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Gray: School reform and Rhee not 'inextricably tied'

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) says Chancellor Michelle Rhee and ongoing city school reform efforts are not "inextricably tied," but he's not ready to say one way or another whether he would keep her on the job if he is elected mayor this year.

Gray, who held his campaign kickoff on Saturday, appears to be trying to navigate the tricky world of District school politics as he speaks out in support of reform efforts but keeps his distance from Rhee, a key ally of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

"Let me be clear - I remain committed to school reform so every child has access to a quality education," Gray said during his campaign kickoff speech.

But Gray told reporters after his speech that Rhee doesn't have to be in charge for school reform to be a success. Although he stressed he will consider keeping her if he is elected, Gray thinks it's time the debate over the future of school overhaul efforts moves beyond Rhee.

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"I voted for school reform before I even knew Michelle Rhee," Gray said. "We voted for a new governance approach several months before she came on board. There probably will be a lot of people that will ask me that question, but that is something she and I will have to work through."

Two weeks ago, Gray raised a few eyebrows when he suggested Rhee might voluntarily decide to give up her job if he wins because she is getting married to someone who lives on the West Coast. According to various comments on blogs and Washingtonpost.com, some found Gray's comment to be sexist.

With education shaping up to be a top issue in the campaign, it remains to be seen if voters allow Gray to avoid taking a firm position about Rhee's future. And, in this case, the polls won't help him pick a politically expedient course.

A Washington Post poll in January found voters were nearly evenly divided on whether they approved of Rhee -- 43 percent approved of what she's doing, and 44 percent were dissatisfied. Among African-Americans, only 28 percent approved of Rhee's job performance while 62 percent were dissatisfied.

Gray has strong support within the African-American community, but Rhee remains popular in the white community in vote-rich Upper Northwest.

Gray is trying to differentiate himself from Fenty on school reform while still reaching out to white voters who have embraced Rhee and her policies.

Part of Gray's strategy centers on his broadening the discussion to include more than Fenty's focus on K-12 education. Gray has proposed more resources for both pre-kindergarten and higher education.

"We have to connect the dots," Gray said. " I think we ought to be able to say we have a birth through 24-year-old program in the District of Columbia."

--Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  |  April 26, 2010; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  Education , Mayor Fenty , Tim Craig , Vincent C. Gray  | Tags: Adrian Fenty, Michelle Rhee  
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Comments

We voters need to learn from Chairman Gray his views on the sizing of the special education budget. What has he done regarding this issue? What would he do as mayor?

Posted by: axolotl | April 26, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rhee's ways re her methodology of teaching may be questionable for some, but overall she has turned around and upsides down an entrenched teacher and administrative bureaucracy including the Teacher's Union, that has for too long stifled the overall improvement in the educational process in D.C. public schools, their support programs, and overall maintenance and new construction within the school systems. For all too long there has been no one person able to be held accountable as she is, for the most part, now. There remain obstacles such as with the recent budget fiasco but she has stepped in and revamped with a new energized staff the education process for D.C. children - a basic entitlement deprived for all too long.

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | April 27, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee has been like a Katrina for the DC public schools. To paraphrase a quote from an education scholar, she is like a general turning the big guns on her own troops. Alienating teachers and blaming them is foolish and shows her inexperience.

Teaching to the test has made her look successful but the fact is teaching to the test doesn't provide an education. If you get good marks on the standard test but you can score elsewhere, I believe that says something.
There were bigger gains before Rhee got here.
Her push for performance based pay is ill informed and will be catastrophic by pushing good teachers out of the profession.

Posted by: zebra22 | April 27, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Gray has to focus on what "HE" would do. He seems to want this election to be about Fenty's personality. But, Fenty has done an excepional job in major areas 1) schools 2)crime 3) City beautificaion 4) snow removal 5) DMV services etc.

Is it worth stopping that improvement because the mayor isn't warm and fuzzy?

Is "dotting of I's and T's" code for "delay" and "re-prioritization"?

Fenty is not perfect, clearly. But there isn't a person in any job that is. So, there will always be critisisms. There will always be shortcomings. And, for a 36-39 year old, there will be growing that needs to take place. But, looking at his numbers....he has impressive positives.

Gray has to do something more than call names. He has to present a real "difference" between the two. He needs to show why he would be better. Show how he would improve services. Show how he will continue to attract residents of ALL races.

