective mantra of “transforming ourselves to transform the world.”

“This project is one manifestation of how we at the McDonough School of Business have taken one giant step toward that goal,” he said. “This program, and your participation, is a giant step toward the goal of this school being part of the potential to transform the world.”

The ceremony also featured remarks from Vielka Scott-Marcus, principal of Daniel A. Payne Elementary School and a member of the graduating class. She discussed the shared experiences of her classmates and the impact that the program has had on them. “

Today we leave as friends who have formed a bond through the knowledge we have gained and the communities we continue to serve as a result of our newfound enlightenment in leadership and our commitment as not just principals, but community activists,” she said.

In closing, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia asked the students to reflect on their accomplishments and how they contribute to the Jesuit value of the common good.

“This is a moment of beginnings, when you can trust in all that you have pursued professionally and all that you have studied and contemplated in the EML program in its entirety,” he said. “You can take all of your hard work, all of your experience, all of your extraordinary dedication and translate that into a new directive for the future. This directive is one, to be sure, that is written by the ethos and characteristics of your chosen work of education and service. And it is one that must be animated by your character, and your personal and enduring commitment to the common good.”

Local children from the Amidon-Bowen Elementary School Chorus also participated in the program, performing three songs. During the ceremony, Professor Douglas McCabe was honored with an award for being the cohort’s favorite professor.