Richard Whitmire’s Aug. 5 Local Opinions piece expressing nostalgia for former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee [“What if Rhee had stayed?”] missed the point, which should be a lesson for all school leaders.
Whatever opinions one might have about Ms. Rhee’s impact, she unnecessarily created the dynamics of her own demise.
Mr. Whitmire suggested that “kinder and gentler” is incompatible with Ms. Rhee’s scorched-earth approach to school reform and that D.C. public schools would look different if Ms. Rhee had stayed. Well, we will never know because Ms. Rhee wasuninterested in bringing along her public.
No matter how good the ideas and intention, a major part of leading is to build consensus, engage the community and sell the public on the need for change. After all, without the public, there can be no public education.
Had Ms. Rhee understood that, she could have saved Mr. Whitmire a “what if” article. But other school leaders may still heed the lessons of her experience.
Arnold F. Fege,Washington
The writer is director of public engagement and advocacy for the Public Education Network.