On one hand, it seems that he is Pandering to Whites by claiming that he has the same "values" and "goals" as Fenty. On the other, he is race baiting Blacks with promises of taking "OUR" city back.

I can deal with Mr. Hot. I can deal with Mr. Cold. But I don't trust Mr. In-between.

Blaming Fenty for a racial divide that has existed for two two hundred years is not enough to get my vote. Neither will claiming that process is more important than performance.

I don't care where the Mayor takes vacation. I don't care whether someone he knows got a contract and stiffed a subcontractor. And I sure as hell don't care that Vincent Gray and Marion Barry missed some baseball games.

How am I going to educate my child without spending every penny i make on private schools? How am I going to take my daughter to the park and not see male prostitutes huddles off in corners? How will i raise my child free of worry that a drive-bye or a stick up is going to happen at the 7-11? When will my realatives stop asking me why I moved to "Murder Central?"

If Gray isn"t going to explain that....then Fenty has my vote. I do not trust politicians that rely on personal attacks tear down opponents. I trust politicians that tell me how they are going to solve problems. REAL PROBLEMS.

I am not him...so vote for me is not acceptable.

Posted by: politicalrealist | April 27, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

There appears to be racism going on. A large portion of blacks are dissatisfied with Rhee while a large portion of whites approve of Rhee. What's going on here? Would opinions change if Rhee was black?

Posted by: carbon916 | April 27, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks that maser fenty's snow removal was exceptional this past winter is smoking from the same pipe as maser fenty. DMV services are better because of former mayor anthony williams who put service centers in the neighborhoods. I don't believe that crime is down here in ward 8 this year. Quality of life issues affecting resident---worst in 20 years. You can't ticket your way out of mismanagement of government funds.

So, because of the above and the disrespect
shown by maser fenty toward Dr. Dorothy Height, I will not drink this kool aid again.

Posted by: maserfentyaintnogood | April 27, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks that maser fenty's snow removal was exceptional this past winter is smoking from the same pipe as maser fenty. DMV services are better because of former mayor anthony williams who put service centers in the neighborhoods. I don't believe that crime is down here in ward 8 this year. Quality of life issues affecting resident---worst in 20 years. You can't ticket your way out of mismanagement of government funds.

So, because of the above and the disrespect
shown by maser fenty toward Dr. Dorothy Height, I will not drink this kool aid again.

Posted by: maserfentyaintnogood

--------------------


More race baiting. Was this posted by Gray? I'm tired of hearing this type of thing from Gray when I'm the only white person in the crowd.

Posted by: streff | April 27, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I think a lot of people supported the reform and don't support Rhee. She may say she is in it for the children, but more and more it seems like she is in it to promote herself. Her management has been atrocious. She has broken two core rules of effective management - she has alienated her entire workforce, and she can't keep track or control of the system's money. Test scores have been going up in DCPS every year for almost a decade, with that horrible union that is popular to vilify. An organization the size of DCPS does not change overnight. Teachers under Rhee have hunkered down and are trying to do their jobs for the kids in spite of her. I just hope we can get rid of her before she causes permanent damage.

Posted by: Mulch5 | April 27, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Gray is 100% correct. If we link school reform to one person or one Mayor we have lost the battle before we begin.

School reform must continue whoever the Mayor is with that person's commitment to continue to make the changes needed to upgrade education for all children.

School test scores are in large part moving upward becaue of the standards changes brought about by Michelle Rhee's predecessor, Clifford Janey. He began to upgrade standards and scoured the country to find the best ones to base DC standards on.

Michelle Rhee has moved forward with reform by being able to close unneeded schools and raising teacher standards. She could have done even more had she not come in like a Mack Truck starting fights where they didn't need to be any.

But none the less Rhee deserves credit for moving education forward in DC and if she stays that is great but let's not confuse continued reform with Rhee.

I am sure she would be the first to agree with that. It would be a real disservice to her tenure to say it will all fall apart if she leaves.

Posted by: peterdc | April 27, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse


1) schools- We haven’t seen any improvements from Ms. Rhee. What we have seen is an unqualified person who had to be given the title of Chancellor b/c she didn’t have the educational background to be called a superintendent create a chaotic situation. Even the Department of Education questioned the data showing gains (although gains have been occurring in DCPS for a couple of years now). Please see http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcschools/2010/03/feds_poke_holes_in_district_rt.html#more Also DOE questioned the growing achievement gap. Lastly, we need to remember this was not a platform that D.C. voters elected Fenty on. This was all sprung on us after he was elected. He didn’t seek counsel from any stakeholders on Ms. Rhee.

