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

(Photo: Jay Westcott)

The insider
Kevin Chavous, former Ward 7 councilmember, school reform advocate


Long story short

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


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OK, probably not. Kevin Chavous says he doesn’t want the job. But he would like to help Gray find the right person to fill it.

“I would definitely want to help,” Chavous says. “I think I know the city and I know the landscape as well as anyone.”

A former Ward 7 councilmember, Chavous is now a national voice for school reform. He would bring a deep knowledge of the District’s government and come to the job holding established relationships with the primary players.

It’s too bad; the move would set up an interesting web. Gray was elected to the council in 2004, after he defeated Chavous in the Ward 7 primary. One Chavous’ former staffers: Mayor Adrian Fenty.

“I enjoy what I'm doing,” Chavous says, “and I don't think I'm ready to go back inside in the government.”

The outsider
Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools

Not every urban superintendent has a background in education. Look at Joel Klein, head of New York City Schools, or San Diego superintendent Bill Kowba. Rhee herself came from a talent pool of non-superintendents.

Bobb would fit in this group, too. Currently the Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager, Bobb served previously as D.C. city administrator and president of the D.C. Board of Education. He was charged with a tough task in Detroit: cleaning up the financially strained school system in a city hit hard by the economic downturn.

Bobb is set to leave Detroit schools in March 2011, when an extended appointment from Gov. Jennifer Granholm expires, and was present at Gray's victory party Tuesday night.

The repeat
Clifford Janey

Guess who is available for hire right about now? Our old friend, Clifford Janey, former head of D.C. Public Schools. Janey was ousted by Fenty when the mayor took control of D.C. Public Schools and was replaced by Rhee. Could we see a reverse scenario?

In a recent blog post, the Washington Post’s Jay Matthews wrote that Janey was among “collection of energetic, innovative school district superheroes who make good changes as superintendents and then, invariably, run afoul of local politics and don't get their contracts renewed.” He had earned some praise for his work in D.C. before he was replaced in favor of Rhee, and has received some credit for starting to turn around the troubled system.

Janey was named superintendent of Newark schools in 2008 by then-New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. Corzine lost his re-election bid in 2009 and Janey was told in late August that his contract wouldn’t be renewed.

The same
Michelle Rhee

It does seem highly unlikely, but Gray was non-committal on Rhee throughout the primary, repeatedly saying that education reform was bigger than one person, that he hoped for a strong chancellor, and that he would sit down with Rhee after the election. In an appearance on CNN Tuesday Gray was asked if he would keep Rhee. “We'll see.” He was expected to meet with Rhee next week, according to The Washington Post.

Rhee immediately called Fenty’s loss “devastating” for Washington's children, but remains at her post. Rumors of her resignation were quickly shot down earlier this week. (When TBD asked Rhee via e-mail if she had resigned, she replied “Goodness, no.”). So until she boxes up her belongings at D.C. Public Schools headquarters, it’s only fair to keep her on the short list.

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