The press conference at which Michelle Rhee announced her resignation as D.C. schools chancellor was full of optimism and general good cheer. In fact, it seemed designed to avoid any hint of controversy. The Washington Post aptly described it as “carefully choreographed,” with Rhee; her boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty; his presumed successor, Vincent Gray; and the soon-to-be interim chancellor, Kaya Henderson, issuing statements that described all parties as being on the same page, in terms of education policy.
All of which might lead one to wonder why Rhee is leaving at all. Gray avoided answering a reporter’s question on that point, and the chancellor didn’t address it.
Both Rhee and Gray described her decision to exit the D.C. schools stage as one that was made mutually. But the Post also suggested that the process may not have been as harmonious as it was presented publicly. The newspaper, citing two sources, reported that Rhee “abruptly told Gray last week that she was resigning and wanted out of the job as soon as possible.”
Gray had not planned to address Rhee’s status until after the Nov. 2 general election, the Post reported, but the chancellor’s move compelled Gray to make a decision quickly. This week, he announced that Henderson would be the interim chancellor.
For the record, Rhee deferred questions to a spokeswoman, Anita Dunn, who denied reports of an abrupt resignation, saying, “It is false.”
The Post later caught up with Gray at a fundraiser. The presumptive next mayor didn’t answer the question directly, but he said, “There’s no question she played a lead role in this.”
Public officials like to describe results that benefit two parties as “win-win,” by now one of humankind’s most tireless cliches. By arranging a resignation with no public hard feelings on display, Rhee and Gray appear to be avoiding what could easily have been a loss-loss, with one or both of them absorbing a pile of criticism for feuding while the city’s residents and students waited for what was to come next. For now, at least, both Rhee and Gray seem more interested in moving forward than looking back.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.