Mayor's Loss Puts D.C. Schools Chief's Job On Line
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
NPR's Claudio Sanchez spoke with Michelle Rhee earlier today about what's next for her and the reform she pushed through.
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Michelle Rhee has been praised and demonized. A hard- nose reformer who has answered only to Mayor Adrian Fenty, retook an axe to bloated school bureaucracy, shut down dozens of schools, fired hundreds of administrators and teachers and battled the Washington Teachers Union. But right now, Rhee says with a big smile on her face, she does not want to think about any of that. After all, she's got a wedding coming up.
MICHELLE RHEE: So I'll be gone for about six days, and then I'll come back and then I'm sure that we'll have lots of conversations, sort of figure out what the next steps are from there.
SANCHEZ: Rhee says she will meet with Vincent Gray, the man who's likely to become the next mayor of Washington, D.C. And if he asks her to remain as chancellor, Rhee says this is what she'll say.
RHEE: As long as I am in this job, I am going to continue to operate the same way that I've operated since day one. We're going to make every decision based on what is in the best interest of kids, not based on the politics, not based on the adult interests, not based on any of the sort of entrenched groups that are around, but what is right for kids.
SANCHEZ: And Rhee can remove teachers rated as ineffective under a new evaluation policy. But some of Rhee's supporters say that if Rhee leaves, these and other groundbreaking reforms can be rolled back.
KATI HAYCOCK: I worry a lot that we'll end up going back to old ways of business.
SANCHEZ: Kati Haycock is with the Education Trust - an advocacy group for low income children. She says this is not just about Rhee.
HAYCOCK: But I think she is regarded by many as being emblematic of a results-oriented, sort of driven leader who is unafraid of political consequences. And whether you like that style or not, if leaders like that are driven out, what that does is signal that we don't really care and we're really afraid, in particular, to do what's needed for Latino and black children.
SANCHEZ: But teachers, too, are as invested in reform as Rhee, says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: The city has to keep its commitment to education reform. There is no turning back on ensuring that all kids in this city get a great education.
GREENE: Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.
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