Hidden Depths of Michelle Rhee
My colleague Marc Fisher has a wonderfully detailed profile of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee in the upcoming issue of wp, the Post's renamed and renovated Sunday magazine. It is already online here.
Rhee is remarkably open to press scrutiny (except for her bad decision to freeze out my colleague Bill Turque, which she has thankfully reversed). Among school district heads she is the quickest in the country at returning emails. But she gave Marc even more access to her working day, including some meetings that her staff apparently wished she had not invited him to watch.
In one he describes her and her staff frankly discussing what fixes in some schools--such as adding classroom bathrooms for kindergartners--might lure white middle-class families back to the D.C. system. In another she meets with four students from Anacostia High School. They ask for an hour, and she gives it to them. They make their school sound like a zoo---disruptive kids, no hot water, teachers signaling low expectations---and Rhee says nothing in the school's defense, other than she has just installed new leadership, the charter operator Friendship, with many improvements in store.
There is much in the piece about Rhee's image, particularly the Time magazine cover picture of her with a broom. Union leaders are quoted as saying they took this to mean she was going to clean out all the old teachers and bring in a new crew, not what they wanted to hear from someone with whom they were negotiating a contract. I don't think image is that important to Rhee, and I don't think it should be. Other big city superintendents pull back from hard decisions when they sense criticism, and possible dismissal by their school boards. Rhee answers only to the mayor, and seems not the least bit concerned about being fired, since she didn't ask for this job in the first place.
Marc got past whatever image people might have of Rhee, and revealed much of the real person, her upbringing, her inveterate candor, her blithe insensitivity to what are considered standard political soothing techniques. It is a great read and I understood the chancellor better after finishing it.
Posted by: dccitizen1 | September 26, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: CDVWolverine | September 26, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: edlharris | September 26, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dccitizen1 | September 27, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dccitizen1 | September 27, 2009 7:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: efavorite | September 27, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dccitizen1 | September 27, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dccitizen1 | September 27, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: efavorite | September 27, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: edlharris | September 27, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.