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Good-bye Rhee. Hello, brave new chancellor

There was never any chance that Vincent Gray would reappoint Michelle A. Rhee as D.C. schools chancellor. Too many of the people who voted for him wanted a new start. Unfortunately for whomever replaces Rhee, many of the people who did not vote for Gray will be skeptical that any new chancellor can match Rhee's blend of determination and daring.

Rhee alienated many teachers and administrators in the D.C. schools, and in her rush for change produced many decisions -- particularly in the appointment of principals -- that she soon regretted. But those D.C. residents who had long ago given up hope of any relief from the apathy and inertia that has long held back the city schools saw her as a big improvement, even when she stumbled.

That means Gray has to come up with a replacement who is both experienced handling the politics of big city school districts, which Rhee was not, and willing to offend significant power brokers in making improvements, which few urban school leaders ever do.

I talked to Gray last week about his requirements for a new superintendent. He did not give many clues about who might get the job. But he emphasized the need for someone who could bring all important interests together in moving forward. That says to me he wants someone who already has experience in a similar job.

My picks for the next D.C. schools chancellor (if they keep that title, which some feel is too grand) include former New York and Miami school chief Rudy Crew and former D.C. and now Philadelphia school chief Arlene Ackerman. They are all African American leaders of rare wit and intelligence, with lots of experience making change in big cities.

Gray, a D.C. sports fan all his life, may be tempted to look for the school superintendent equivalent of Joe Gibbs, somebody who has been a talented number two leader in a big district, or the superintendent of a smaller district, but has the personal presence and smarts to do well here. Gray knows this will probably be his most important decision as mayor. I expect he will take his time so that he can talk to each candidate and find the one closest to his values.

The Washington Post Outlook section on Sunday inadvertently published a list of possible Rhee replacements, the signers of "A Manifesto" for urban school reform. The 16 signers, which included Rhee and Ackerman, are all reformers, as Gray is. Their manifesto was pretty limp, as such group statements usually are, but it said things that the new mayor believes in. He and Rhee are actually closer in philosophy on how to turn schools around than most people realize.

Gray has been holding regular Saturday youth hearings to gather thoughts from D.C. students about what they want done to make the city better. Like Rhee, he is focused on making school better for students, not just adults.

He has the potential to take a radical step, like appointing his long-time adviser and friend Josh Kern, co-founder of the Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School, as D.C. chancellor. Gray spoke warmly of Kern in our talk last week.

Putting a charter school leader in charge would shake up some people in the school system who prefer the status quo, and that is one thing Gray clearly wants to do. I don't think he will go so far as to appoint someone as inexperienced in big city school politics as Kern, but the person Gray picks may be someone hardly anyone in the city knows. I wouldn't be surprised if we were all surprised.

Give us Your Take: What's next for Michelle Rhee? Who do you think should replace her as interim chancellor? How do you feel about Rhee's departure? Use #Rhee to discuss on Twitter and we'll post the best responses on our site.

By Washington Post editors  | October 12, 2010; 9:34 PM ET
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Might as well just appoint Barry.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | October 12, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

" willing to offend significant power brokers "

Who are the power brokers that are to be offended, Jay?

And Jay, did you ever find out who are the DC officials who were shocked when told the suspension rates would go up at the 2 high schools under their new regime?

Posted by: edlharris | October 12, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

"Rhee alienated many teachers and administrators in the D.C. schools, and in her rush for change produced many decisions -- particularly in the appointment of principals -- that she soon regretted."

Do I hear news being made? Jay, are you reporting that Rhee REGRETTED anything she ever did??

Do tell. And please provide evidence or her regret. This could eclipse the news of her leaving.

Posted by: efavorite | October 12, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Valerie Strauss "nailed it on the head" concerning Rhee.

Posted by: ericpollock | October 13, 2010 5:01 AM | Report abuse

Valerie Strauss "nailed it on the head" concerning Rhee.

Posted by: ericpollock | October 13, 2010 5:02 AM | Report abuse

For many years urban school districts hired teachers with minimal qualifications and no experience. Rhee continued this shameful practice even though she had the political support and the philanthropic money to attract highly successful teachers from other districts. The only "top" people were recruited for central office jobs. This pretty much sums up the main problem in many of our low-performing schools. Hopefully the new mayor will insist on supporting the present teachers while recruiting others who are both qualified and experienced.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 13, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

for efavorite---she said it in my interview with her last week. We have posted the video of part of it.

Posted by: jaymathews | October 13, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Rhee's biggest problem was that she believed her own publicity. Those of us working "in the trenches" know there are problems to solve and solutions to tweak. But we also know better than to rely on any one person to get the job done--even if that person is the darling of the moment. For more on my experiences teaching in DCPS, please visit my blog at

Posted by: dcproud1 | October 13, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Ms.Rhee has only damaged public education in this nation.