2) crime – Crime is down all over the nation so does he credit for that as well. Interesting how Fenty et al like to take credit for things that were a result of other administrations, but when these same things are negative he likes to distance himself and say that it isn’t his fault b/c this happen under another admin.
3) City beautification – I’ll give him 2 points for this.

4) Snow removal- This was the worst. Instead of being proactive he was reactive. He made poor choices all the way through from how to get the clean up down, to trying to send the poor kiddies to school, to sending gov’t workers to work at their peril. Again you can’t use the argument that this was a historic storm when it wasn’t historic enough to make a decision.

5) DMV services –Under Antony watched.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | April 27, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

The whole warm and fuzzy argument is again lost. D.C. elected Williams twice and he was even less warm and fuzzy then Adrian. But, where the difference show between Fenty and Williams is that Williams was willing to take criticism and work towards a consensus. Williams didn't have those questioning him escorted out by the police (Dorothy Brizill) Fenty can’t and won’t do that. What the Gestapo Fenty has created is an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. That’s why he has suggested in his new budget to chop PERB down to two people. Reducing PERB which has a 600 case log, effectively stops any gov’t employee from due process (which according to God Daddy Pete due process is only reserved for Skinner and the crew)

The issues are broader then tickets and knowing where the Mayor is. What you’re attempting to do is marginalize many D.C. residents’ valid grievances.

using police resources to stop traffic so that his friends can ride bikes
-having a 75,000 heater installed in his favorite city pool
- having his name scrawled in super sized letters on the new soccer field
-using city money to throw a frat party
-Cut D.C. Fire Cadet Program (few programs that allowed 18-22 yr to become firefighters.
-DCPR Fires Day Care Workers
-He won’t release the books on NCRC and AWC
-Fire Truck Scandal
-The PERB Board Standoff (cost the D.C. tax payers 30 million
- Summer Youth debacle
-HIV rates climbed to the highest and federal money mismanaged (Bars HIV Director from meeting w/ HUD’s top brass.
-D.C. Youth Facility inmates escape twice
-Shut down the Department of Mental Health
-Grace Wiggins Firing (DHCD)
- Pretty much denying any Director testifying to the council
-OCTO Scandal
-Peachoholics given funding without written contracts or results
-$83million laundered to friends
- DC Housing Authority’s secretly issuing a Christmas eve check for $2.5 million to Banneker Associates

Just to name a few

Posted by: thelildiva4u | April 27, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

of course school reform is bigger than any one person. The real question is what will happen to school reform if Gray is elected.

Gray is working very hard to dodge the question. He wants to be the candidate for people who want Rhee fired and people who want Rhee kept. He says, "Let me be clear - I remain committed to school reform so every child has access to a quality education." These statements are just empty nonsense. If were to believe them, we have to conclude that this speaker will say anything to make everybody happy--but he's not going to make any tough choices. The best he can do is change the subject, by talking about more 'programs' for babies and 24-year olds.

If Gray is elected, we can expect more of the same gutlessness that led to the school system's collapse in the first place.

Posted by: hungrypug | April 27, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I really see Fenty as a punk. He has hurt those that are weakest (grandparents, the poor, less educated, mentally ill, foster children etc). He’s cut services to them b/c they are the least likely to advocate for themselves. Sounds like a bully to me…pick on the little guy. A good leader listens and works with all stakeholders. A good leader doesn't go pandering to those who he has abused during election time. A good leader doesn’t lead by scare tactics. A good leader is willing to have transparency and willing to be held accountable.

As for Gray dodging the Rhee question we should remember that Fenty NEVER campaigned on school reform. He never stated during his election that he was interested in hiring Rhee.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | April 27, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Why do people really dislike Mayor Fenty? I dare say that many don't really know. The tide seemed to turn when he would not give baseball tickets to the council members. They got upset and we just followed them.

