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Disappointed in DC Mayor Adrian Fenty

The people who lined up to attend tonight’s one-on-one debate between D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and his rival, Council chairman Vincent C. Gray, have every reason to be disappointed with Fenty’s last minute decision to back out. Unlike other forums in which the two candidates have appeared this election year, tonight’s event would have been exclusively devoted to education issues. I know because the event’s sponsor, the Young Education Professionals-DC, tapped me to moderate. We had shaped the discussion to put on the table all topics related to education reform, from turnaround strategies to teacher effectiveness, special education and early childhood education. I was especially looking forward to tonight’s discussion because I moderated several candidate forums three years ago, when Fenty was running for mayor and Gray was contesting then Ward 3 Council member Kathy Patterson for the chairman’s seat. Both Fenty and Gray made education reform one of the top issues of their campaigns. Hearing them three years later would have shed light on their odyssey from then to now.

The Fenty campaign said it pulled out of the debate because it “couldn’t make it work.” My initial reaction was to think that perhaps my role had something to do with it. I’ve written several columns that have been critical of his administration’s stewardship of the juvenile justice system. Perhaps, I thought, Fenty might feel that I would not treat him fairly. That would not have been the case -- I like him personally. But I told the event organizers that I would gladly bow out if the Fenty campaign preferred another moderator. The face-to-face debate was far more important than my participation.

I know the organizers tried to get Fenty to change his mind, but to no avail. That’s unfortunate for all sides, especially Fenty. Had he attended, he would have found that the questions I intended to pose to him and Gray were hardly of the variety to make either candidate look bad.

They were straightforward. Here’s a short list:
1. It’s been three years since the governance structure was changed to give mayoral control over the schools. Under Michelle Rhee’s leadership, the school system has undergone a major overhaul. List two things you would have done differently over the past three years -- as well as your two biggest accomplishments.
2. How do you define an effective teacher? What percentage of DCPS teachers do you think meet your definition of effectiveness?
3. Address your thoughts on the relationships among schools, families and communities, and name three actions you would take to strengthen those relationships?
4. About 2,700 District students with special education needs attend private schools, at a projected cost of more than a quarter billion dollars in tuition and transportation. What are the barriers to reining in these placements and associated spending, and what would you do differently to improve the provision of special education services?
5. What do you believe will be the major short-and long-term implications of the common standards and common assessments in the Race to the Top grants on the DC education system?
6. Several dozen schools in DCPS are undergoing restructuring or are approaching restructuring. What do you think are the keys to turning around a low-performing school?
7. Despite overall improvement among DCPS students in reading and math, the District has one of the largest gaps between black and white 4th graders in the country. How can school reform succeed if this gap persists?

The audience was also poised to ask questions about high school reform, unions, college and career readiness, charter schools, school violence and the like. The whole idea was to help voters gain a better understanding of the thinking of both candidates on education, an issue foremost in the minds of many voters, especially parents.

Fenty, for reasons he will have to explain, denied voters that opportunity.

By Colbert King;  | June 28, 2010; 6:33 PM ET
Categories:  King  | Tags:  Colbert King  
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As a retired DCPS teacher...when one asks how we can improve the scores between black and white? How about lower and higher income parents? How many white students in DCPS live in the "projects."(question 7) Is it jobs, fathers,history, community involvement,libraries,travel,grandparents who support and teach their grandchildren? Surely, elementary school teachers have to do all of the "catch up," and then do the abc stuff plus nutrition, glasses,and all of the rest of it.Some teachers are up to the task...good for them!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | June 28, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Another question: Why the heck are you such a crook? Being Mayor pays good enough. No need to steal.

Posted by: Martial | June 28, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse


I had a little chuckle reading your post.

It is Gray's to lose. I hope it starts making his case and would like to read more about him as a candidate not as an opposition.

Posted by: 411Tibby | June 28, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse


I had a little chuckle reading your post.

It is Gray's to lose. I hope it starts making his case and would like to read more about him as a candidate not as an opposition.

Posted by: 411Tibby | June 28, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

If you promise to keep the same questions Fenty will surely be ready by next Monday!

