The controversial head of Washington, D.C.’s public school system is out at the end of this month. Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced her resignation today, ending a month of speculation about her expected departure. In September, her biggest advocate and the man who hired her, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost his re-election bid.
Test scores did improve under Rhee’s leadership and a new teacher contract was finally hammered out. So her departure leaves D.C. families — and, really, the rest of the nation who had followed Rhee’s reforms closely — what will happen next? Education is getting a lot of attention — like these two movies — and Rhee had a big hand in that.
Mayor-elect Vincent Gray introduced Kaya Henderson as the interim chancellor and said she would continue down the path of reforms the school district has already begun. Henderson came to the district along with Rhee and has served the last 3.5 years as Rhee’s top deputy. Before coming to D.C., Rhee and Henderson had worked together on the New Teacher Project, which recruited teachers for the public schools. Henderson, like Rhee, is also an alumna from Teach for America — she taught middle school Spanish in the Bronx.
Henderson’s name has also circulated as a possible permanent replacement for the departing Rhee, which could mean many of the reforms introduced in the last three years would have a chance to be tested.
What will also be interesting to watch is where Rhee lands. Will she take up another high-profile and ailing school district? Will Obama snatch her up? Academia? Her own talk show?
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