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Posted at 6:40 AM ET, 09/15/2010

What Gray, Rhee should do now for D.C. schools

By Valerie Strauss

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.



RELATED ARTICLE: 2 D.C. Council members to push Gray and Rhee to compromise on contract extension

OPINION: McCartney: Gray should find a way to keep Rhee

READ MORE: How Adrian Fenty lost his reelection bid for D.C. mayor

VIDEO: Vincent Gray supporters celebrate his win

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By Valerie Strauss  | 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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Posted by: allenmichael15 | September 15, 2010 2:14 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately for the DC school system and especially its students, the defeat of Adrian Fenty for mayor will be Rhee's excuse to leave for Sacramento and Kevin Johnson.

Posted by: phoss1 | September 15, 2010 6:48 AM | Report abuse

People voted for Gray to get rid of Rhee. In order to honor those who voted for him Gray needs to get rid of Rhee.

The voters have spoken. Bring in a chancellor with a proven track record. Bring in true reform.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 15, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Rhee should be able to act fast since that is what she is known for.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 15, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

IMPACT would be a good tool in the hands of an administration that has not discredited itself through its ideological self-rightoeus. Test scores for evaluation are inherently dangerous, but in the hands of peer review committees they would be fine. The RttT did not require misuse of tests or litmus tests by teacher-bashers, but neither did it require those scorched earth tactics. In the hands of Tom Payzant or Janey or any respectful leader, we now have an opportunity. The key will be learning the lesson of hubris.

Posted by: johnt4853 | September 15, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Rhee is one reason Fenty was defeated and for anyone to think that Gray will keep her is nonsense.

Posted by: rlj1 | September 15, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Ding dong the witch is dead
which old witch?

The one with the broom

Posted by: mamoore1 | September 15, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

In the hands of a competent and qualified leader, reform is difficult, but it can be achieved without the divisive stunts and gimmicks that the woefully unqualified Michelle Rhee employed to implement her campaign of self-aggrandizement. Gray should ask for her resignation the day after the general election and the search should begin immediately for a qualified replacement.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | September 15, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

What the mayor elect should do right now is to start looking for a true educator to lead the Washington, D.C. school district. Michelle Rhee is an anathema to public education and a corporate hatchet person no more, no less. The students, parents, and educators need support from the administration not an axe hanging over their work. In D.C., New York, Chicago, and other urban cities the reform movement has proven to be little more than a political exercise an attempt to break unions in those cities. Students have not benefited in fact when test results are compared to national tests the reformers have a dismal record of achievement. At the same time while touting accountability, they offer none in fact hold the teachers to the fire and excuse their failre to support schools by taking the corporate way out, closing them. The replacement schools offer no real success for students only a new market for the corporate world to invest and earn in. Rhee should be let go and any support from any avenue for her must be suspect.

Richard Mangone
Retired Teacher NYC.

Posted by: richamango | September 15, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

yes! We should give back the Race off the Cliff's Edge money. This is NOT needed money and will not fund more thoughtful teaching. Thank you for mentioning it.

Posted by: dcparent | September 15, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I do not believe that Rhee will stay around, nor should Gray keep her around. A majority of the "ideas" that are being executed by Rhee were originally penciled by the former Chancellor. In all actuality, Rhee has hardly come up with any ideas of her own.

It would be interesting to see who Gray chooses as the new chancellor (that is, if he decides not to keep Rhee).

Posted by: Wisdom111 | September 15, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

"she has displayed an admirable sense of urgency in her efforts."
Well, as everybody knows, if an employer writes this sentence in a letter of reference, this doesn't exactly makes it easier for you to find a new job. You can shorten it down to "nice try, but failed".

Time for giving that job to someone else! Someone who combines urgency with qualification, compassion, an open minded approach, and at least some sense of diplomacy!

Posted by: Gray62 | September 15, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Btw, not related to anyone who's been in the news recently!

Posted by: Gray62 | September 15, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

"The voters have spoken. Bring in a chancellor with a proven track record. Bring in true reform."

Posted by: educationlover54

I disagree. Gray should bring in a Superintendent with a proven track record. The position of "Chancellor" should be abolished, as it was only invented because Rhee was unqualified to serve as Superintnedent.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 15, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse


I agree. I hadn't thought of that.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 15, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Gray should be brave and send the Race to the Top Money back.

Posted by: ocisab | September 15, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

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