Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 10/20/10

By Tom Sherwood
|  Friday, Oct 22, 2010  |  Updated 7:07 AM EDT
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"Drama" of All Sorts Going On!

AP

Vincent Gray

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First, an update on our column from last week, when we faulted Mayor Adrian Fenty for being “obtuse” in declining to speak against the fledgling Fenty write-in effort some citizens have mounted.

By week’s end, Fenty did in fact end his silence.

"I appreciate the write-in supporters, but my campaign is over and I accept the results,” he said in a statement released Friday. “I ask my supporters to join me in supporting Vince Gray and in voting for Vince Gray, who will be our next mayor.”

On Monday at the grand reopening of the Georgetown Neighborhood Library (and the new library is in fact grand), Fenty told NBC4 that he thinks the voters “made the right choice” in the September primary. Fenty said he’s not willing to tell people how to vote, but he reiterated that he fully supports Gray.

“I would never tell anybody how to vote,” Fenty told us. “I merely say I am supporting Vincent Gray, not only because he is the Democratic nominee, but because I really do believe the citizens are right. He is the person who is going to do the best job for the city.”

Still, the guessing game has begun over how many voters will write Fenty’s name on the ballot.

On the first day of early voting this week, several people shouted encouragement as they passed the cluster of write-in supporters who had set up a table outside the polling place at One Judiciary Square. And volunteers are busy altering green Fenty signs by pasting “write-in” stickers on them.

“We believe we can win,” said volunteer Josh Lopez, who was wearing a green sport coat. He said that if independents, Republicans and disaffected Democrats vote for Fenty, “we can make history.”

That certainly is true. It would be extraordinary if the write-in were to succeed.

• More Drama

After months of speculation, Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee made it official and said she’d resign at the end of the month.

That decision prompted one of the most unusual news conferences we have attended in our career.

It was held at the Mayflower Hotel for reasons that still aren’t clear to us. But there were Rhee and Fenty walking into a ballroom with Gray to announce that Kaya Henderson would become the interim D.C. Public Schools chancellor when Rhee clears out.

The four officials shared the stage awkwardly, especially when Gray reached out and hugged Rhee, a move that clearly surprised her.

Gray had asked Fenty to name Henderson to the post. Henderson has been Rhee’s deputy for three years and has been a key implementer of her reforms. That includes serving as the lead negotiator on the teachers union contract and devising the rules for the new teacher evaluation program that the union so far hates.

But Henderson has something Rhee never expressed very well publicly: empathy. Henderson is a 13-year veteran of the city schools but has worked as a reformer with private groups trying to make changes.

Henderson, who is tough but has an easy smile, is an African-American with connections to local communities. Rhee, for all her efforts, never overcame her “outsider” image. Add in Fenty’s steely aloofness, and the duo never sufficiently conveyed a sense of caring about those caught up in the fast-paced reforms. Henderson probably won’t make anyone smile when they’re fired, but she will show empathy.

But again, she emphasizes that she’ll be tough. “I didn’t spend all my blood, sweat and tears” on reform to have it all fade away, she said.

It’s now up to Gray and Henderson to show that school reform can move forward with a kinder and gentler face, but still with a steel hand.

• Even More Drama

After a long, vagabond journey to Crystal City and the Lincoln Theatre on U Street, the famous Arena Stage is returning this weekend to Southwest, where it has a fabulous new home.

The gala weekend includes a big open house on Saturday and a dinner and production on Monday night.

The theater facility, officially called “Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater,” has undergone a $100 million makeover. The soaring glass home creates a monumental attraction for those who love live theater. It will be home to old favorites and groundbreaking new plays. It will draw thousands of visitors to a revitalized Southwest waterfront that will benefit the city with new street life, new restaurants -- and new tax revenue, too.

We welcome the theater, the patrons and the rebirth of Arena Stage on Maine Avenue SW. Take a look.

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