No decisions made in Gray, Rhee meeting (photos, video)
Updated: September 23, 2010 - 10:18 pm
10 p.m.: UPDATES with comments from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, per WUSA report.
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee emerged from a long-awaited meeting with D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray on Thursday looking rattled and rather glum. She stood off to the side, in the corner of a hallway, and let Gray, the District’s presumptive mayor-elect, do the talking.
"This was not a decision-making meeting,” Gray said, after wrapping up the private noon summit with Rhee in his office at the John A. Wilson Building. “This was an opportunity for the chancellor and I to have a conversation broadly about public education in the city."
The decision, on Rhee’s future in the District, has been discussed for months now. Gray, who captured a win over incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary earlier this month, has long dodged questions about whether he would keep Rhee at her post. He managed to do it again early Thursday afternoon, when he told a cluster of reporters that the time for that choice hadn’t yet come.
“We did not talk about Chancellor Rhee staying or going,” Gray said. “We talked about the state of education in the city."
During the primary campaign, Rhee had strongly suggested that she would be unable to work in a Gray administration and campaigned for Fenty as a private citizen. After the primary, she called the results “devastating” for District schoolchildren, a comment she later clarified. Gray said her support for his opponent wasn’t addressed Thursday.
“I don’t think we went that far in the discussion,” he said.
Gray and Rhee come from opposite ends of the urban-education continuum: His challenge against Fenty was supported by the long-powerful Washington Teachers Union; her chancellorship has hinged on a multi-year campaign to weaken the union, the better to facilitate her housecleaning at underperforming schools and HQ. The council chairman has also challenged the chancellor’s decisions and style.
Rhee was featured on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show that aired earlier this week and was hailed as a “warrior woman” by Winfrey herself. The appearance, which helped promote the documentary documentary "Waiting for 'Superman'" was filmed earlier this month.
Rhee exited through the halls of the Wilson building shortly after the press conference, trying to leave through a different elevator. She didn’t manage to shake the press, who trailed her through the building and out into a parking lot.
“Oh my gosh,” Rhee said, as reporters tried to crowd their way into the elevator with her. The lucky few who made it didn’t get much more out her.
She didn’t comment on why she wouldn’t comment. How about her nuptials to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson?
“Not commenting on that,” Rhee said.
“Do you think you owe anything to the students?” a reporter later asked.
“I owe it to the students that I go back and start working again,” she responded.
At a press conference of his own, Johnson said Rhee hasn't "ruled out" remaining in Washington, according to a WUSA report.
"She'll have tons of options but I don't think staying in D.C. is something that she's ruled out," Johnson says, in a video posted on WUSA's website.
Earlier in the press conference, Rhee had deferred to Gray, saying she wouldn't be making any additional comments and declining to speak at microphones. When asked if she would be stay through the end of the school year, Rhee said she wouldn't be making any other comments. When asked when the public would know, when there would be a decision, Gray responded: "We don't know ourselves, right?"
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