District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is a master. Too bad Chancellor Rhee is not a master educator.
This week Chancellor Rhee appeared with Ms. Katharine Weymouth, publisher of The Washington Post and Ms. Katherine Bradley, President of the CityBridge Foundation at a forum highlighting the District’s powerful women in the District’s public education reform. The forum was titled, “Where Women Stand V – Making A Difference: Personal Experiences From Three American Leaders'” was organized by Bisnow, a self-described vast media empire and sponsored by Accenture.
Accenture promotes itself is a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company. Ms. Stacey Jones, Accenture Senior Director for Corporate Marketing served as event moderator. The targeted audience included tourists and out of town business people who were not familiar or are out of touch on details regarding District public education reform. With the hosts limiting and offering softball questions, the attendees were easy targets for the one-sided portrait of District public education reform.
Clearly, the forum was as another opportunity for two of Chancellor Rhee’s staunchest supporters to praise her. However, there was one moment when Chancellor Rhee was politely led to show understanding and a modicum of leadership and she resisted. Ms. Jones asked Ms. Weymouth, Ms. Bradley, and Chancellor Rhee to reveal how each handles mistakes. Ms. Weymouth admitted she made a major mistake a year ago and took responsibility for it. Ms. Bradley stated she learned early in life no one is perfect and it is necessary for people to take ownership of their mistakes and to learn from them. Chancellor Rhee was evasive, if not unresponsive.
Chancellor Rhee recalled an instance when a columnist wrote he liked everything she was doing, but thought she should be nicer to people. Chancellor Rhee stated she was not interested in being liked. To her discredit, Chancellor Rhee missed the point. It is not about her not wanting to be liked. It is about her not showing respect for the people of the District of Columbia. It is about Chancellor Rhee, Ms. Bradley, and Ms. Weymouth using their positions and corporate resources to imply anyone who disagrees with Chancellor Rhee is opposed to high quality education and does not care about children. That is not just an insult, it is also arrogant.
DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee
Another reckless comment made by Chancellor Rhee was the people of the District made a deliberate and purposeful decision to deny high quality public education to the District children. Chancellor Rhee also remarked there were many people vested every single day to the dysfunction of DCPS, “they got to keep their contracts, they got to keep their jobs without having to be held accountable.” This statement is hypocritical. Particularly from someone who may have negotiated a teachers’ contract with financing from private foundations seeking to influence public policy and to resist, inappropriately, any changes in DCPS leadership.
Chancellor Rhee glows when she speaks of holding District public school teachers accountable. However, Chancellor Rhee, Ms. Weymouth, and Ms. Bradley bristle at any attempt to hold Chancellor Rhee accountable for her bad decisions, irrational and disparaging comments on public school teachers.
The thing Chancellor Rhee does well is self-promoting as a strong and dedicated public education reformer unmoved by criticism of others, while making critical and false statements of others. Chancellor Rhee’s leadership style is not a hard charging, rather dictatorial. Chancellor Rhee’s decisions are not made in the best interest of children or learning in the classroom.
The Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth
This triple alliance of Chancellor Rhee, Ms. Weymouth, and Ms. Bradley illustrates the distrust of many about the efforts to reform District public education. Chancellor Rhee, Ms. Weymouth, and Ms. Bradley have an intelligence base, which inappropriately visualizes they are the only ones in the District who care about children’s education. They collectively dismiss and disregard any criticisms. In the value system they hold dear, District parents and community stakeholders need not concern themselves with public education policy issues. This is an insult to the people of the District bordering on intellectual racism.
For the record, public education was on the decline not only in the District, but also across America. However, the idea DCPS was a failing system for over 50 years is a lie. Test data from the U.S. Department of Education highlight DCPS has been making steady academic progress before Chancellor Rhee arrived. Even a report by the Congressional Government Accountability Office indicates any academic improvements in DCPS under Chancellor Rhee cannot be attributed to Chancellor Rhee.
Chancellor Rhee’s rhetoric about providing the same level of public education to children East of the river as is viewed to be provided to children West of the park does match the evidence. One clear example is the fact Ward 5 is the only Ward in the District, which does not have a middle school. Despite repeated requests for a meeting, Chancellor Rhee has stiff-armed Ward 5 parents and community stakeholders.
Chancellor Rhee’s mission is not to improve DCPS for District children. Chancellor Rhee aim’s is to break up DCPS into a system of private, but profit driven independent charter schools without public oversight. The foundations and corporations, which strongly support charter schools and oppose unions, believe Chancellor Rhee is their ‘Sarah Palin’ leader in their ‘Tea Party’ kingdom.
Chancellor Rhee is not an advocate for children. Chancellor Rhee is not and advocate for openness, transparency, and public engagement. Chancellor Rhee is an advocate for destroying traditional public education. Chancellor Rhee is an advocate for union busting.
Chancellor Rhee may not care about the people of the District of Columbia not liking her; however, she should care about the people not trusting her.
E-mail contact information: [email protected]