I shall call her “Mini-Rhee.”
Supporters of now-officially-ex-schools chancellor Michelle Rhee are breathing a sigh of relief at the selection of her deputy Kaya Henderson as her interim successor. Story after story calls Henderson a “friend” and “ally” of Rhee, and the selection is seen as a sign that not-officially-yet-mayor Vincent Gray plans to ease into any change of course in education policy -- or perhaps continue the Rhee Revolution at a more ambling and amiable pace.
The Washington Post says Rhee “embraced” Gray in a “carefully choreographed news conference” Wednesday, and “offered an enthusiastic endorsement of her replacement.” Gray has also asked the school system’s leadership to stay on through the end of the school year, which means Gray will govern for at least a few months with “a team hand-assembled by Rhee and infused with her reform ideas” running the city’s schools. A Gray spokeswoman said Henderson is among those being considered as a permanent successor to Rhee.
The Washington Examiner says Henderson, who “was the first person Rhee appointed after she assumed her post in 2007,” vowed to continue on Rhee’s path, though there are doubts that a new interim chancellor under a new mayor can have the same impact that Rhee did.
The Examiner’s Freeman Klopott says that “by replacing Rhee with her second-in-command, Gray has sent a message to the affluent, white Rhee-backing voters who opposed him that he’s serious about continuing with the reforms Rhee set in motion while also placating the mostly black voters who wanted Rhee’s head.” Jonetta Rose Barras, also in the Examiner, bluntly says “it’s totally whacked that obstructionists with political and personal agendas pushed out a woman who cared about D.C.’s children and fought to improve their lives.”
A Post editorial says Henderson shares Rhee’s “vision for school reform,” and the fact that top leadership is staying on for now “should be a relief to the parents worried about possible upheaval in their children's schooling.” But parents, like everyone else, have strong and divided views about Rhee. Petula Dvorak writes in the Post that one mother “did a happy dance under the oak trees” when told of Rhee’s resignation, while another “went the other way: ‘I should put the house on the market and move to Montgomery County.’”
If Henderson is Rhee 2.0, though -- or at least Rhee Lite -- why make the switch? NBC4’s Tom Sherwood asked Gray that question yesterday. Gray, Washington City Paper’s Alan Suderman writes, “stumbled through an answer by repeating that it was a ‘mutual decision,’ before Sherwood asked, ‘Did you not want her or did she not want you?’ Gray said he didn’t think was an ‘appropriate question.’ Actually, Vince, it’s a great question, and you already answered it: it was a mutual decision. You didn’t want one another.” (In another post, Suderman estimates Rhee’s severance pay at “roughly $140,000.”)
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked if, given Rhee’s resignation, President Obama regrets not being “more vocal” in supporting Adrian Fenty’s re-election campaign. Gibbs replied, “I don’t think the president has any regrets about not getting involved in a mayoral race.” Gibbs did say “the important work of people like Michelle Rhee” and federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan “and others has to continue, regardless of the outcome of elections.”
So where’s Rhee going? For now, she’s going online. Within hours Wednesday, she launched a website, a Twitter feed -- more than 2,300 followers already, though just three tweets -- and a Facebook fan page.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* The Post reports Fenty “confirmed that he is in talks with alma mater Oberlin College to teach political science there in the future,” but said it is “still premature to talk about his future.” He said he is “exploring everything” as he moves toward a post-political career. Asked about the Write Fenty In campaign, Fenty said he would not declare himself a write-in candidate, but did not fully disavow the effort. “I committed to support the Democratic nominee. I think Vincent Gray will be a great mayor.”
Meanwhile, City Paper’s Suderman reports that “at least five former Fenty campaign workers” got D.C. government jobs before Fenty ordered a hiring freeze. Some of the new hires “have ties to Fenty’s friend Sinclair Skinner,” who is “under investigation for winning city engineering contracts, allegedly thanks to his friendship with Fenty.”
* The D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance has released its general election candidate ratings. Three D.C. Council incumbents seeking re-election -- David Catania, Jim Graham, and Phil Mendelson -- got perfect scores. Ward 1 Republican Marc Morgan, one of two gay GOP candidates who complained of their low scores on GLAA’s earlier ratings list, saw his score rise, but the other, Ward 5’s Tim Day, did not. Two candidates -- Ward 6 Republican Jim DeMartino and At-Large independent Richard Urban -- received negative scores. Gray was the only mayoral candidate rated, as none of the other three candidates on the general election ballot returned the GLAA questionnaire.
* Ward 5’s Day will challenge incumbent Harry Thomas Jr. on his record leading various non-profit groups in a media call this afternoon.
* The Hill is Home has a schedule of upcoming candidate meet-and-greets in Ward 6.
* In Maryland, the AP reports community activist Jennifer Lowery-Bell will run a write-in campaign against District 25 state Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Democrat who was indicted by a federal grand jury in September on bribery, conspiracy, mail fraud, and extortion charges. Currie has no opponent on the ballot. Lowery-Bell told the Post, “I know Sen. Currie deep in his heart has done a good job, but people are hurt and saddened by what has happened.”
* The Falls Church News-Press reports that the Falls Church City Council voted this week “to rescind a decision to move Falls Church’s municipal elections from May to November.” A News-Press editorial calls it “one of the worst decisions in at least the last 20 years of the City’s history.”
* The Post reports that just “a month after pledging to do a better job of sheltering the city’s homeless this winter, District leaders haven’t figured out how best to meet that promise.” Existing shelters are nearly full, and the temperature is dropping.
* Washington Business Journal reports D.C. has surpassed New York for the highest office rents in the nation.
* The Manassas News & Messenger says two guys were arrested at a Five Guys.
* Borderstan has an update on the D.C. Arts District project.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC