Loose Lips

Presidential Pressure for Gray To Keep Rhee

Remember when Mayor Adrian Fenty let slip that he'd asked the White House for a presidential endorsement he likely wasn't going to get?

Well, the day after that news broke, Fenty, Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met at School Without Walls to announce that the school was being nationally recognized.

LL showed up and asked Duncan about Fenty's request and whether he was there to give any endorsement. Duncan wasn't amused.

"I don't do politics, I'm the secretary of education," a stern-looking Duncan replied, while half of the 2011 class laughed at LL being shot down.

But now comes word that Duncan is, well, playing politics. Via a report from Newsweek's Pat Wingert: Duncan told a group of reporters this morning that he's actively trying to play both peacemaker and dealmaker between Almost Mayor Vincent Gray and Rhee—so that Rhee will stay at her job.

Duncan acknowledged that he has already spoken to Rhee once, and will talk to her again when she returns from her honeymoon with new husband Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, Calif. He also said he has repeatedly tried to reach Gray by phone to discuss the matter with him. “We’ve been trading calls the last two days, but we will talk,” Duncan said.

Asked if he was considering adding Rhee to his team, Duncan said he was a “big fan” of the schools chancellor but said he thought her “leadership” was needed in her current job. “I’d like to give this thing a chance to improve over time,” he said.

Duncan added that the high rate of turnover among superintendents nationally is a prime reason that the pace of school reform is so slow. He said school superintendents currently average tenures of only 2.4 years before being replaced by school boards or mayors, and that many of the most improved districts have “been where good folks stay the course.”

Talk about pressure. It's one thing when Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh float the idea of locking Rhee in for two more years, but heat from President Barack Obama's point man on education is a whole different ballgame. Gray hasn't even started his job (or won the general election) and he's already facing the prospect of saying no to an underling of the most powerful man in the world.

Of course, Duncan's overtures may be too little too late. The whole world it seems, including LL, thinks Rhee's departure is imminent. Rhee made it clear before the election she wouldn't work for Gray, and then called the election results "devastating" for the city's school children (though she later tried to walk back from that unfortunate remark).

And LL suspects Gray might be a little more receptive to the Obama administration if he'd actually gotten a congratulatory phone call from the big cheese himself. Tom Sherwood notes that as of Friday (three days after the primary), the president still hadn't personally called Gray.

"I do want to hear from President Obama," Gray said Friday on the Kojo Nnamdi Show.

Anyway, Duncan better try and connect with Gray before he meets with Rhee tomorrow at noon. Otherwise, it'll probably be too late. (Speaking of which: LL  got a funny e-mail from a reader, wondering whether we'll see white smoke above the Wilson Building tomorrow if Rhee decides to stay, a la papal selection.)

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Drez- I checked out the link for the DC School Profile and looked at 8 of them that I know about and had looked into for my kids. Every single of them saw sharp drops in both Math and Reading- one by as high as 60-70% and most by 10-20%.

    As I've said in past, I don't think Rhee is the devil, but she's based her entire plan on the fact that schools will perform. They aren't. I know I cherry-picked these here, but these are the ones that directly impact my children and I.
    I hope something fruitful comes of their meeting. Gray doesn't seem to be a vindicative person, but Rhee isn't making it easy for him at all.

  • http://ABF ABF


  • SuperS

    President Obama should hire Rhee, since he thinks she is so great. I would not hire a person who duck taped black children's mouth shut and peeled of the tape and their skin came off period. I am sure President Obama would not want that for his precious daughters. Apparently he doesn't even want them in the public school system.

  • downtown rez

    Which had the 60-70% drop, if you don't mind me asking?

  • efavorite

    truth-sayer (and other aliases) Your message gets lost when you repeat it so often in cut and paste fashion. It makes you seem like a hack even if what you say is accurate.

    If you want more people to become informed and to take what you say seriously, I suggest you tamp it down a bit.

  • http://washingtoncitypaper.com dfordc

    Everyone needs to back up and explain to me exactly what Michelle Rhee has done in the reform area. This is aside from assigning the welfare of all students to the teachers, teaching to the test, and putting together an evaluation that has never been piloted or validated to get rid of teachers, and hired too many teachers from Teach for America....what "reforms" has she implemented?

