Why Rhee chose Anita Dunn
Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee called on Washington's top echelon of political consultants when she began looking for help with her communications strategy last year. Former White House press secretary Mike McCurry, Bill Clinton campaign manager James Carville and Gore campaign chairman Donna Brazile were among those she said she spoke with.
But it was Anita Dunn, President Obama's former communications director, who made the most favorable impression, Rhee said, because of how relatively little she suggested in the way of changes to her often unvarnished public pronouncements. She said that while the others proposed major fixes, Dunn called for "tweaks." It probably also doesn't hurt that Dunn remains well-wired in the Obama administration, still carrying out spot communications assignments, including Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court.
"We just hit it off," Rhee told the Young Education Professionals at a Tuesday night Q & A. at Shaw Middle School@Garnet-Patterson. She said Dunn understood that Rhee and DCPS were not the usual kind of clients.
"We're a school district, we're not politicians," she said.
Dunn has brought some new depth and sophistication to DCPS' outreach to the public and the press, but it's hardly been seamless. Confusion, fuzzy math and muddled facts still seem to accompany many big Rhee initiatives. Witness the disarray surrounding the funding for the new teachers' contract and the lack of clarity in last month's initial announcement about the number of teachers who had been dismissed for poor evaluations. But Rhee says Dunn has been a major upgrade.
"We brought her on because we were doing a really crappy job" communicating with the public, she said.
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