What Gray, Rhee should do now for D.C. schools
D.C. school kids and parents and teachers don’t need uncertainty about who is going to be in charge of the system.
That means that D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, expected to be elected mayor in November now that he has defeated Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary, must reach some agreement with D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee about the future very, very fast.
There may be those who want to take time to bring the two sides together to see if there is some way that they can work together, even after Rhee openly campaigned for Fenty, her patron, and Gray repeatedly refused to say that he would keep her.
My colleague Bill Turque reported that CNN’s John King asked Gray in an interview aired last night whether he would retain Rhee and Gray responded: “Well, we’ll see. I’ve said many times that education reform has to be about more than one person."
Whether Rhee and Gray work together is, of course, their decision, separately and/or together.
For the sake of the school community, it would be best for them to get over themselves and figure out now whether they can reach a compromise.That would be a good ending.
But if they can't work together -- and it's a decent bet that they can't given their very different views of how a schools chief should operate -- Gray should move quickly to replace Rhee. Leaving her as chancellor during a long search, with Rhee keeping one eye on the door, is unacceptable. Nobody with half a heart in a job is going to perform very well.
Whether you agree with Rhee's reform initiatives (and I oppose many of them), she has displayed an admirable sense of urgency in her efforts. That should not be lost, and speaks to why Gray has to move fast. He doesn't have to find somebody to reinvent the wheel, so a superintendent/chancellor search doesn't really have to take as long as they traditionally do.
Those Rhee supporters who fear that her reforms will go down the drain if she leaves should remember that the city must stick in large part to the promises it made to the federal government in its application for $75 million in Race to the Top funding, which it won last month.
As Turque said in this story, it is unlikely (unfortunately) that a Rhee successor would give back the money, which requires the school system to carry on Rhee’s initiatives: aggressive turnaround strategies, with continued use of outside operators for persistently failing schools; expansion of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system into the public charter schools; broader use of student test score data to inform personnel and instructional decisions; and improved professional development for teachers.
So, while Gray may want to take time to find a successor, he would be well advised to get moving. A leadership vacuum will be corrosive.
It’s time for the adults in the city to stop letting down the kids.
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| September 15, 2010; 6:40 AM ET
Categories: D.C. Schools, School turnarounds/reform | Tags: d.c. school reform, fenty loses, gray and rhee, gray wins, is rhee leaving, michelle rhee, rhee and fenty, rhee and gray, what now for d.c. schools, will rhee leave?
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