Vince Gray must move quickly to make his mark

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fred Hiatt's balanced analysis of where D.C. school reform stands after the mayoral primary ["School reform after Fenty," op-ed, Sept. 19] boiled down to this: While voters were turned off by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, they haven't turned against reform, but "school reform nonetheless lost" because presumptive mayor-to-be Vincent C. Gray "will have to think twice, and twice again, before taking on the unions that gave him important campaign support."

This conjecture about Mr. Gray's anticipated deference to the Washington Teachers' Union seemed to assume that his mind-set, like that of all blinkered politicians, includes the subconscious notion of running for another term. In that case, the union in 2014 will sternly measure his performance against the promises that led to its support in 2010.

Wouldn't it be nice, rather, to imagine Mr. Gray rejecting this knee-jerk political state of mind and instead opting to make some unfettered history?

Mr. Gray should apply his obvious talents to improving the woebegone school system without reference to the political force of any group offering him advice. One useful approach is to think about himself as a one-term mayor.

He will be, let's face it, 68 years of age when he takes office. From a very personal perspective, I can tell him that at 72, he will have lost a couple of steps, particularly after the four-year whirlwind into which he is about to plunge.

He should tell himself (but nobody else, of course; who fears a lame duck?) that if there is to be a Gray Era, it needs to be inaugurated now, in these four crucial years, without regard to future elections or any constituents other than the children whose futures he holds in his hands.

Bernard Ries, Washington

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