Does he have a great personality? No. Does he connect well with lots of people and give you a warm and fuzzy feeling everytime you meet him? No. But has the city and it's services remained stable or improved? Yes. Has crime gone down? Yes. Has business and city growth and beautification continued? Yes. Well, what else do you want a mayor to do? If you want someone who you can have a beer (or joint) with, or someone that will come to your block party, pat kids on the head, and visit your church or senior center, re-elect Mayor Barry. If you want someone who can run the city effectively, have it grow, and has the energy and skill to maintain that growth, stick with what you have now!

Geez ... how petty can we get sometimes?

As for Ms Rhee, she also has some failings. But she is balancing out the influence of the corrupt teacher's union, who care more about benefits than quality teaching. I know that being a DCPS teacher is a tough job, and just hiring a bunch of 20-something white kids from Kansas to teach here is not the answer ... but at least something was being done more than the status quo, and more kids are learning .. if for no other reason than the fact that you have more idealistic teachers actually trying to break through the social and attitudinal barriers to reach those diamonds in the rough. What would you do different?

If you have no better plan to improve the system, stay with the one that is changing the situation for the better. Stay with the one that says that the status quo is just not good enough. Stay with the ones that are rebuilding schools, attracting new talent, and continuing to raise scores. Stay with the ones that have the focus back on the kids and not the system. Show me someone who would do it better and I will listen to them. But until then, I am sticking with these guys.

Posted by: crw901025 | April 27, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

So the new tactic (talking point) is to say Gray is race baiting. Unreal…really. The fact that he acknowledges that there are racial tensions in the District and the fact that he wants to unify all sides is much more then what Gestapo Fenty has done. He has never acknowledged this issue. Never tried to work at repairing it and if he does something now it’s just political pandering like his visit to the late and great Dr. Dorothy Height whom he finally visited while she was in a coma.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | April 27, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Carbon916: Much of the gap in approval ratings is based on how people perceive and feel about how they have been treated. This is something to which anyone in a high-profile position, such as head of an agency, should be aware. If you are invited by a PTSA to attend a meeting and provide information, and you do not attend and do say that you cannot attend – if you receive e-mails and do not respond to them – if you receive letters and do not respond to them – if your office receives telephone calls and there is no follow-up – then you will get low approval ratings. There should be no surprise with that. Mayor Fenty is dealing with a similar problem. The low approval ratings are not coming out of thin air.

However, it doesn’t have to stay that way. In fact, the low ratings provide a real opportunity to work toward changing perceptions in a positive direction. Pardon this tortured sentence structure, but if you already know what you are doing, or not doing with some people, that is creating the low approval ratings; and you know what you are doing, or not doing with some people, that is creating the high approval ratings, you can make changes that increase positive perception. What you do has to be genuine because you’re starting from a deficit position -- there are a significant number of people who do not trust your sincerity. Changing this situation requires more than PR spin.

I don’t think this is a racial issue. Black people in this city have voiced disapproval with city officials who are/were of many different backgrounds. White people in this city have voiced disapproval with city officials who are/were of many different backgrounds. There are people who perceive, and I would argue rightly so, that their concerns are not being considered, let alone being taken seriously. Changing that perception requires engaging with the people who are feeling disaffected. Largely, I would say this group is parents and teachers. This is a significant part of the constituency. Their points of view and input are, in my opinion, an essential part to accelerating the education reform process (and no, I am not talking about charter schools). Meetings can be structured in such a way that they don’t become “chancellor bashing” sessions. Questions can be submitted ahead of time, etc., but there have to be real, thoughtful answers provided, and decision-making needs to be more transparent.

Chancellor Rhee has a difficult job, but she has the job. That includes all of it -- both the praise and the censure. She and her staff have the ability to increase the praise. They just have to decide if the effort of including all stakeholders is worth it to them. I hope that it is.

As I have said before, tying school reform to a particular person is counterproductive when it creates an atmosphere where the emphasis is placed on personality and not on the fundamentals of reform. I’m hoping we can get beyond this point.

