Forty-five thousand students. Four lessons. Two Years. One Woman.
"Michelle, why would you agree to be photographed with a broom on the cover of Time magazine?" That was D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray's top query when he sat down with the no-nonsense schools chancellor a few months ago. That visual image, for many, illustrates Rhee's tenure in the nation's capital--gutsy but alienating--and Bill Turque of the Washington Post investigates why in a long review of her two years at the school system's helm. Turque uses all the phrases--"quest to upend and transform," "passion, urgency and a conviction," "national following as standard-bearer"--that one must use to describe Rhee and her first 24 months. But he also explores some of her shortcomings and the lessons she should learn from them: That her national celebrity status alienated teachers and parents in the District; that her burgeoning money coffers couldn't sway the union on pay, performance, and tenure; that she needed to play, at least, some politics; and that her "well-intentioned reforms" might lead to "new problems." These are generally fair and Rhee has moved to address many of them. But as the author notes, she "has lost none of her zeal," and in a district as troubled as D.C.'s, Gadfly knows we need zeal like hers in spades.
"Two Years of Hard Lessons For D.C. Schools' Agent of Change," by Bill Turque, The Washington Post, June 14, 2009