Posted by: oknow1 | June 29, 2010 12:07 AM | Report abuse

I am sick of King Fenty. He's a spoiled brat and his parents did a horrific job in raising this monster to show respect to his elders. I will never forget how King Fenty snubbed the late 98 year old Dorothy Height last summer, 2009. After Ms. Height was hospitalized in March 2010, King Fenty showed up at Howard University Hospital to visit Ms. Height, but she was in a coma. Black D.C. voters will never forget Fenty's disrespect to this icon in the black community. King Fenty doesn't identify himself as a black man nor does he or his father has any black ancestry or history in the United States. The day King Fenty lose the election, I will curse him out and tell him what to kiss and where to go.

Posted by: Ward4DC | June 29, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

As a couple of very perceptive posters commented to an earlier article on Fenty's no-show tonight, the sound bite writes itself.

Say it with me, people - now, and every day up until September 14th:


Posted by: nan_lynn | June 29, 2010 3:01 AM | Report abuse


I live elsewhere, but if I were having trouble making up my mind between two local candidates, a last-minute no show for a debate would make up my mind for me.

Posted by: martymar123 | June 29, 2010 5:55 AM | Report abuse

Fenty has to go. He had a shot at it...could have been a he is a zero. The man is so hung up on himself he cannot see where as the District's Mayor he has fallen short. I supported this jerk last election, but not this time. I am very disappointed in his aloofness and arrogance. I think that Fenty is trying to take credit for actions that Mayor Williams institutionalized during his tenure. When he was running for office, you couldn't get him out of your face. After he got elected he and his staff went into some type of bunker mentatlity. Get him out, NOW!

Posted by: ruthella10 | June 29, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Fenty will not show up unless you give him the questions ahead of time. He is not very bright on his feet. It is difficult for him to speak to accomplishments that really didn't come of his labor but of his predecessors. Expect more of this in weeks to come.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 29, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I ask again: is Fenty purposefully throwing the election?

A la The Producers: he loses the election and keeps any remaining campaign funds, and doesn't need to deal withe vicious DC electorate anymore. Brilliant.

And of course the revolving door awaits, opened via contracts just like Williams and every other politician has done.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | June 29, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

@mendelsonmustgo, great points. Once a thief, always a thief.

Posted by: fivetogo | June 29, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Quite frankly, we probably heard the first truth coming from the Fenty camp. After all the booing, the dreadful appearances on fox 5 and channel 4, it may have been wise for him not to show. You can't talk about what you don't know about.

Rhee says I want and Fenty never says why, what's the cost or is it a sound research based approach. ( of course he is not well read enough to find out for himself.) Drinking the kool aid and only knowing to say "test scores are up" and "we have new buildings" are a long way from being able to intelligently describe reform and if progress has been made. His constant answer is "I haven't been briefed."

The best example of Rhee doing what she wants and knowing that the mayor is not bright enough to keep up is what she did "after" her boss signed her budget. The council adjusted her budget to keep jobs and scale back summer school. The mayor, her boss, the authority signature, signed it. What did she do? She changed it, put money into summer school and fired teachers. All above what her boss signed off on and she knew he wouldn't question it.

So with his dim light exposed in numerous ways, he didn't show. It may have kept him from an embarrassing night but "but couldn't make it work" will be used throughout this campaign for various failures to include the latest SYEP.

He didn't campaign on a school takeover but it's under his control and he doesn't know a thing about what Rhee does. It's going to cost him and cost him much.

The koolaid made him more than drunk. He's a bloated Jonestown corpse.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 29, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Fenty showed up and bullied the Caribbean festival organizers by delaying the festival for 2hrs so his 100+ mindless, drones could start the parade. The organizers were disgusted and pissed!

The attendees that were waiting by Fenty’s headquarters knew exactly why the parade was late; they booed and threw food at Fenty and his follies.

Fenty showed up for his Go Go, cook-out with the enforcers – Skinner and Moton! This is the same Mayor--along with Chief Lanier, Peter Nickels, Jim Graham, Jack Evans and Muriel Bowers-- that tried and failed to pass a bill that would stop and question individuals--racially profiling young, African American males-- in their own neighborhoods.

Thank God, the majority of the city council members, include the Chairman, wouldn’t allow the Mayor to introduce an Apartheid legislation in the Nation’s Capital.

Now the so-called, nationally, proclaimed reformer of public education refused to show-up for an education debate. How paradoxical!

I guess Fenty’s signature one-liners: “I’ll get back with you” or “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that, I’ll have my staff to contact you,” just wouldn’t cut-it for a debate with Gray.

Posted by: GoldCoast | June 29, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

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