School days, school days -- end of Michelle Rhee rule days?
As students across the District return to school today, they and their parents are getting a lesson in politics. The race for mayor is in large part a referendum on Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and it’s possible that a loss by Adrian Fenty on Sept. 14 could mean Rhee will end up a dropout -- or will be expelled by Mayor Vincent Gray.
This morning, Fenty sent an e-mail to supporters saying, “It seems like just yesterday that the school system had trouble with the most basic tasks of the back-to-school season.” After outlining the achievements of the past four years and extolling Rhee, Fenty concludes, “We have laid the foundation and my commitment could not be stronger to keep us moving in the best direction for kids. With your help, we can continue these amazing accomplishments.”
Gray spent the morning at Sunshine Early Learning Center in Southeast D.C., where he read to children. His campaign took to Twitter to say “Vince is so proud of his work expanding pre-K in the District.” Both candidates, as well as candidates for other city offices, will spend the day traipsing about the city’s various schools, no doubt annoying nervous parents who don’t really want to think about politics today.
There are a few changes in store for students today. The new Stoddert Elementary School is opening in Northwest, and WTOP says Metro is putting more police on trains as the school year begins, in the wake of recent fights at Metro stops.
Wilson High School students will be spending the year on the campus of the University of the District of Columbia while their school building undergoes renovation. While some in the community are concerned about kids as young as 13 spending their days on a college campus, it could also provide a great chance for students to get acquainted with college life as they plan their own futures.
There’s much that’s new for teachers, as well. The new contract Rhee negotiated boosts D.C. teachers into what the Washington Examiner calls “a pay bracket nearly unmatched in urban districts nationwide.” Starting at $42,000, new teachers who perform well could get as much as $70,000 per year, while high-performing veterans could earn twice that. There are also a lot of brand-new teachers as well, hired to replace poor performers that Rhee dismissed.
According to the Washington Post’s Bill Turque, Rhee recently told a group of principals, “Unless you are comfortable with putting your own child in a classroom, that teacher does not have to be there. You have the tools you need to be successful. Our expectations are high. So either go hard, or go home.”