Who could replace D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee

(Photo: Jay Westcott)

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee sent an email to school employees this week that sounded something like a farewell address. 

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Who could replace D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee?

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"It has been my honor to work as urgently and successfully as we have for DC’s students under Mayor Fenty. Without his leadership, we would never have been able to achieve as much as we have for this city," she wrote. "There are 45,000 children depending on our ability to do what we do well every day. I know you won’t let them down."

Those don't sound like the words of someone planning to stick around. So the District is likely to be in search of a new leader for its woeful public school system. Again.

The gig might be made easier because Rhee did a lot of dirty work and would leave the spoils for her successor. But Vince Gray, who toppled Fenty in Tuesday's Democratic primary largely due to the way Fenty and Rhee handled school reform, would likely be looking for certain qualities in a new schools leader. The ideal candidate:

• Supports comprehensive education reform and mayoral control of the school system.
• Works well with others.
• Risk taker.
• Open to community input.
• Can mesh with Gray, who as a candidate in the primary earned the backing of noted Rhee foe, the Washington Teachers Union.

Gray could go in a few different directions as he looks to find D.C. Public Schools' Next Great Hope. A brief survey of the landscape reveals some possible candidates:

The rising star
Jean-Claude Brizard, superintendent of schools for the Rochester (N.Y.) City School District

Brizard is a fan of Michelle Rhee. He thinks she’s done an admirable job here in the District, and has used her work as an example of school reform in his post as superintendent of the Rochester (N.Y.) schools.

“Some may disagree with her approach and at times her demeanor, but what she’s done is good work for D.C. schools,” he says.

Brizard, a Haitian native, went to Rochester in January 2008, after a stint with the New York City Department of Education. As a regional superintendent, he oversaw more than 100 schools in the city.

Brizard has shuttered under-performing schools in Rochester and wants to tie teacher pay to their pupils’ performance. He says he’s happy in Rochester, where mayoral control of the schools is being considered, and said he’s looking forward to seeing his work take hold — but he stopped short of committing to staying at his post.

“I’ve learned in life never to say never,” Brizard says. “Because you never know where life takes you.”

The veteran
Rudy Crew, former superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Rudy Crew interviewed for the top job at D.C. Public Schools in 2004 with then-Mayor Anthony Williams  and was Williams’ first choice, but opted for South Florida instead. Crew, the former head of New York City schools, was named the National Superintendent of the Year in 2008.

Crew left Miami-Dade in 2008 amid squabbles with the school board and budget concerns. Florida schools took a hit during his tenure when the state legislature cut education funding. A hefty chunk of that money was lost in Miami-Dade, one of the largest school districts in the nation.

It should also be noted that Crew would come to D.C. with some baggage from his stint in Miami. He was running the show in Miami-Dade schools during a sex scandal of Miami Northwestern Senior High School.

At Northwestern, a football powerhouse, a star running back was arrested on charges that stemmed from a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old. He was allowed to play in the state title game. Crew was later forced to conduct an investigation, which (as one might expect) did not end well for the school or District.

Crew has not yet returned a telephone message left by TBD on Wednesday afternoon.

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