Fenty To Oust Janey Today

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has chosen to fire D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey and replace him with the founder of a New York-based teacher-training organization, a dramatic step that signals the mayor's desire to bring "radical change" to the failing 55,000-student system.

After assuming control of the schools at midnight, Fenty (D) planned to announce at a 9:30 a.m. news conference today that he has tapped Michelle A. Rhee for the new job of schools chancellor.

Rhee, 37, operates the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit group created in 1997 that recruits and trains teachers to serve in urban districts. Fenty said she would fulfill his desire for a strong manager who would bring new ideas from the outside and remain in the position a long time.

Rhee is well-known in education circles but could prove to be a tough sell with school employees, parents and D.C. Council members, who must confirm the appointment.

She would be the first schools chief in the District who didn't have superintendent experience since retired Army Lt. Gen. Julius W. Becton Jr. left in frustration nearly a decade ago. She has spent just three years working within a school system, as an elementary teacher in Baltimore in the mid-1990s. And, as a Korean American, Rhee would be the system's first non-black chief in nearly four decades.

"This system needs radical change; it really needs a shake-up," Fenty said in an interview. "We did not want to pick someone to tinker around the edges. . . . I was impressed on every level with Michelle: her intellect, sense of urgency and management acumen."

The D.C. school system is among the worst-performing in the nation. Although D.C. public schools are third in per-pupil spending among the nation's 100 largest districts, students rank at or near the bottom in reading and math among 11 major urban school districts. Rhee would become the city's seventh schools chief in a decade, replacing Janey, a career educator who would leave after less than three years at the helm.

Fenty selected Rhee after conducting a secret search, repeatedly saying publicly that he had made no decisions and was considering keeping Janey. In the interview, Fenty said he considered a list of about 30 names during the past two months, including Miami-Dade County Superintendent Rudolph F. Crew. Fenty consulted few, if any, local leaders and parents but sought advice from New York City School Chancellor Joel I. Klein and national education experts.

It is not clear how many other candidates Fenty interviewed for the job, if any.

Rhee was first approached by Fenty's deputy mayor for education, Victor Reinoso, at an education conference in May, and she initially rebuffed the mayor's overtures.

"I said, 'No, not me,' " Rhee said. "I always thought I could have more impact on districts from the role I'm in now."

She changed her mind after meeting with Fenty, who told her he would support whatever changes she wants to make. Although Fenty has been critical of Janey's pace of change, the mayor's education plan includes a nod to Janey, whose Master Education Plan is listed as the starting point for Fenty's reform efforts.

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