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Rhee's living room meetings: Few but far-flung

My colleague Courtland Milloy's Sept. 27 column ("Rhee Needs to Take a Look in the Mirror") drew considerable reader response, especially for his implication that the chancellor ingratiates herself to white DCPS stakeholders while disregarding the concerns of African Americans:

"What Rhee didn't say is that she has gone all out to make residents who live in the wealthier, predominantly white parts of the city feel good," Milloy wrote. "And if their feathers got ruffled and needed smoothing, she went so far as to visit their homes for coffee klatches and pep talks.

So what happens when black residents on the other side of town start waving their hands -- don't forget about us; we'd like to feel good, too? Rhee holds them up for ridicule. School reform is not "warm and fuzzy," she says."

Rhee does hold living room meetings in the homes of parents and other constituents who express an interest in hosting. I asked DCPS for a list of home meetings by ward over the last year, and it doesn't show a whole lot. School officials say there have been all of eight. Two in Ward 8, two in Ward 6 and one apiece in Wards 2, 3, 5 and 7. Rhee didn't make it to any living rooms in Wards 1 and 4. Spokeswoman Safiya Simmons said there have been "many more interested hosts than scheduled meetings." Snow made it impossible to hold any in February.

DCPS also reports that it has held 66 community meetings on various topics over the last year with some, but not all, attended by Rhee. Twenty have been in Wards 7 and 8.

"We are one of the few school districts that has a community engagement policy that holds us accountable to the community for engagement in all parts of the city all the time," said Peggy O'Brien, DCPS chief of Family and Public Engagement.

Needless to say, this doesn't settle the issue. The question of who does and does not have the chancellor's ear is a far more complex matter than tallying up a list of meetings, whether they're held in school cafeterias or living rooms. Communities with social capital, with networks of residents and institutions capable of organizing effectively to communicate their message, usually enjoy the advantage when speaking to power.

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By Bill Turque  | October 1, 2010; 2:58 PM ET
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People who wanted changes at Hardy MS got her ear and what they wanted.

Maybe people look at results.

Posted by: edlharris | October 1, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for fact-checking Milloy, but you should call him out on his race-baiting vitriol.

Posted by: barfly_dc | October 1, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

What? You don't expect Courtland Milloy to use those silly things called facts do you?!/RunFentyRun?ref=ts

Posted by: Postpost44 | October 1, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

About the last sentence of the post--"Communities with social capital, with networks of residents and institutions capable of organizing effectively to communicate their message, usually enjoy the advantage when speaking to power."

I'm assuming that the advantage here is the one over disorganized communities with no institutions and no networks. Not an advantage over power.

Well, duh!

But since Milloy's hatchet-jobs have been about appearances rather than substance, it doesn't make much never mind to start down the road of real and nuanced discourse.

Posted by: gardyloo | October 1, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

"Michelle Rhee Continues to Induce Damaging Chaos in D.C. Public Schools"

She undermined the renowned, excellent principal and staff
and the successful academics and arts program
at Hardy Middle School.
She infuriated and alienated the Hardy P.T.A.
and the involved, active, caring parents there.
Must see:
website (with news articles below) ==>

Posted by: honestaction | October 1, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

The question should be how many of those living room chats resulted in chsnges? For example Hardy and the attempted coup at Duke Ellington.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | October 1, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Turque is your job on the line. What a non-story.

If you believe the figures put out by Rhee's staff, I will sale you the White House at a very good price.

Posted by: guylady201001 | October 2, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Rhee tried to reintroduce segregation with her relabeling of several schools in affluent Wards as neighborhood schools —the new buzzword for “I'll stop busing those poor colored children to schools in Wards 2 & 3".

Rhee has no respect for African American parents or their children and its quite apparent with the “white glove” treatment she gave students at Wilson compared to what Anacostia’s students received. Both schools are being renovated; students at Wilson (Ward 3) are being housed at UDC during the renovation, while students at Anacostia (Ward 7) were NOT relocated and are being intentionally exposed to LEAD POISONING --which is a violation of and federal and DC laws.

Parents from Anacostia should contact the feds and file a class action lawsuit.

Posted by: GoldCoast | October 3, 2010 2:00 AM | Report abuse

Milloy said that Rhee "holds [Black people] up to ridicule." He had absolutely no facts to support this serious, racially-charged assertion, and now we see that he is just making it up as he goes along.

