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Loose Lips Daily: Michelle Rhee Media Blitz Tour Edition

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  • Guess Michelle Rhee's Possible Severance
  • Photos of Rhee Presser
  • Splitsville! Gray Gets the Kids, Rhee Gets the National Rep
  • Good morning sweet readers! It's Thursday, which means it's column day. In this week's edition of the dead-tree Washington City Paper, LL looks at some new hires the lame duck Fenty administration made just before the mayor ordered a hiring freeze. Guess what? They're all Fenty campaign workers, some of which have ties to Fenty-pal and failed dry cleaner, Sinclair Skinner.

    Did You Hear? Michelle Rhee Resigned: As LL is writing this, Michelle Rhee is on the Today Show being interviewed by Matt Lauer. "This is definitely a sad time for me," Rhee opened up with. When asked if she had any regrets about her brash style, she said, "not really." When asked about Obama's quote about sending his kids to Sidwell Friends because DCPS doesn't measure up, Rhee said:  "Actually, I found it refreshing." Rhee also said she's a fan of longer school days and longer school years (As a former kid, LL strongly opposes those measures).  As for the all important question of her future, Rhee said she wants to work on moving education reform forward on the national level. Sorry, Newark!

    LL recapped the Rhee goodbye presser here. Since y'all already know what happened, LL will skip to the interesting bits:

    The Post's Tim Craig and Bill Turque continue to own the Rhee story (Sorry, Jo-Ann!) with this little juicy piece of gossip: "But while Gray, Rhee and Fenty sought to portray the transition as a 'mutual decision,' two people with knowledge of discussions between Gray and Rhee said that the Rhee abruptly told Gray last week that she was resigning and wanted out of the job as soon as possible. Gray had not planned to address Rhee's status until after the Nov. 2 election, said people familiar with their deliberations. But Rhee's move forced Gray to act quickly to name an interim replacement. He tapped [Kaya] Henderson, 40, late last week. Rhee referred questions to spokeswoman Anita Dunn, who denied reports that Rhee's resignation was abrupt. 'It is false,' she said."

    On Good Morning America, Rhee also said that's not true. (She was making the rounds this morning.)

    AFTER THE JUMP: More Rhee; Plans for Walter Reed, Prof. Fenty ...

    The Examiner's Freedom Klopott reports that Mayor Adrian Fenty has known for "a couple of weeks" that Rhee was leaving. (But in a way, didn't we all?) WeLoveDC scores the scoop that Rhee shares the same online consultants at President Obama. "Most interestingly, the WHOIS record for MichelleRhee.org shows that its nameservers belong to BlueStateDigital, an online communications firm specializing in advocacy for progressive causes. Most famously, they worked on my.BarackObama.com."  Whatever that means. Klopott correctly notes that the timing of Rhee's new digital outreach campaign shows she's been planning to leave for some time.

    More from Craig and Turque: "Several friends and confidants, including Gray's priest, have lobbied him in recent weeks, encouraging him to consider Henderson because of her personable and collaborative approach. ... Henderson wasted no time wading into the top job. She and Gray met for 90 minutes Wednesday in the chairman's office, a session also attended by Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi. As the meeting broke up, Gray and Henderson hugged but declined to answer reporters' questions. 'A lot has happened today,' Henderson said, adding that she would begin interviews with journalists over the next few days."

    Newsweek gets some one-on-one with Rhee: "She also told NEWSWEEK that she was proud of the fact that she had 'talked my entire management team into staying, so reform can move on without a hitch, seamlessly, if there is enough support and political will.' Henderson, she said, 'is no shrinking violet. That lady speaks her mind more than I do. Anyone out there who is hoping this means that accountability is going away is absolutely mistaken.' But she warned that ultimately, it would be up to the citizens of D.C. who strongly back school reform to keep pressure on the next mayor to keep reform moving forward. The union put a lot of money into the race and will “expect things to be rolled back,' Rhee said. 'Will Gray stand up to them? He will need to have the people behind him. If people don’t want to see reforms rolled back, people need to make sure the next mayor knows very clearly that they want these reforms to continue, that they expect them to continue.'

