Michelle Rhee resigns from D.C. Public Schools

This story has been updated.


(Photo: Jay Westcott)

Long story short

Michelle Rhee: I'm out.


Standing with the man who brought her to the District of Columbia and the one whose primary day win cast doubt on her future here, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee made her exit.

“The thought of not being in this role anymore is heartbreaking, to put it mildly,” said Rhee, the lightning rod leader whose turbulent upheaval of Washington’s public school system brought her both adoration and scorn. “But I do know it's the right thing for the school system and the right thing, most importantly, for the children of D.C."

Rhee, whom incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty brought to the District in 2007, on Wednesday said she would step aside at a packed press conference at the Mayflower Renaissance Washington. In her remarks, the outspoken chancellor thanked both Fenty and his presumptive replacement, D.C. Council Council Chairman and Democratic mayoral nominee Vince Gray.

“In short, we have agreed together that the best way to keep these reforms going is for this reformer to step aside,” said Rhee, who called the move a “mutual decision" between her and Gray.

It had been expected that Rhee would leave her post after Gray defeated Fenty, as she had strongly suggested that she could not work in his administration and had campaigned for Fenty as a private citizen. Gray had repeatedly dodged questions on her departure, however, instead saying that education reform should be about more than just Gray, Fenty or Rhee.

"The job of chancellor is not an easy one. This was not an easy decision for either of us. I think this decision is a testament of our chancellor’s commitment to school reform," Gray said at Wednesday’s press conference. "We cannot and will not revert to the days of incrementalism in our schools."

Rhee, who has already launched a social media blitz, took on a "thankless job," said Fenty, who praised her for having "the willingness to do what is right, even if it has political consequences.”

“All across the country now, because of Chancellor Rhee and her team, from the White House to documentaries, people are touting D.C. as a model for how to attack bureaucracy and get results in an urban school system,” Fenty said.

Rhee will be replaced by Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson on an interim basis. Gray said Rhee’s efforts would continue under Henderson, whom he called an “outstanding public servant."

“Our schools must continue to operate under the leadership of a strong, empowered chancellor who will move school reform forward, take it to the next level, and work with the community so that all our stakeholders are invested in the process,” Gray said.

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