Schools Chancellor ... Fenty?
By Anthony Harris
Here’s a thought: Adrian Fenty as the new D.C. schools chancellor. Don’t laugh. That could be great outcome, a proverbial win-win situation for Fenty, presumptive mayor Vincent Gray and Washington.
First, let’s end the speculation about Michelle Rhee. She’s gone. End of story. Not only is it clear that she and Gray simply do not get along, her “scalp” is probably the political price Gray will have to pay for the union support of his mayoral bid. By sending her on her way, the teachers union will get something it obviously craved: a powerful message to other would-be “take no prisoners” reformers. Better be nice, or look for another place to work.
Why should Gray want Fenty as schools chancellor? Well, what better way to follow through on a pledge to unite the District than to make the young, energetic ex-mayor, a man who made D.C. school reform the centerpiece of both of his mayoral campaigns, the new chancellor? It would certainly be a relief to those who think Rhee’s exit will set back reform. And it would be the kind of gesture that could persuade some of Rhee’s more capable managers to remain for a few years to see through their potentially game-changing efforts. In short, Gray could hit the ground running by putting Fenty in charge of the schools.
Is Fenty qualified? In my opinion, more so than Joel Klein, another lawyer, who is now New York’s highly respected schools chancellor.
And Fenty, of course, has had the experience of running a major city for four years; the schools chancellor position should, in theory, be a piece of cake for him. In any event, he’d have Rhee’s management team to assist him in the new job.
What about compatibility? Would Fenty create as many headaches for Gray as Rhee would be likely to if she were retained? I don’t think so.
Okay, in the past, Fenty has had a tin political ear. But he says he’s learned and is willing to do things differently. Indeed, he’s young and, I suspect, still harbors political ambitions. To that end, schools chancellor is the ideal high-profile position in which he can prove he’s capable of changing, creating alliances and working with political opponents to forge a consensus on educational reform. In short, I think Fenty will have some motivation to do better, and if he doesn’t (hey, it’s in his nature to speak his mind and follow his own instincts), Gray can step in to set things right.
Finally, there’s precedent for such an alliance. Kennedy-Johnson, anyone? And didn’t President Obama bring Hillary Rodham Clinton on board as secretary of state? How has that worked out?
| September 22, 2010; 8:55 AM ET
Categories: D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic, Mayor Fenty, schools
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