  • dcpsparent

    Here is an article about why Obama should have considered a DCPS for his kids:


    Now the school is being run into the ground by one of Rhee's handpicked unqualified principals. When Obama and Duncan enroll their kids in DCPS, then they get an opinion about Rhee.

  • JustMe

    School reform is unquestionabely is at the very top of VGs agenda,

    NOT reforming the schools is at the top of VG's agenda: that's what he was elected to do-- to keep things they way they are and keep incompetent teachers in place. Rhee is a shrewd political operative, however, and has boxed Gray in, preventing him from getting rid of Rhee without sparking a national outcry.

    The reason a lot of voters never liked the Williams/Fenty idea of DC becoming a "world class city" is that the city would no longer be a captive of provincial interests and would instead have to rise to the level of national standards. The city can't simply choose to go back to its low-standards anymore even if a bunch of locals would prefer that.

  • Really?

    @Anothernative said "Wow, I’m blown away with this one, I since something a lot deeper than what we surface folk have been teetering on. I really think they want to make (Rhee) the face of (EDUCATION REFORM)for the nation,"


    Google "college inc" a one hour doc on PBS's frontline. Public Education is for sell.

  • http://bing.com Anothernative

    @JustMe, I would like to know just what the national standard you speak of is and who or what area set's it. You try and make a link between AD and AW, if you took the time too learn anything about the two, you would know that they are polar opposite's,on one hand AW was the consumate bean counter and former Chief finance officer which made him very competent at budget setting in aligning his view's for growth accordingly, on the other AF had virtually no experience at running anything outside of a ward of the city that praised his ability to expedite constituant services, I don't see where that qualifies him to run a multibillion dollar city budget.

  • Really?

    Arne you’re a hypocrite and therefore need to mind your own business. See Arne has kids and if you believed so much in Rhee why didn’t you put your kids in a DCPS school? Yup you put your most precious commodity into the system. The one where there aren’t any do over’s. Let your kids be experiments in a system backed by Wal-Mart and are used as political ponds.

    We had to force your boy Fenty to do it and although he chose the cream of the crop, he at least put his money where his mouth is.

    Nope you went to VA.

    Source: http://dcist.com/2009/02/which_school_will_arne_duncans_kids.php


  • Really?

    sorry meant pawns

  • JustMe

    AF had virtually no experience at running anything outside of a ward of the city that praised his ability to expedite constituant services

    By "constituent services" you mean "city services": having the garbage picked up, the streets cleaned, and the parks maintained. Now, certain parts of the country -- more provincial, more rural, more impoverished parts -- might be content when these services don't operate very well or very often. But transforming DC into a modern city means that it had to be improved up to modern standards, and that's what Fenty wanted and that's what Fenty expected. Williams and Fenty both came from this same point of view of not considering low standards of services and infrastructure normal, and modernization is now too late to turn back.

    Rhee, shrewd as she is, wisely nationalized the DC schools debate to the point where outside observers are not going to see the "defining deviance down" attitude of local DC residents towards the school system as acceptable. Modern cities have to offer modern services, services beyond what are considered "normal" for longtime provincial interests that considered mediocrity and poor performance as normal. Time for DC's infrastructure, including its schools, to conform to the standards of the outside world: with the world watching, the sort of school system that Vince Gray considered "good enough" for DC isn't going to withstand public scrutiny.

  • http://bing.com Anothernative

    with the world watching, the sort of school system that Vince Gray considered “good enough” for DC isn’t going to withstand public scrutiny. @JustMe, It's apparent that you either know absolutely nothing about VG or you just don't really care about the baseless accusation's that you so mindlessly sling out into the bloggestsphere. I suggest doing just a little homework about the man before doing so, it makes a much more intelligent blog. The issue of city services is one that I would be very disappointed in any sitting council person that couldn't expedite them.

  • candycane1

    Apparently, Duncan is one of many who has been fooled into thinking that Rhee was some kind of savior. The reality is that DCPS has been "ruled" by an abusive narcissist. Such a person as CEO leaves nothing when departing but a path of destruction. Hopefully the Thursday meeting will be civil on her part. Hopefully they will shake hands as she states that she will resign.

