With No Regrets, Rhee Focuses on D.C. Schools’ Future

By Dakarai I. Aarons — September 15, 2010 2 min read
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In the wake of District of Columbia Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s Democratic primary loss this morning, a significant slice of the endless punditry and chatter in the blogosphere has focused on the role Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee played in the election and what her future holds.

But Rhee says she and the mayor have no regrets about the pace of reform they undertook in trying to fix one of the nation’s worst-performing school districts upon her arrival in June 2007.

“What a lot of people were thinking was it was too much or too fast or something like that,” Rhee said. “But I think we can rest soundly at night knowing that we really believed that that sense of urgency was necessary. We didn’t want to wait another day knowing that another D.C. child was not getting the education they deserve so it was only the best intentions we had in terms of the pace of reform.”

The chancellor said she’s enormously grateful to Fenty, who lost the primary election to Vincent Gray, the city council chairman, for being true to his word to stand with her in every decision she made, no matter how high the cost.

“He told me he was willing to risk his entire political career to make the schools better and that’s exactly what has happened,” Rhee said. “I had the good fortune of communicating with him yesterday about this and he said ‘I don’t think that I will ever do anything as important as what we have done over the last three years in improving the schools and I have no regrets.’ That was just touching for me to know from his vantage point, even knowing in many ways it cost him this re-election, we did the right things for kids.”

I sat down this afternoon to talk with the education world’s most sought-after woman to talk about her three-and-a-half year tenure at the helm of D.C.'s schools and what the future may hold.

Rhee says she’s made no decision about whether to stay or go, and would talk more about her future with Fenty and Gray when she returns from a long-planned vacation with her fiancee, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

“I’m confident that we’ll be able to decide on a path forward that’s in the best interest of this school district,” she said.

You can read, and see more of my interview with Rhee on edweek.org and in the next edition of Education Week, including what she sees as the markers of change in D.C. schools over the past three years, how having the resources of an entire city government has helped her make changes, and what she’s learned about communicating.

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