It's not easy being a state superintendent of education without a state. Deborah Gist occupies that peculiar and frequently awkward spot in District government. She carries little of the authority of peers in actual states, such as Nancy Grasmick of Maryland.
Under the law that gives Mayor Adrian M. Fenty control of the city's schools, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee wields complete operational authority and reports directly to him. On the organizational chart, Gist reports to Fenty through the seldom heard-from deputy mayor for education Victor Reinoso.
Even on matters where she does have some clout, Gist tends to duck and cover. Last week we sought comment from her on the new advanced teaching credential she is developing. It would require D.C. teachers to demonstrate effectiveness in order to keep their jobs. The measure is widely thought to be a part of Rhee's so-called "Plan B," her blueprint to bypass the Washington Teachers' Union and establish policies to weed out underperforming teachers.
Gist said that before talking she would have to "check with Carrie," meaning Fenty's chief of staff Carrie Brooks. Gist was not heard from again.
But Brooks yesterday denied any role in muzzling Gist.
"I had no involvement with Deborah Gist's ability to speak to you about teacher certification," Brooks said.