Last week, DC voters ousted incumbent mayor Adrian Fenty for City Council Chairman Vincent Gray. It is said that perhaps the reason Fenty lost was due to his 2007 appointment and unwavering support of DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. An Ivy League graduate and Teach for America alumnus, Ms. Rhee has been shaking up the broken school system at the nation's capital for the past three years. Along the way, she has garnered local and national praises for her reform efforts and her hard-ball approach, while her critics cited her for being too abrasive and uncooperative. In a 2009 piece in Time magazine, it displayed evidence of her tough sentiments:
Her passion for education is commendable. Her zeal for change is uncompromising. She definitely has tough skin for the job. However, she doesn't embrace a collegial and collaborative spirit with others in the village to help bring about reform in schools, particularly the poor black communities her district serves. Consequently, according to The Root article on the election, Fenty only gained 19% of the black vote. Although she managed to negotiate a new contract with the local teacher union, her new teacher evaluation system caused the firing of hundreds of teachers, leaving a awful taste in her critics' mouths.
While I have briefly read and heard about her on the news and such, my personal views about her were solidified after watching yesterday's episode of Oprah on the upcoming educational documentary, Waiting for Superman. Rhee and some other education reform advocates were on the show discussing the film and its possible impact on public education. In my opinion, she comes off as an arrogant "know-it-all". I now understand how her critics feels about her lack of people skills. I was too through with Ms. Rhee when she made these comments about her quest of removing "bad teachers" on the Oprah show. In response, I shared with a friend my thoughts on her comments:
First of all, it is highly unprofessional for a principal to ousted a teacher like that in front of parents. Also, I am all for a principal to assist and provide mentors for an ineffective teacher than to throw him/her out of the profession. An effective teacher doesn't grow overnight. Like a plant, [he/she] has to be nurtured and supported.
My friend then shared with me this audio clip of Ms. Rhee speaking to an audience about her teaching experiences. Listen to what she had to say:
Isn't that ironic? Calling the kettle black? Using her own standards, MS. RHEE WOULD BE DEEMED AN INEFFECTIVE TEACHER!
This piece of evidence alone shows me it is not about the children after all. I mean, she doesn't have the credentials to be superintendent or a teacher in fact. This is about for-profit privatization of schools which will bring in revenue...surely not the kids! Consider her thoughts on the mayoral election results and her proposed professional future:
"Yesterday's election results were devastating, devastating. ... Not for me, because I'll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he'll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C."
She's right; she will be fine as another school district or education think tank will scoop her up. As long as the education reform propaganda continues, she will receive some love elsewhere. However, the only thing competent about Ms. Rhee is her thick skin to criticism. Like I said about Dr. Perry, it is a shame for someone like Ms. Rhee, who is well-educated and passionate about change, to overlook basic things; in her case, her failure to reach out to the village for support. Believe it or not, they want it too. Ms. Rhee should be showing them how to get more involved, instead of alienating them. Well, the people showed her and Fenty...
Listen up Ms. Rhee,
Learn not to ignore your constituents...or they will kick you to the curb!
One final note, it is interesting to note the IVY LEAGUE CONNECTION many of these high-prolific education reformer advocates have; most of them has no idea what it is like to be a teacher; yet, they are the "experts" on education reform.
IVY LEAGUE CONNECTIONS
Chancellor of DC Public Schools
Cornell Univ. (Bachelor) and Harvard Univ. (Masters)
CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone
Harvard Univ. (Masters)
Academy-awarding winning documentary director/producer for An Inconvenient Truth, and the upcoming education film, Waiting for Superman
Sidwell Friends School (private HS where the current US President’s children attending); Brown Univ. (Bachelor)
Co-Founder and Chairman of Microsoft and philanthropist
Harvard Univ. – didn’t finished
US Sec. of Education
Harvard Univ. (Bachelor)
Current US President
Columbia Univ. (Bachelor); Harvard Univ. (JD)
Professor of Economics and education reform advocate
Principal, Capital Prep Magnet School in CT; CNN Education Contributor, & education reform advocate
Univ. of Pennsylvania -- graduate
Chancellor of NYC Public Schools
Columbia Univ. (Bachelor); Harvard Univ. (JD)
Award-winning R&B singer and activist
Univ. of Pennsylvania (Bachelor)