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Alumni Success Story

Alumna Appointed D.C.’s First
Education Ombudsman

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Tonya Vidal Kinlow

Tonya Vidal Kinlow, SPA/MPA ’05

Washington, D.C., mayor Adrian Fenty pledged to improve the city’s schools. And he found a key person to help him do it: Tonya Vidal Kinlow, SPA/MPA ’05. A former D.C. Board of Education member, Kinlow was named the city’s first ombudsman of public education.

If parents see a problem at a local school and feel that nobody has been able to solve it, they can turn to Kinlow. If a student needs help and isn’t getting it, Kinlow will know what resources the city can marshal. As the Mayor’s Office puts it, she will be “the city’s face of customer service for education.”

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” she says, “and it shows to me the commitment of this government to really fix the public schools.”  

Kinlow arrived in Washington, D.C., like many young people, as an intern on Capitol Hill. The Louisiana native loved the city, ended up staying, and made a career as a government relations executive for several prominent medical organizations.

On her own time, she worked for a better education for D.C.’s children. The resident of Southwest Washington’s Bellevue community was elected to the District Board of Education in 1996, served on the board of the education advocacy group D.C. Voice, and was appointed to the State Board of Education early in 2008.

In the meantime, she crystallized the knowledge gained in the field by pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at the School of Public Affairs.  

Many years of experience led her to her current position, but AU was an important piece. “My AU experience will be critical in helping me with this new role, particularly since I’m starting this office from the ground up,” she says. “If I’m successful, it will really show the success of my AU education.”