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | April 27, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Again for crw901025.. The whole warm and fuzzy argument is again lost. D.C. elected Williams twice and he was even less warm and fuzzy then Adrian. But, where the difference show between Fenty and Williams is that Williams was willing to take criticism and work towards a consensus. Williams didn't have those questioning him escorted out by the police (Dorothy Brizill) Fenty can’t and won’t do that. What the Gestapo Fenty has created is an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. That’s why he has suggested in his new budget to chop PERB down to two people. Reducing PERB which has a 600 case log, effectively stops any gov’t employee from due process (which according to God Daddy Pete due process is only reserved for Skinner and the crew)

The issues are broader then tickets and knowing where the Mayor is. What you’re attempting to do is marginalize many D.C. residents’ valid grievances.

using police resources to stop traffic so that his friends can ride bikes
-having a 75,000 heater installed in his favorite city pool
- having his name scrawled in super sized letters on the new soccer field
-using city money to throw a frat party
-Cut D.C. Fire Cadet Program (few programs that allowed 18-22 yr to become firefighters.
-DCPR Fires Day Care Workers
-He won’t release the books on NCRC and AWC
-Fire Truck Scandal
-The PERB Board Standoff (cost the D.C. tax payers 30 million
- Summer Youth debacle
-HIV rates climbed to the highest and federal money mismanaged (Bars HIV Director from meeting w/ HUD’s top brass.
-D.C. Youth Facility inmates escape twice
-Shut down the Department of Mental Health
-Grace Wiggins Firing (DHCD)
- Pretty much denying any Director testifying to the council
-OCTO Scandal
-Peachoholics given funding without written contracts or results
-$83million laundered to friends
- DC Housing Authority’s secretly issuing a Christmas eve check for $2.5 million to Banneker Associates

Just to name a few

Posted by: thelildiva4u | April 27, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

DC Schools need reform. And it will have to be done by someone outside the system. There is too much entrenched incompetence and that has to be removed. Rhee is trying and yes she has made missteps, but by and large she has got rid of some of the problems. The biggest problems are the caregivers for the students. A 30 yr old woman who has 5 kids by different dads is not a suitable parent; shes something like an amusement ride that everyone has ridden.

Posted by: almelbe | April 27, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

He would get my vote if he promised to fire her. If so many White people in Upper Northwest love Rhee so much why don't they have their kids in DC Public Schools?

Posted by: PepperDr | April 27, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

thelildiva, you make good points. There have been many mistakes and missteps by this mayor. He is not the ideal candidate. My only point is that I don't see any politian on the horizon that will do much better other than make us "feel" good.

I have no idea what Gray stands for other than not liking Fenty. Is he a tax and spender? What would his priorities be? Will he focus on residents or business, or does he have the skill to negotiate with both? Will he rehire all the teachers, no matter how good or bad they are and fire Rhee so that we can get a pushover running DCPS? What is his plan on to address homelessness? I just don't know.

I hope he runs on more than just being the anti-Fenty. Eventhough that can win, will we be begging him to leave in 2 years too?

Posted by: crw901025 | April 27, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

I attempted to correct my post from yesterday, but that correction was not posted. So here it goes again. The correction is to sentence #3. It should read “If you are invited by a PTSA to attend a meeting and provide information, and you do not attend and do NOT say that you cannot attend…”

Anyway, that may not matter as much since it seems that recent reports from WTOP are saying that Ms. Rhee is “inextricably tied” to school reform, or at least as far as possible private grantors are concerned.

Unbelievable!

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | April 28, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

crw901025. If you’re real intentions are to vet other candidates beyond reading the washpo and its comment section then I sincerely hope that you check out not only Mr. Gray’s website, but all of the folks who are running? You can go to the D.C. Council website and look at his legislative record too. The answers are there about your questions.

Can you honestly say that you’re happy with the direction of D.C.? Are you happy w/ $83 million given to Gestapo Fenty's friends? Do you believe in open gov't? Do you think that it's ok for a Mayor to practice Gestapo techniques on its employees? Do you think its ok for a Mayor to balance a budget on the poor and those less able to advocate for themselves? Do you think its ok for a school system to be run by someone who is unqualified and is beholding to business such as Wal-Mart? Do you think it's ok to hire your God-Father as AG? Is o.k. for the D.C. AG to act as if he's the personal counsel for the Mayor? Are you ok with the current unemployment rate?

I mean I just don't know if Fenty is really willing to change. I’ve been to his website and it just doesn't seem like he is. Now if you can sleep at night and feel good about all that the Gestapo Fenty is doing then I think you already know who your vote lies with.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | April 28, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

do we think thelildiva4u knows the origin and the meaning of "Gestapo"?

Posted by: axolotl | April 28, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

axolotl I do. Do you?

Posted by: thelildiva4u | April 28, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

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