National Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised interim D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson Thursday, saying D.C. should remove the "interim" from in front of her title, but Mayor Vincent Gray hasn't started his search for a permanent replacement for Michelle Rhee.
Gray frequently praises Henderson, who was Rhee's deputy for three years, but he insists on a major search before naming a permanent schools chancellor. That could take several weeks.
"She certainly is a strong candidate," Gray said. "We probably will have several strong candidates. I just don't know who they are at this stage. We will follow the process that's been laid out in the law."
Duncan visited Sousa Middle School in southeast D.C. Thursday.
"I'm a huge fan of hers and I would love to see Kaya stay here a long, long time," he said. "I think D.C. would be extraordinarily well served with someone of her leadership and her passion, her commitment at the helm. I couldn't think of a better leader for D.C. than Kaya."
While her future is unclear, Henderson likely will get support from Hosanna Mahaley, who Gray appointed as the city's state superintendent.
School advocates who support Henderson worry that Rhee may recruit her to join StudentsFirst, Rhee's new national education advocacy group.
Henderson has said she is committed to the interim chancellor position at least through this school year.
"She is the chancellor for all intents and purposes in terms of what she does every day," Gray said. "She's been here; she has great depth on education issues."
Gray is expected to make a permanent appointment well before the summer.