    Obama flak Robert Gibbs says the president is not sorry he didn't endorse Fenty, in response to which some unnamed White House reporter makes the asinine claim that a last-minute Obama endorsement could have saved Fenty's absolutely wretched campaign. Gibbs on Rhee:  "Obviously, the important work of people like Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan and others has to—has to continue, regardless of the outcome of elections, because we understand the fundamental place that education plays in creating the jobs of tomorrow, and creating a foundation for new industries and new technologies and keeping us at the forefront of economic competitiveness.

    Beth Solomon at the Georgetown Dish has the reaction of a teacher to Henderson's promotion: "'I don't think she has the qualifications to be a chancellor,' said Chris Bergfalk, an elementary teacher at H.D. Cooke Elementary who was nominated for a teaching award by Rhee. 'If you go inside any school right now, employee morale is extremely low. There are a number of teachers who have voluntarily left since the beginning of the school year. There is no curriculum in place. There's this teaching and learning framework—but it's not a curriculum.'" Bergfalk, your IMPACT score just dropped a point.

    The Post's editorial board said it's sad to see Rhee go, but the move was warranted. It adds: "We worry that there's a tendency by some to think that most of the hard work of school reform has been accomplished. Ms. Rhee did much of the heavy lifting that her predecessors either avoided or were dissuaded from taking on—from cleaning out the central office to closing underutilized schools to setting high standards to demanding accountability. New resources went into refurbished schools, and the results were seen in higher student test scores, better graduation rates and, for the first time in decades, an increase in student enrollment. Ms. Rhee's successor will inherit a teacher contract centered, for the first time, on advancing the interests of children. But despite these strides, a majority of D.C. students are still woefully deficient in even the most basics of reading and math. The system is still inadequate, and it will take someone as fearless as Ms. Rhee to continue her work.

    Rhee, on NPR's Morning Edition, says she was a "distraction" for some people in the city. Explains her "devastating" comments (Turque didn't get the whole context of what she was saying, she says). Says she made mistakes. Biggest one: not having good communications, says things have improved tremendously in last year. (LL is thinking back to his last column, which got a big fat "no comment" from DCPS.)

    The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder's take: "Rhee is a Grade-A edu-lebrity, and she's the perfect bureaucrat for the Reality Show age, when personal brands matter as much as ideas. Or when, at the very least, ideas don't succeed unless they've got good brands behind them ... Rhee courted the educational elite and charmed them. Oprah loves her. In a way, Rhee helped make it safe for liberal Democrats to gingerly question the hegemony of teachers' unions. Before Rhee, Washington, D.C. paid lip service to the idea that drastic reforms were necessary. After Rhee, every schools chief will be measured against her tenacity."

    Jonetta Rose Barras accuses Gray of executing "the most blatant pay-to-play maneuver in the city's political history."

    Petula Dvorak wants parents to get involved with the PTA.

    TBD translates what Rhee and Fenty really meant at the presser.

    Former mullethead Gov. Tim Pawlenty says Rhee's defeat is "more evidence of the corrosive impact of teachers' unions in American schools."

    The AP gets he said he said of education experts.

    Walter Rhee Reed's Future: "The team planning the transformation of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, post-Army, suggests fusing the campus’s historic buildings with new construction and large swaths of open space to create a lively, walkable, mixed-use neighborhood on 60-plus acres in middle-class upper Northwest Washington," reports Washington Business Journal's Michael Neibauer. Those sound like come pretty catchy buzzwords! The Post has a map.

    Fenty confirms he's interested in teaching interpersonal communications poli sci at Oberlin, won't answer if he'd reject write-in votes.

    City still trying out to figure out what to do about homeless families.

    So long, Central Liquors sign.

    DPW worker killed.

    Meet and greet political candidate schedule for Ward 6ers.

    Mayor's schedule: Nada.

    Council hearing on whether notary public's should be able to perform marriages is at 2 p.m., Wilson Building. Democratic show of unity at 1:30 p.m. at First Trinity Lutheran Church.