The reality is that DC had some of the best public schools in this nation based upon national tests when Ms. Rhee arrived. These are the non poverty white public schools where the students outperformed students in the nation.

The problem in DC is the large number of poverty public schools where there are large numbers of children that have great difficulties in learning and many who may never be able to learn.

Instead of focusing on the problem of these children in public education Ms. Rhee has helped to create the perception that there is a problem in public education in the nation caused by teachers.

The national policies that Ms. Rhee played a part in formulating are policies that will only degrade public education in this nation as they simply ignore the problems of poverty public schools where there are large number of children with great difficulties in learning.

It is interesting to note that those who pretend that the solution is standardized testing will never accept the idea of testing all children when they first enter public schools with tests such as the standardized school preparation test.

If this standardized test was used for children entering public school it would be apparent of the large difference in children entering poverty public schools and those entering non poverty public schools.

These tests will never be allowed since it would immediately show that the policies of Ms. Rhee do not address at all the problems of the poverty public schools in DC and in the nation.

Ms. Rhee will be remembered as someone who simply aided in degrading public education in this nation.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 13, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

once again, Jay.
who are those dc officials who were shocked to hear that suspensions would go up?

Posted by: edlharris | October 13, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Post needs to stop calling Rhee a superstar. The superstars in Washington, D.C. are the students and parents.

Rhee is a money hungry outsider who will break any rules or laws to do as she pleases. (Example: She tried to bring the St. Hope Charter program to Eastern Senior High - Kevin Johnson's charter program).

Rhee how did you get the RACE TO THE TOP MONEY? Were the documents falsified? Why did Briggs leave with a one day notice?

Are you still going to marry Kevin so that you two will not have to testify when the Feds come for you? What you gonna do when they come for you?

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.

The shoe is on the other foot now, does it pinch?

Posted by: grezeldadyson | October 13, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Putting a charter school leader in charge would shake up some people in the school system who prefer the status quo
Mr. Mathews supported Ms. Rhee and she created the current "status quo" of the DC public school system.

It would be nice if Mr. Mathews put some thought into his articles instead of meaningless phrases.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 13, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

"My picks for the next D.C. schools chancellor (if they keep that title, which some feel is too grand) include former New York and Miami school chief Rudy Crew and former D.C. and now Philadelphia school chief Arlene Ackerman. They are all African American leaders of rare wit and intelligence, with lots of experience making change in big cities."

First, Gray should abolish the position of Chancellor. It is redundant and created specifically for Rhee as she was unqualified to be Superintendent. He should the hire a qualified Superintendent. My suggestion; forget the "Superman," instead visit Dr. Deborah Jewell-Sherman at Harvard and, after first begging her to take the job, ask her for her top three recommendations and hire one of them.

Posted by: mcstowy | October 13, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Henderson can do just fine...thank you! So, please do not beat up on her until the end of October. Ms. Rhee gets a needed rest to spend more time with her children and to travel and relax! She will do just fine also! Best wishes to all of them including Vince Gray who wants all children to learn and I know he also wants all students to develop job skills and he wants all ex-offenders to get jobs ( all of us want that- and if we don't we really need to be educated) Congratulations to all the residents in all the wards of Washington, DC!! We can do it and we will!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | October 13, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Where is the "accountability" for...
> the CIA and other corrupt
govt. & Wall Street-affiliated players
involved with international drug smuggling
for decades (!)
-- deliberately inundating
communities & specific neighborhoods with heroin,
cocaine, meth, pills (MDMA/ecstacy), etc.
It is a documented fact that the CIA
& corrupt elements of the U.S. govt.
& freemasons have been involved in large-scale
heroin distribution operations and also
involved in the deliberately induced
crack cocaine epidemic targeting black neighborhoods (for the purposes of social undermining & political-economic control).

Where is the "accountability" for...
> The 'entertainment' industry
flooding our youth with heinously toxic,
cognitively poisonous VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
that promote
crime, substance abuse, disgusting conduct,
mistreatment & violence against women,
anti-educational achievement,
anti-positive values, anti-professional careers,
anti-healthy, responsible behaviors !

Where is the "accountability" for
self-proclaimed edu-profiteer BILL GATES & MICROSOFT
in producing & promoting VIOLENT, PATHOLOGICAL VIDEO GAMES, including first-person shooter games,
such as HALO !!!??? --
which, unfortunately, too many of our country's
children, our country's students heinously waste
too much time messing around with,
messing themselves up with --
instead of healthfully, smartly & beneficially using that time for... productive experiences, studying, exploring/learning, participating in sports, teamwork, creative arts music, outdoor activities & nature, significant time with friends & family, engaging in community service !!

