Loose Lips Daily: Rhee-signing Edition
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Good morning sweet readers! Yesterday was LL's birthday; today is LL's mom's birthday. She's the best mother in the world, hands down. News time:
I Can't Believe This is Happening!: Let's start off with a poem (with apologies to Ernest Thayer): "Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; But there is no joy in Ward 3—mighty Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has bowed out." That's right everyone, Rhee is set to announce her resignation this morning at the Mayflower Hotel alongside Still Mayor Adrian Fenty and Almost Mayor Vincent Gray. First impression: this is, of course, no big surprise. It seems odd to LL that Rhee waited this long, given that she actively campaigned for Fenty, made clear that she wouldn't work for Gray, and called Gray's victory "devastating." This seems like good news for Gray: he gets rid of a school chancellor he clearly did not want to work—with while not looking like a jerk by firing her.
The definitive recap comes courtesy of the Post's Tim Craig and Bill Turque (who should be congratulated for not getting scooped by their own editorial page). "Rhee and presumptive mayor Vincent C. Gray recently reached a 'mutual decision' during a phone conversation that it was best for her to step down, said people close to both, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'They both agreed the sooner they could put this to bed, the better for the kids and the community,' an official close to Gray said."
The Posties also have more on Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson, a close Rhee associate who will take over as interim chancellor. (And who Gray says, in an e-mail to supporters this morning, he asked Fenty to appoint as interim chancellor.) "In Henderson, Gray inherits someone in tune with Rhee on the fundamentals of education reform, especially the belief that teacher quality is the most important determinant of student success. Rhee and Henderson worked together at the New Teacher Project, a teacher recruiting nonprofit group that Rhee founded and ran before she was appointed by Fenty in June 2007. Henderson was a vice president for the group. She was Rhee's first appointment and was named her top deputy the day Rhee was introduced to the District. At the time, Rhee made it sound as if they had come to the District as a package. ... At the New Teacher Project, Henderson ran the organization's D.C. operation, which had contracts with D.C. public schools to supply teachers. Before that, Henderson worked for Teach for America—where Rhee began her educational career—teaching middle school Spanish in the South Bronx. At a D.C. Council meeting last year, Henderson recounted her first impressions of the city's struggling school system and her aspirations to change it. 'I was stunned at the lack of commitment to ensuring the highest-quality educational force in the country,' Henderson said. 'The District tolerated people and practices that other school systems would never accept.' At a meeting in August of school principals, Henderson offered a football coach-style motivational talk, reinforcing Rhee's core message: that poverty and other conditions outside the classroom are not an excuse for poor academic achievement. 'Our responsibility is to deliver the goods, no matter what the situations our students are in ... The reform is in the schoolhouse. You are here because we believe you are the right people to deliver this reform. The election is not our concern; the election is not your concern. Go hard, or go home!'"
The Examiner's Lisa Gartner gets Robert Bobb's views on Henderson: "She's tough-minded, and from what I've seen she's capable of holding people accountable without crushing them." (Bobb, the former city adminstrator, could be Henderson's replacement.)
AFTER THE JUMP: What Else, More Rhee; Still More Rhee; Other Stuff That May or May Not Be About Rhee ...
Reactions to Rhee leaving:
Teachers Union happy: "The move won immediate support from the Washington Teachers' Union, which has long battled Rhee. 'I think leaving sooner is better than later, so there will not be all this speculation,' said union head George Parker. 'Making a decision will relieve the tension.'"
Mary Cheh, not so much: But D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who endorsed Gray but has generally supported Rhee's initiatives, said, 'I'm deeply disappointed. We always heard it was about the children. I don't think it is good for the children for her to leave in the middle of the fall. I had always hoped that if she wanted to leave she'd be part of a smooth transition.'" The DCGOP has been taunting Cheh on Twitter.
Proving there's always a local angle, Toledo's News 24 reports on Rhee's departure thusly: "Toledo native and head of the District of Columbia Public School System Michelle Rhee will resign at the end of October, bringing to an end a tenure that has drawn national attention. Rhee, who grew up in Toledo and graduated from Maumee Valley Country Day School in 1988, has been a polarizing figure as the school system's Chancellor, gaining both support and criticism in her drive for education reform."
Valerie Strauss pretty much says good riddance: "Rhee ignored the effects that poverty has on students trying to learn how to read and to memorize Newton’s Law of Gravity. She based her assessment system—of kids and teachers—on standardized tests, which she was seeking to expand to every grade, a move that ignored the fact that the current obsession with testing has already unacceptably narrowed curriculum. Real change necessary for a successful school—great curriculum, great development for teachers, children who come to school ready to learn—was never seriously addressed in the Rhee administration."
Bob McCartney points out that the national media's hamfisted attempt to make Rhee's martyr only tells a small part of the story: "As she steps down from her job, though, let's give Rhee her due. Nobody has done more to embed in people's minds the aspirations that schools should top on the District's agenda, that progress needs to be achieved now, and that some pain must be borne in the process. For some time to come, that will be a yardstick by which we measure performance of chancellors and mayors alike."
Mike DeBonis knocks down The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder's Twitter reporting that Rhee is either headed to the Obama administration or to head another large school district. "Instead, Rhee, who founded the New Teacher Project, is likely to return to a post in the rarefied world of education reform policy. Whether she hangs a shingle as a consultant or joins a big-name foundation or think tank, the words she spoke the day after Fenty lost will surely ring true: 'I'll be fine.'"
More Turque, on what to watch for under Gray and Henderson, which includes an emphasis on standardized tests, firing poor teachers, and fixing the super expensive special education program.
And in the rare bits of D.C. news that's not being made at the Mayflower:
Going Courtin': His church isn't even in the District, but that won't stop Bishop Harry Jackson from trying to carry his fight against the city's gay marriage law to the Supreme Court. Opponents of the law, led by Jackson, filed a petition with the court asking for their case to be heard. City officials have refused to allow Jackson's group to push for a ballot initiative on the law because it conflicts with the District's human rights laws. If Republicans take the House, watch for Jason Chaffetz and other conservatives to take up Jackson's cause, too.
Socratic Method: Might Fenty's next move be not just out of the Wilson Building, but all the way to Ohio? Nikita Stewart reports the mayor, soon to join the 10 percent of the District's labor force that's unemployed, has been talking with officials at Oberlin College, his alma mater, about teaching a political science course. Fenty and Oberlin President Marvin Krislov "exchanged e-mails... and both expressed interest in the possibility of him teaching," an Oberlin spokesman tells D.C. Wire. "'The idea was passed along to the politics department and they are exploring options. This would have to be approved by the faculty and at this point there is no timetable.'" Suggestion from LL's editor, whose brother is a newly minted sociology Ph.D. looking for tenure-track gigs: The academic job market is almost as hard as the job market for unpopular incumbent politicians seeking re-election; Fenty can strengthen his application by also offering to teach cycling in the physical education department!
Employment gap in D.C. widens between blacks and whites, educated and uneducated, wealthy and poor, a new study from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute shows.
GW students learn how the Secret Service and White House advance team operates [Examiner]
Lawyers beat burgers [Young & Hungry]
Historical maps of D.C. en route to Flickr [DCist]
Council schedule: 4 p.m., Health Committee markup on "Blood Donation Expansion Act of 2010," Wilson Building, Room 123