The irony is that Courtland Milloy holds himself up to ridicule when he writes such garbage.

Kudos to Bill Turque for calling him out.

Posted by: trace1 | October 3, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

You wrote, "I asked DCPS for a list of home meetings by ward over the last year, and it doesn't show a whole lot. School officials say there have been all of eight. Two in Ward 8, two in Ward 6 and one apiece in Wards 2, 3, 5 and 7."
You call that jouranlism? From the "Woodward and Bernstein" Washington Post? That is like asking George Bush if Itaq was a threat to the U.S. when he went to war! Why would you attack a fellow journalist with this fluff from Rhee? Did you bother to interview any of the people who had Rhee vsist them? Did you ask your colleague Mr. Milloy where he got his information and follow up?
Now, go ask the DCPS for a summary of their work over the past year. Do you expect to get the truth, without checking other sources?

Rhee has not respect for the voters of D.C. She showed this by calling the election "devastating" and by walking out, without explanation, from Chairman Gray's press conference before it had ended. The majority of voters in D.C. are black. The Chairman and soon to be mayor is black.
Rhee is a disgrace and must leave.

Posted by: Nicnamibia | October 3, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

A black person calls cops and says this is ms jones at 1492 ___ Avenue. Her neighbor mr brown makes a comparable call. cops drive by 1 hour after teh commotion is over. white folks know cops pay no mind to individuals like ms jones or mr brown, so they form "___ community association" and place the calls under the banner. so ms wompler, stein, kilpatrick, etc. calls register as 25 calls from ___ community association. they make the same call to all the elected folks involved and the media. they put the name on folks radar. and as you can see with th Fenty write in campaign, and teh drive to keep rhee they are persistent to the point you want smack the spit out of them. Then when those see they have some money and can contribute to causes, the establishment jumps to their demands. Rhee is a classic case in point.

Posted by: oknow1 | October 3, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Nicnamibia -
Demographers predict that DC will not be a majority black city within 5 years. Plenty of African Americans sold their DC real estate during the boom and moved to bigger places in the suburbs.

And as for MIlloy's "information?" He didn't cite any factual support. Just baldfaced assertions, the man's specialty.

Posted by: trace1 | October 4, 2010 6:53 AM | Report abuse


You are back. Welcome.

Regardless of what D.C. might be in 5 years, it is a majority BLACK city today. I happen to be from Italian parents, and therefore, politically, white.

With the majority of D.C. residents being Black, Rhee has shown a disdain for the majority of residents and thus for the Black majority. It smacks of colinialism, racism, paternalism. Can an Asian woman be a racist, yes. Is Rhee a racist? That is a good question. Is is possible for a person who is not a racist to act in a racist manner? I happen to believe that is possible. I have seen it. Did Rhee act in a racist manner by walking out of the democratically elected Mayor's press conferecne without even a word of apology or justification? No doubt, YES! It shows, consistent with her calling the will of the majority "devastating" a disdain for the democratic process and the voice of African-American people. When I served in Africa with the U.S. Peace Corps as a teacher-triner, I was surrounded with decent, well-meaning white and some Asian volunteers who could not get rid of their deeply conditioned belief that they knew better than the Africans what was best for them!
Rhee has a great deal to learn. As we all do. And if a blatant, consistent racist like Geroge Wallace of Alabama can turn around, I believe Michelle Rhee can turn around as well. In the meantime, she should resign as the D.C. chancellor, get married and find some way to reflect and learn. I truly wish her the best. Will she be "fine" as she stated?
That is up to her.
She can choose to be obstinent and act in an autocratic manner or reflect and realize, "Yes maybe I acted in a racist manner without wishing to do so."
If this nation is ever to overcome its hatred and oppression of African-Americans, we ALL must be fair and just without imposing extraordinary, totalitarian tactics such as Rhee's.

Michelle Rhee should resign.

Posted by: Nicnamibia | October 4, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Based on the comments I am reading here about the reasons why Fenty/Rhee were voted out, I have come to the conclusion that it is a good thing that DC voters do not have voting rights in Congress.

The same people who elected Barry don't deserve it.

I hope Rhee goes to Newark; then the idiots here will see what an opportunity they missed.

Posted by: biff_t84 | October 5, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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