Carla D. Watson is the Chief Operating Officer for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). In this role, Carla oversees the administrative, operational, and compliance functions of DCPS and ensures that every school has the resources to meet the needs of its students.
A dedicated public servant and life-long champion for educational equity, Carla began her career as a staff attorney with Legal Services for Children in New York City where she represented at-risk children in special education matters and disability hearings. In 2004, Carla joined the staff of Children’s Law Center, a DC-based non-profit, to provide legal services and advocacy for students engaged with the child welfare system. Inspired by her work in education law and committed to championing equity for all students in DC, Carla joined DCPS as a Senior Policy Associate in 2008. Over the course of nine years in DCPS, Carla has led and supervised agency-wide initiatives in special education and compliance to ensure that all students in DCPS have access to the programs and opportunities they need to succeed. She also spearheaded efforts that successfully navigated the District’s exit from multiple class-action lawsuits. As a senior leader in the Office of Specialized Instruction and later, as Deputy Chief of Compliance and Policy, Carla supported principals, teachers, and other key stakeholders in DCPS in complying with all federal and state laws ensuring that DCPS provides safe, accessible, and fully resourced schools to its students.
Carla earned her B.S. in Government and Politics and a Certificate in African-American Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park. She holds a Juris Doctorate from New York University School of Law, as well as an Executive Masters in Leadership through Georgetown University’s McDonough School of business.