D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee seems to understand the "fierce urgency of now." The third part of PBS education correspondent John Merrow's fine ongoing series of reports on Rhee's efforts to turn around the D.C. school system depicts a tough-minded leader, unflagging in her commitment to produce real change. Confronted with stale but loud rhetoric from union leaders and District council members, Rhee listens attentively and responds politely (but firmly) that she will not back down from her plans to close 23 schools and cut dead weight from the city's bloated and profoundly ineffectual central offices. So far, no one has called for her head, though one observer interviewed for the segment thinks that "storm clouds are gathering." But there are signs that the storm will blow over. The once-indomitable Marion Barry saw his recent protest over school closings sputter out when no one attended it. And the city council voted overwhelmingly (10-3) to allow Rhee to thin the central office staff. The seas of D.C. politics are rough, but so far Rhee has steered a steady course. She's apparently in it for the long haul, too. The Washingtonian reports that she just bought a sizable house in the District.
"In Battle to Revamp D.C. Schools, Education Leader Faces Resistance," by John Merrow, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, February 7, 2008