    • Indeed

      Michelle Rhee is simply a terrible person. I pity her and all of her supporters for their ignorance and arrogance. LL, can we stop with the reporting on her? Now that she's gone, let's move forward.

    • Korrupt

      What has this woman done to warrant all this media attention? Just go away Michelle. You're not an educator nor an administrator just a tool for union busters.

    • Typical DC BS

      The only ones ignorant and arrogant are the local yokels that can't remember as far back as 3 years ago how crappy the DC schools continued to be (i.e. not opening on time, no books or school supplies, the same old, same old from the DC teachers and their corrupt union), same as they'd been for the last 30 years.

      The only hope is that Mr. Gray continues Rhee's work and quits trying to appease the nitwits who don't understand the need for drastic (and painful) change in the school system.

    • SEis4ME

      @Typical, unless you know something the rest of the thinking public does not, DCPS is STIL at the bottom of the bottomless pits, three years into Rhee's performance. Oh but wait, I get it. Rhee had so much on her plate that it's not her fault that DC still ranks at the bottom of US schools. That blame should fall on the shoulders of previous supers and of course, the teachers and teachers.

      These people completely unaware of DCPS history really amuse me with their twisted logic, attacks on blacks, and utter high-mindedness. If this isn't example of the old Bush "with us or against us" line I don't know what is. Well maybe I can compare it to the tea party. They know little about logic as well.

    • SEdcDude

      @ Typical DC BS

      your name wreacks of GENTRIFICATION and IGNORANCE!!!!

      You and the likes of "MANGEY" Rick, Drez and a few others have absolutely NO clue or do you care to get one, you'd much rather speak on what you heard, think or feel, rather then what YOU KNOW!!!

      I graduated from Eastern SHS in the late 80s and we had pride, discipline, respect and direction!!!

      And that was during the CRACK and Barry era, athletic teams were fully funded, participated in and graduation rates were still iffy, but DCPS did ok considering the THE FEDS mission to regulate, under fund and manipulate CITY schools, FACT!

      What people like you fail to disclose is that all this shit is and was by design! You don't smoke all those drugs and run the streets at the expense of public $$s and don't have consequences!!

      Crack babies are now high school aged, dipper babies are now early teen to young adults!!

      I'm hip, are you?

    • http://CityDesk TONY

      Rhee is a media creation!

    • http://bing.com Anothernative

      @Tony, Now you're clicking, this sh*t was planned all along, DC was the test tube until a monkey wrench was thrown into their little ploy. Arnie, Bloomberg and Adrian too, all of them were in on it from the start which is why they were so willing to over look so many of her obvious short commings, all in the name of rheeform. Well we don't need a physical image of reform, what we do actually need is institutional reform across the board, which essentially insures parity throughout the city.

    • Adrian Bent-Me

      Typical DC BS- I don't disagree that DCPS were horrible. I attended them in the 80s/90s. It was a horrible fucking experience.
      But not much has changed in my eyes. My kids are attending horrible fucking schools today. There's not much I can do about it because the select few schools that are well-performing are over-subscribed, exactly how it was when I attended.
      I don't necessarily dislike Rhee, but I also never understood her either. She wanted to do massive reforms by uprooting an entire system- that takes a lot of balls. I think she had a good "thesis", but because she lacked the experience and maturity needed to carry through such an experiment, DCPS will suffer for it. She, on the other hand, will make millions now as the "national champion of education reform", when in fact her experiment is still be worked out. It takes a lot of time to see real improvement, something ever Rhee supporter and detractor seems to ignore.

    • allseeing


      You are correct.

    • allseeing

      Fired teacher wants $80 million from the city and Gray will have to pick up the slack of that. Gray's only way out of that one is to keep Nickles to fight that one.

      If many want Nickles gone why would they put theirselves in a position where he may have to be GA to fight them for Gray.

      This will be interesting. Those people are going to intimidate Gray into what they want and I hope Gray has the balls to say NO like Fenty would!