Former District of Columbia Public Schools chief Michelle Rhee will not be leaving the city after all. According to an announcement she made this week on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” the reform czar will remain in the District to head up a new education group aimed at attracting one million members.

“I am going to start a revolution,” Rhee told Winfrey. “I am going to start a movement in this country on behalf of the nation’s children.”

Rhee, who was recently tapped to preside over the education transition team for Florida’s new governor, will serve as CEO of the Washington-based nonprofit, StudentsFirst. The nonpartisan group has established a national agenda in its effort to mobilize parents, teachers, students, administrators, and citizens across the country to promote change in public education. The organization, which intends to pressure elected officials for changes in legislation, has also been tasked with raising $1 billion next year to spread out among school districts.

“Education should be about the students. Their needs should come before the demands of special interests and big bureaucracies,” Rhee, who appeared on a recent cover of {Newsweek}, said in one of several online blogs. “StudentsFirst will work on behalf of the children, not the adults. For every American child, going to a good school should be a matter of fact, not luck. Our goal is to make the American public education system the best in the world through investing in highly effective teachers, administrators, schools and programs.”

Rhee, who was hired in 2007 by Mayor Adrian Fenty to turn around the District’s troubled schools, quickly became the center of controversy for her no-nonsense approach at reform.

In the process of cleaning house earlier this year she fired 165 teachers and put more than 100 others on notice that their jobs were at risk.

However, Rhee quit her post after Fenty lost the September primary.

In the Newsweek article, she admits that her hard-nosed tactics—which, among other achievements, ultimately helped raise student test scores and put into place a new teacher evaluation system—might have cost Fenty his job.

“I was stunned,’ Rhee said. “ I had never imagined he wouldn’t win the contest given the progress that was visible throughout the city—the new recreation centers, the turnaround of once struggling neighborhoods, and, yes, the improvements in the schools.”

She added that when the mayor asked her about taking over DCPS she had warned him that he would not want to hire her.

“If we did the job right for the city’s children, I told him, it would upset the status quo—I was sure I would be a political problem,” Rhee said.

 

DorothyRowley

AFROStaffWriter