I had no idea I’d have something so momentous to discuss so soon after starting this blog.
DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee resigned this morning at a press conference with outgoing mayor Adrian Fenty, presumed mayor-elect Vince Gray, and the new Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
Since Gray’s win in the Democratic mayoral primary on September 14, those of us in the education world have discussed not if but when Michelle Rhee would leave. There was never any chance of Gray keeping her as the Chancellor. His campaign message of creating “one city” practically grew out of the deep divide between Rhee’s supporters and equally numerous haters, and he made no secret of his dislike for her throughout the past year’s episodes of trouble (the reduction in force, the passing of the teacher contract, and the implementation of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system). Gray doesn’t have a detailed plan for education (much to the dismay of all of us who support Rhee’s reforms), but the one thing we all knew for sure was that Michelle Rhee didn’t factor into his ideas at all.
Still, many of the educators with whom I’ve spoken since this announcement, myself included, feel more than a little shocked that the end has come so quickly. General speculation suggested that Rhee would at least wait to leave until the official transition of power in January, and media coverage immediately following the election expressed a hope that Rhee would see out the year in order to ensure an even smoother transition.
According to the Washington Post, “Gray and Rhee agreed that the debate over her future was becoming a distraction for teachers, students and parents”. Rhee then said at this morning’s press conference that “in short, we have agreed – together – that the best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside”.
This makes a certain amount of sense; there’s no denying that there have been more headlines in the Washington Post’s education section about Michelle Rhee’s future than about the schools themselves. But I think her resignation won’t take her out of the spotlight. She hasn’t yet announced where she’s going next, and until she does, we’re going to keep seeing news about her. She’s also set up a website, http://michellerhee.org, and a Twitter account (@M_Rhee) so that her “fans” can keep up with what she’s doing. I admire Michelle Rhee for many reasons, but I have to confess that I’m slightly confused by this particular move and don’t quite understand the purpose. Feel free to comment.
I am, however, very glad to see that Kaya Henderson will now have her time in the spotlight. I worked more directly with Henderson during my time in the central office, and I think she has Michelle Rhee’s courage and intelligence plus (significantly) great people skills and a proven record of leadership and excellent management. I join several of my fellow educators in hoping that Henderson’s appointment (which was partially Gray’s decision, too) is a first step towards her becoming the permanent chancellor. All of us who are so concerned about a reversal of the progress made during the last three years could sleep easily if Kaya Henderson were to succeed Michelle Rhee for more than the duration of this school year.