Where is the accountability for VIACOM
& other media corporations
(eg. instead of the "BET" channel being utilized
for positive, inspirational, educational
or meaningful programming --
it has mostly
broadcast the worst sociopathic, demeaning,
undermining junk -- promoting
gangsterism & exploiting our vulnerable youth
with pernicious mind-killing crap.

FACT! --
Where is the "accountability" for Wall Street
& elite financiers,
owning majority stock in the company
that produced the 'GRAND THEFT AUTO' video game
as its main product !!!

Also, what about the corporate soda-pop
& junk food pushers targeting children ?!

The reality is that ethical, caring, dedicated
public school teachers have been the
'good samaritans' courageously
teaching with tremendous effort daily
to educate & constructively help chidren --
to transcend, overcome hardship,
to cultivate wellbeing & achievement --
despite the grotesque obstacles
& destruction foisted on us by
irresponsible, unscrupulous, rapacious and
duplicitous corporate execs. & financial elites,
corrupt oligarchs, such as Goldman Sachs,
J.P.Morgan/Rothschild scamsters et. al.
who've caused millions of chidren & families to be homeless.

Posted by: newmanagement2 | October 13, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

She should move back to CA so she can keep an eye on Kevin "Hush Money" Johnson. After all, he needs her more than our school system. She has done enough damage to our teachers and students.

Posted by: alcoleman | October 13, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

for edlharris---the Friends of Bedford partners declined to identify for me the names of the DC officials who revealed that attitude. They made clear they did not include Rhee. She herself said she thought the principal was wrong to be trying to decrease suspensions when I interviewed her earlier this month. They cut that part out of the video we have posted. Do you think i should ask them to transcribe the whole thing and run it here?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 13, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Transcribing the video interview would be nice.
So, I presume these DC officials were DCPS employees and not from DC Government?
I don't care for names, but their relative positions.
Thanks Jay.

Posted by: edlharris | October 13, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Rudy Crew’s mother died when he was an infant. His father raised him and his two sisters. Eugene Crew lived through the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal, the Scottsboro Boys, World War II, Emmett Till, Brown v. Board of Education and the hounding of Paul Robeson during the McCarthy Era. His avocation as a jazz musician exposed young Rudy Crew to the arts and culture, as well as leading figures in the fiery struggle for Civil Rights and Black Liberation. Of his father Dr. Crew has said, “His lessons have been the way I understand leadership, it’s not about ducking and dodging and playing a game. …It means stand up for something.”

Rudy Crew stood up to another giant in the anti-public school movement while he was Chancellor of New York City Public Schools. When Crew opposed Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s private school voucher program it helped cost him his job. So when Dr. Crew won the appointment as the Superintendent of the Miami-Dade Public Schools, Gov. Bush realized he was facing a formidable new obstacle to his plans for privatizing education.

The privatizers count heavily on racism and this is where Dr. Crew draws a line in the sand. While they fully intend to leave behind African-American, Latino, Native American and immigrant children, he hopes not to do that. The privatizers cry crocodile tears over the “achievement gap” because it helps obscure some other gaps in the nation’s social fabric. Of the household assets gap, average white families owning 14 times what average Black families own, they are silent. Of the infant mortality gap, more than twice the rate for Black mothers, they speak not. That also goes for the life expectancy gap, the health care gap, nutrition gap, and the employment gap.

George, Jeb, Bloomberg, the Walton Family, Bill Gates, and all the rest are forced to buy influence in the Black community. It is enemy territory and snake oil salesmen like Armstrong Williams and charlatans like Rod Paige must carry their message. The US Department of Education had to pass thirty pieces of silver to Williams for his No Child Left Behind promotion. Paige put a blackface on the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations” and was able to call the biggest education fraud in history “the Houston Miracle” with a straight face. He was rewarded the first Broad Foundation Prize and with a spot in George Bush’s cabinet.

You may have seen their slogan -- No Excuses. It helps excuse away certain damning realities. Historically low levels of federal education spending and lower state funding of public schools, “No Excuses”. The perfect correlation of poverty and low standardized test scores, “No Excuses”. The re-segregation of America’s schools, “No Excuses”. Excuses are reserved for corporate downsizing, the outsourcing of jobs, escaping from pension and health care plans through bankruptcy, corrupt accounting practices and insider trading, offshore tax avoidance schemes, and obscene profit taking.

Posted by: natturner | October 14, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Great comment natturner. I heard Fenty spoke to Crew before he surprised the world with Rhee. 30 pieces of silver?

Posted by: mcstowy | October 14, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

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