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Controversial D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee Resigns

After incumbent D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty lost the Democratic primary to D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, The Washington Postquoted D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee:

Yesterday's election results were devastating, devastating. Not for me, because I'll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he'll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.

After Rhee announced her resignation this morning, NPR's Melissa Block asked her to clarify those comments.

"I wish that the reporter would have actually expressed the entire sentiment and not just those words," Rhee said. "Because what I said was, it was devastating because I have received calls from people inside the city and across the nation who are saying this is the worst thing that could've happened to school reform."

It's a blow. The message is that you should not try to do what Fenty and Rhee did, that you've got to slow down. And what I said is, that is absolutely the wrong message and the wrong lesson that people should take from this. If people think that the results of this election mean that we should be less aggressive about school reform, then the children are the ones that will lose out.

According to NPR's Claudio Sanchez, "weeks earlier, Rhee had hinted that she could not work for Gray, the man expected to become the next mayor, because she didn't think he would be willing to make the tough political decisions that are still necessary to whip the system into shape, or to take on the teachers' union, which gave Gray's campaign lots of money."

Rhee said she plans to take some time to weigh her options, to decide whether to take a job at a national level or a local level, adding that she'd like to live closer to her fiance, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Gray faces no Republican challenger in the general election. School reform was a central issue in the Democratic primary, and Rhee was a polarizing figure.

She told Block "it's really important that education reform in this city continues, and that reforms are embraced by the entire community."

I'm leaving behind my entire team -- my deputy chancellor is taking over as interim, my entire management team is staying in place. They are the brains and the talent behind the entire reform effort, so the plan can actually continue. The progress can continue. And it can do so without the distraction of having me, which for some people, just wasn't part of what they had hoped for long-term.

Gray says the reforms that Rhee began will continue under Kaya Henderson, Rhee's longtime deputy and one of the architects of those reforms.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.