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Cafritz supports Gray for mayor -- but also wants school reform continuity

Former D.C. School Board member Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a well-known socialite and patron of the arts, said Wednesday night she is supporting Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) in the mayor's race.

But if you were one of the 250 people who attended the D.C. Appleseed dinner that night, you would have never known that Cafritz is rooting for Gray over Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the September Democratic primary.

D.C. Appleseed honored Cafritz with a community achievement award for her record of supporting public education. When Cafritz took the stage, she immediately began telling the crowd of lawyers and community leaders that they need to be "very careful over the next few months" not to do anything to upset ongoing school reform efforts.

"In Washington D.C. we have the tendency to change one thing before we give it a chance to work," said Cafritz, in what appeared to an endorsement of Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

With Gray supporters squirming in their seats, Cafrtiz later added: "If you see one thing and think it's strong, stick with it."

In an interview after the dinner, Cafritz cautioned her speech wasn't designed to try to influence in the mayor's race. In fact, she told the Washington Post she's willing to go public for the first time with her support for Gray.

"He is incredibly smart and he has really devoted his career to public service," said Cafrtiz, who is still trying to recover from the fire that destroyed her mansion on Chain Bridge Road in July. "He's got a tremendous amount of substance and is also a very hard worker."

Cafrtiz, who has known Gray since they were young adults, added voters shouldn't automatically assume a vote for Gray will lead to the ouster of Rhee, whom she supports.

"I know there is tremendous amount of opposition [to Rhee] in some circles and she has at time had an alienating style," Cafritz said. "Whoever comes in [to the mayor's office], will have to have a heart to heart with her, but she has had to make some tough decisions. Change isn't easy."

--Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  May 20, 2010; 10:55 AM ET
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Her opinions are nuanced. Many people who support Gray are doing so because they think he'll either dump Rhee or that she'll quit if Fenty is no longer mayor. And a whole lot of people are supporting the un-Fenty because they see him as favoring whites, euphemistically called newcomers to the city, but it's a code word.

Posted by: chelita | May 20, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse "socialite" the image is quite funny. She's supporting Gray because her donations alone....would look like a zillion dollars compared to what Fenty has already secured. Also, Ellington and McKinley are Cafritz "pet" projects and so-far it's been hands-off in referenced to both schools during Rhee's tenure...and that makes Peggy pretty darn happy!!!

Posted by: PowerandPride | May 20, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forgeet that the ole DC Board of Ed, looking back on it, never had a period of sustained competence in its oversight of the schools. It presided over accelerating decline.
Peggy can go for Gray, but he is, like the Republicans, a man of "no." He has "no" plan.
She is also, in terms of wealth and lifestyle, a woman of Northwest, even Foxhall Road, though that is not where her "mansion" was. For those who would divide the city at any opportunity to block school reform, she is an inviting target if she does not support Fenty and energetically supports Vince.
And we need to put Vince's Dept of Human Services stint under a microscope, even though from a distance it appears to be anything but flattering.
On the plus side, he has been a backer of Rhee in a low key way. He is gentlement, indeed likes bantering with her while she is testifying, and has not opposed any important action or decision she has made.

Just watch him try to share credit for her accomplishments; actually, he is due some credit on the political level. He is not inclined to get rid of her, will try not to comment on that, but that is about the first..and last question he will be asked at any opportunity.
And you can bet he wants to see the TA passed, and it will be ratified.

Posted by: axolotl | May 20, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Please run on Rhee.

Rhee is not the candidate and she will not be able to withstand a candidate like scrutiny.

Rhee would have to take risk with her legacy to really get out there for Fenty.

So make Rhee the poster child for Fenty--your tough fighter with a glass jaw.

Posted by: 411Tibby | May 20, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I agree with Ms. Cafritz, but she poses an interesting thought experiment: Imagine Ms. Rhee with a real boss who held her accountable, instead of a cheerleader Mayor. It's a better Rhee! Probably still not up to the job, still lacking qualifications, experience and credentials, but at least reined in from proposing goofy plans to hand control of DCPS to outsider foundation interest groups.


Posted by: Trulee | May 21, 2010 12:58 AM | Report abuse

Is she (Cafritz) talking about the same type of reform that she promised DC voters when she occupied her Board post? That particular reform under Paul Vance accelerated the decline of the school system exponentially. Why is Cafritz even being held up as a person of influence regarding public education in our city? Are fundraisers in upper northwest that much of a deciding factor in District elections?

Posted by: Robmic812 | May 21, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

The prevailing mindset seems to be that reform cannot happen in D.C. without Rhee. The reality is that it already was underway before we switched to mayoral control. Rhee has had few initiatives; she merely has built on what Dr. Chaney had already established. It's just that the WaPo, the mayor, and Rhee's very vocal supporters have spewed so much disinformation that the public is beginning to buy into the prevarications.

If you've worked in DCPS under Rhee you should know better. The TFA and DCTF types might maintain favored status and, therefore, are silent. Everyone else is simply frightened to death to say anything negative. As a result, the public remains in the dark.

Everyone who thinks Rhee has had a creative initiative that she designed, I ask that they specify them. I do not see too many examples coming from her supporters; they only talk and write in general terms, making sweeping statements of support without citing examples. I am growing weary of the propaganda.

Let's face it. The city would be better off if it were to reinstate the man that truly is responsible for the positive results we are seeing from HIS reforms -- Dr. Janey. But could that ever happen? He seems to be doing quite well in Newark. It's D.C.'s loss and only Rhee's gain. What a sad state of affairs it will be if Rhee gets to retain her position by default and continues to masquerade as a so-called reformer. Give me a break!

Posted by: vscribe | May 23, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

The prevailing mindset appears to be that reform of education cannot happen in D.C. without Rhee. The truth is, reform was well underway before the city's transition to mayoral control. Chaney established the curriculum, designed the physical plant transformation, and was working to get nonchalant principals to implement special education reforms. Rhee has merely built on that and has not introduced one original initiative. . .oh, I forgot, there's IMPACT, a warmed over version of the training manual for TFA and hardly counts as being original.

I am weary of the propaganda. Rhee's supporters tend to speak in sweeping terms of her so-called "reforms," but are hard pressed to cite examples -- mainly because there are few to none.

D.C. would be much better off if it were to reinstate the man that truly is responsible for the reforms of DCPS -- Dr. Janey. However, he seems to be doing quite well in Newark. Thus, his departure is a huge loss to D.C. and a gain only to Rhee.

Please, give me a break! I can't believe that people are considering it wise to keep Rhee with her three years of teaching experience and very little else in such a strategically important position. If Gray plans to do that, I simply would sit at home on September 14th!

Posted by: vscribe | May 23, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

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