In Michelle Rhee vs. Andrés Alonso, Who Wins?

October 21, 2009 1 min read

In a match-up between the schools chiefs in the District of Columbia and Baltimore, the opinion makers at a major metropolitan daily are betting on Andrés A. Alonso, the chief executive officer in Baltimore to have more success than D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, his colleague down I-95 in the nation’s capital.

Alonso, who came to the top job in Baltimore at the same time Rhee took the Washington gig in the summer of 2007, is as uncompromising as his Washington colleague when it comes to raising student achievement. There are other similarities too. Both leaders are minorities (he’s Cuban, she’s Korean-American) who are overseeing school systems that are overwhelmingly poor and African-American.

But Alonso’s approach, despite removing principals, teachers, and central office staff he deemed ineffective, has been far less alienating than Rhee’s, who at times has seemed to delight in telling tales of teacher and staff incompetence and issuing bold statements (some of them nonverbal) about ridding the system of such people. One major difference is that Alonso enjoys relatively anonymity outside of Baltimore, while Rhee has been in the national spotlight from the day she was hired.

Of course, folks could dismiss The Baltimore Sun‘s selection of Alonso as the superintendent most likely to succeed as hometown favoritism.

What does everyone else think? Will Baltimore best Washington in the school reform race?

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.