D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee will announce Wednesday that she is resigning at the end of October, bringing an abrupt end to a tenure that drew national acclaim but also became a central issue in the recent mayoral primary race.
She is scheduled to announce her departure at a news conference with Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) and presumptive mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D), said officials close to both Gray and Rhee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
She will be replaced on an interim basis by Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson, a close associate of Rhee's stretching back to their days at the New Teacher Project, a teacher recruiting nonprofit Rhee founded and ran before her appointment by Fenty in June 2007. Henderson was a vice president for the group and is scheduled to be at Wednesday's news conference.
Rhee's departure has been widely anticipated since the Sept. 14 Democratic mayoral primary loss of Fenty. She campaigned on his behalf and questioned whether Gray had the political will to make the unpopular decisions she believed were necessary to sustain school improvement in the District.
Gray has repeatedly said that he supports an ambitious program of school reform but does not believe that changes depend on a single person. In an interview with the Post last week, he said that if Rhee departed, he would seek to name a replacement who shared many of her values and not a veteran who had spent several decades in top school jobs. He specifically ruled out Rhee's predecessor, Clifford Janey, whose name had circulated widely as a possible replacement for her.
After more than three years in the job, Rhee's tenure already is the longest of any D.C. chancellor or superintendent of the past two decades. Measures of student performance generally improved during her time in the job but sagged in a round of test results released in August, a month before the primary vote.
Rhee removed most doubts about her future as chancellor the day after Fenty's defeat, when she told an A-list audience at the premiere of the education documentary "Waiting for Superman" that Fenty's defeat was "devastating" for the city's school children.
She quickly sought to re-cast the comment, saying that it was not a criticism of Gray. But the declaration underscored the expectation that her time as chancellor would soon end.
Rhee's goals--higher student achievement, better-quality teachers and greater accountability for their classroom performance--were generally shared by Rhee's predecessors. But with new powers putting the struggling school system under mayoral control, Rhee pursued the goals with an unprecedented zeal.
She closed schools by the dozens, fired teachers by the hundreds and spent more than two years negotiating a labor contract that gives principals new control over teacher hiring while establishing a new performance-pay system that ties compensation to growth on student test scores.
-- Tim Craig and Bill Turque