Rhee Doing “Fantastic” Job: Fenty

Mayor backs Rhee in wake of sex, physical abuse comments

Not long after he first appointed Michelle Rhee as schools chancellor in 2007, the mayor told a news conference that he backed her 100 percent no matter what she did. He backed her when she closed schools and when she imposed new standards for assessing teacher performance.

And on Tuesday he backed her again.

Fenty told News4 and NBCWashington.com that Rhee is doing a "fantastic" job and that "thousands" of District citizens, parents and school offcials agree with him.

Fenty said Rhee has properly explained remarks in Fast Company magazine that some teachers among the 266 fired last October were sexual and physical abusers of students.

The comment set off a firestorm of criticism that Rhee had maligned all the teachers who were fired in the downsizing because of budget shortages. Some Washington Teachers Union officials called on her to resign.

After days of controversy, Rhee gave an exclusive interview to NBC4 in which she said she had not intended to suggest that all the teachers were sexual predators or physical abusers. In fact, she explained, only one teacher -- who was on administrative leave -- was facing allegations of sexual misconduct. And only six teachers had served suspensions for "corporal punishment" contact with students. Two others were fired for excessve absences, including one who missed 78 days.

That means that only nine of the 266 teachers were covered in Rhee's initial remarks.  She declined to apologize for characterizing  the whole group in such a negative light. Hardly the sweeping denunciation many read into Rhee's remarks.

Rhee sent a letter to the D.C. Council explaining the controversy Tuesday, but its unclear whether her attempts to clarify her quote will head off hearings being considered by D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray.

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