Nat Kerman, Contributing Photographer

Governor Ned Lamont announced Friday that Karen DuBois-Walton ’89, former New Haven mayoral candidate and President of the city’s housing authority, will serve as the next chairwoman of the Connecticut State Board of Education. 

DuBois-Walton has served on the State Board of Education since 2020. She has served in various City Hall posts, including as chief of staff and chief administrative officer under Mayor John DeStefano Jr. She then transitioned to working at the Elm City Communities, where she has been since 2008.

“Karen has been an incredibly active member of the New Haven community throughout her career,” Lamont said in a press release. “Over these last couple of years, she has been a valuable voice as a member of the State Board of Education, utilizing her experience to bring a much-needed perspective to this important body, which is why I feel that having her serve as its next chairperson is a natural fit.” 

DuBois-Walton came to New Haven in the middle of the 1980s to attend Yale. She never left. Calling herself a “New Havener by choice,” DuBois-Walton challenged Mayor Justin Elicker in the 2021 Democratic Primary for Mayor of New Haven; however, she dropped out on July 27.

According to DuBois-Walton, she “was raised by Civil Rights-era activists,” and the values they instilled in her are a core component of her public service. She noted that she helped reshape the operations of City Hall following the Sept. 11 attacks, while also helping to create the Civilian Oversight Board in New Haven. 

As President of the Housing Authority, DuBois-Walton has worked to rebuild the city’s housing portfolio through new programs to increase access to job training, housing, education and entrepreneurship. 

“I am excited to lead the Connecticut State Board of Education at this pivotal moment where we will design and implement the next five-year plan guiding our efforts to create equity for all Connecticut learners,” DuBois-Walton said. “These past two years have created unimaginable challenges, and our school communities have demonstrated persistence and creativity in meeting the moment while centering safety, wellness, and learning.”

DuBois-Walton has spent much of her time as Housing Authority president looking at “the intersection of housing and education segregation,” through expanding access to housing across the city and ensuring that services be provided to families so that their children receive a quality education. She also joined the national school integration program, named the Bridges collaborative. 

DuBois-Walton told the News that she is currently working on the State Board of Education’s five-year plan, which has just begun development.  She said that she believes  the new five-year plan should follow the same themes as the last one on “Equity and Excellence.” 

The 2016-21 five-year plan included plans to increase the number of teachers of color across the state and boost the quality of Connecticut education.

“I always want faster,” said DuBois-Walton. “We see a disparity or an inequity, those are kids who are or being left behind or not getting what they need. So before I say, you know that I want to revamp or anything, I really want to be looking at the outcomes under the plan that are coming out of now.”

During her time on the State Board of Education, DuBois-Walton spearheaded an effort by Connecticut students to require  Black and Latinx studies coursework to be offered at public high schools. That initiative is set to become a reality next school year.  She has also worked on creating a statewide remote school, which is currently being discussed for students across the state who wish to go to a full time online primary or secondary school.

DuBois-Walton’s tenure as state BOE chair will begin during the committee’s March 2 meeting. 

The State BOE oversees the operation of the state department of education and meets the first Wednesday of every month. 

Yash Roy covered City Hall and State Politics for the News. He also served as a Production & Design editor, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion chair for the News. Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, he is a '25 in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs.