Karen Lee Williams was elected by her constituents in Ward 7 to serve as their representative on the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) in November 2012 and was re-elected in November 2016. She is currently the Chair of the SBOE's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Task Force.
In 2017 and again in 2018, Ms. Williams served as President of the SBOE. Ms. Williams’ early legislative work on the State Board included collaborating with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) on the development of the “No Child Left Behind” waivers and graduation requirements. In 2013, Karen was chosen to head the newly formed SBOE Administrative Committee that was charged with closing the gaps left in agency staff, budget, and internal operating procedures. This committee formed when the SBOE became an independent DC government agency and when legislation was passed to place two other independent government offices, the Office of the Ombudsman and Chief Student Advocate, under the umbrella of the SBOE.
Karen served as Vice President of the SBOE in 2015 and 2016. During this time, Karen expanded her administrative duties to include developing an agency hiring matrix and using it to onboard the Executive Director, the Ombudsman for Public Education and the Chief Student Advocate. While staffing the office, Karen also worked with President Jack Jacobson to develop SBOE operating policies while increasing the visibility and transparency of the agency. During this timeframe, Karen’s work on the legislative side included collaborating with the Board on credit flexibility regulations and the development of the State Diploma for students completing the GED or NEPD programs.
Creating equitable educational opportunities for all District public school students and providing early intervention services for at-risk students has been a primary focus for Karen’s entire educational career. Karen has worked as a special education teacher in DC Public Schools (DCPS) and as the Director at an accredited Early Childhood Education Center in Ward 8. Karen left her position at the center in 2015 to dedicate more time to her functions at the SBOE.
Karen currently serves on the following Boards and committees:
- Board member, Ward 7 Education Council
- Member, H.D. Woodson High School STEM Advisory Committee
- Member, Deputy Mayor for Education’s Cross Sector Taskforce
- Board member, RaiseDC Advisory Board
- Ex-officio member, SBOE committees
- President, Hillcrest Community Civic Association
A native Washingtonian, Karen graduated from Ballou Senior High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary special education from George Washington University.