    With the new mayor, reform will begin with a research based model that actually addresses the needs of our students with an appropriate, qualified leader at the helm. If mayoral control is going to continue, the first thing the new mayor needs to do is to finish structuring that model. Presently, we have a chancellor that reports to the mayor and a state superintendent who reports to a "no need" Deputy Mayor of Education. That chain has been broken from the beginning and we will never be able to keep a state supt. if we fail to structure the hierachy so that DCPS as the LEA and OSSE as the SEA can work together. Fragmented, we will continue to fail.

    As an interim, please select someone that is going to bring a "sense of calm". DO NOT give that responsibility to any deputy under Rhee. Rheeism is all they know. Please find someone that is an Alfreda Massey type. For those of you who may not remember, Massey was with DCPS for a few months between Vance and Janey. What I will never forget about her is how she stepped in at a critical time when due to "stated" budget constraints, 300 teachers were going to lose their jobs in December. Her response was that in no way were students going to lose the continuity of instruction. She dug into that budget and made it work. She was visible, visited schools and even attended athletic events and she was about "business". Her attittude was that central is supposed to be resourceful to the local school needs. When she announced in April of that year that she was not interested in being coinsidered for the job, the heart of DCPS skipped a few beats because a real jewel was leaving. So if you cannot get her to come back while you look for a permanent Superintendent, please find someone like Dr. Massey, who will be about business but with the polish and professionalism that DCPS needs right now. It's my understanding that the newbies who have never experienced a change in leadership are quite fearful and the atmosphere at central is quite hostile. You need experienced leadership to calm that sea.

    Mr. New Mayor, please jump on that budget with the "quickness". The new leader will have deep mirky waters to deal with regarding morale, vision, mission and direction. He/she will inherit a lot more than we know, but fiscally, the new leader needs to know the real deal and not have to play "Let's make a Deal" with programs, staffing and support systems for our children. DCPS has the greatest need for transparency and that is in the best interest of our children, parents, communities and our workforce.

    Mr. Duncan, if you really believe that Mr. Gray will continue or "begin" the reform effort, then drop Rhee from your vocabulary unless of course you plan to hire her. If you do hire her since you want her around for 10 years, please put her in a job that has nothing to do with DCPS and give her some work to do. Perhaps you will give her something that keeps her on the ground as opposed to being in the air most of the time. The voters have spoken and you need to respect that. My vote was all about "real" reform that I never witnessed under Fenty and Rhee.

    Mr. Gray: Education is just one area that needs improvement. You have my support and prayers for success.

  • http://bing.com Anothernative

    Well said CC1, well said.

  • downtown rez

    DC hates on Obama administration!
    Here's looking to 2012, when someone who hates DC more than DC hates Obama is elected...
    Oh, well, the schools west of the park will continue to be good, and the schools east of the park will continue to suck. And those who live east of the park and can afford to or are lucky will continue to opt out of their local schools.
    I guess all politics really is local.

  • Really?

    Hey Citypaper! when are my comments going to be released out of moderation? What gives?

    SMH @ Rez….i guess you’re our chicken little…the sky is falling…the sky is falling.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Drez- Bruce Monroe- my math was wrong, 54% drop in Math and 40% drop in reading. This was my top choice for my kids, but didn't get in because we were out of boundary and the list was too long.

    2009 2010
    Math 23% 49%
    Reading 39% 24%

    Thanks for the info. though, it's a good resource to have. Looking through some of the other profile, Janey and Mann and only a few others have cracked the 60% mark for reading and math prof. Sad state overall.

  • downtown rez

    Bruce Monroe at Parkview?
    My sense is that it may be a language issue. A lot of children of first generation Hispanic parents go there. You might want to look a little deeper. Talk to the principal.
    The renovated Parkview school is nice...
    To me, without good schools this city will never have a stable middle class, will always be segregated, and we'll not really be able to move forward in addressing the most fundamental issues.
    Even with good schools, some of our problems are likely generational.

  • http://bing.com Anothernative

    @drez,I must be slipping, you're actually starting to make since, you might not be as stuck as I thought you were.

  • downtown rez

    I've always made sense.
    I believe whati wrote above, and also believe that given these truths it is all the more important to try.
    Because if we don't, than who will?

  • http://bing.com Anothernative

    I don't know about always,but good point.