Thursday, February 4, 2010

Visionary Leadership - What Does It Look Like?

From the DeKalb Neighbor newspaper

As part of The Galloway School’s speaker series to celebrate the Buckhead school’s 40th anniversary, Michelle Rhee, chancellor of Washington, D.C. Public Schools, spoke to the Galloway community about her experiences last week.

“Coming out and having people clap is a nice change of pace,” said Ms. Rhee of the applauding welcome as she took the stage.

Learning it is OK not to be liked was one of the lessons she shared with the crowd.

“If your goal is to make everyone happy, you will never get anywhere,” she said. “You have to make the decisions somewhere in the middle.”

After she was appointed chancellor in June 2007, she began shaking up what was the poorest performing school district in the country with some drastic changes that made her not liked among public officials in Washington.

She recounted the challenges she faced in the form of public and political opposition to changing central office employees to at-will employees and closing schools to better distribute funds.

“We were right. For the first time we ensured that every single school had an art teacher, a music teacher, a physical education coach and a school nurse,” she said, speaking of how the school closures helped the district. “Sometimes you’ve got to make the hard decisions because you know where you’re going to end up before everyone else does.”

She summed up her observations of how politics had corrupted the school system to the extreme disadvantage to the students.

“We as adults for far too long have turned a blind eye to what the reality of what’s happening to kids in classrooms in the name of harmony amongst adults,” she said.

Courage to stand up to the politics, she said, is what her city and school district as well as the rest of the country need to pull the education system back up.

“We are in the financial crisis in this city and in this country today because of the irresponsibility of adults. We are not going to make up for this on the backs of children,” she said, retelling what Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said in defense of not cutting the school system budget.

Galloway Head of School Tom Brereton said he was personally inspired by Ms. Rhee’s talk to be more courageous and out-front.

“I’m encouraged to continue to raise this school up to find excellence,” he said. “I think we should leave here tonight having hope that the educational opportunities for kids in Washington will be improved for tomorrow.”

Click here to watch the video of her speech.


Anonymous said...

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE Booard of Ed, C Lew, Talley, and all you other administrator vultures watch this video. She puts the focus in the classroom, not on purchasing cards for gas guzzlers.

Anonymous said...

She's very charismatic. But, her popularity has fallen over the past year.

If Dr. Lewis is unpopular with teachers over furloughs, you can imagine how unpopular Ms. Rhee is for firing teachers and claiming sexual misconduct and corporal punishment as the justification. The teachers union is now against the Chancellor, so I can't imagine that morale is better here than there.

Anonymous said...

Michelle Rhee was hired in 2007 at an annual salary of $275k, plus a $41,500 signing bonus, up to $25k annually in bonuses, and a car and driver. Here are some of her top employees:

The Washington, DC Examiner published the salaries for Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s top staff.

Ximena Hartsock, Transition Assistant: $115,000

Billy Kearney, Transition Assistant: $120,000

Anthony de Guzman, Transition Assistant: $125,000

John Davis, Transition Assistant: $125,000

Richard Nyankori, Special Assistant to the Chancellor: $140,000

Jenny Abramson, Transition Team Leader: $140,000

Jesus Aguirre, Transition Assistant: $150,000

Kaya Henderson, Deputy Chancellor: $200,000

Lisa Ruda, Chief of Staff: $200,000

The DC Public School system has about 78,000 students (Although Wikipedia lists a much lower number)

Square Peg said...

The following parts of the speech jumped out at me in light of the proposal to shift 45 apparently nonessential central office employees to the classroom:

First task, the first day on the job: "You have to find out where the money is going."

Regarding incompetent employees, including one whose mistakes cost the district half a million dollars per year: they had "no realization that there was a link between what they were doing every day and any kind of accountability for doing the job well."

Rhee said that research shows that three highly effective teachers in a row (or ineffective ones) can change a child's life trajectory. When an incompetent employee is shifted to the classroom or an incompetent teacher is given extra time to shape up through professional development, a classroom full of children is harmed to help one adult. "Let us not let children languish in their care."

Anonymous said...

Good post Anon 11:11 AM, but it still doesn't compare to the number of $100k-ers at DCSS, and I've lived up there, and the cost of living in the D.C. area is much, much higher than here. The cost of living and taxes up there do make DeKalb County look good in comparison.

Anonymous said...

Oh...that's not all the $100k plus administrators. Just the top ones...

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Anon 11:35/12:11. There are way too many administratively top heavy school systems, and Michelle Rhee is a hypocrite if she doesn't lower the amount of admin positions if and when her goals are reached.

Board of Education's here and throughout the country are the people responsible for keeping administrations mean, lean, efficient and focused on the students & teachers. But far too often they overly side with school system administrators, and they all too often become buddy buddy.

Board of Ed members are whom the superintendent and staff report to, just like you report to your boss at work. There is a clear and fine line to their relationship. Here in DeKalb, BOE members like Frances Edwards and Zepora become chummy with staff to get their relatives hired. Even level headed Tom Bowen always automatically jumps to C Lew's defense. And talk about buddy/buddy, BOE member Gene Walker sponsored C Lew into the very, very exclusive and ritzy Commerce Club, like fraternity brothers.

Anonymous said...

Michelle Rhee spoke at Galloway?

I'm sure the private schools in Washington DC would KILL to have a REAL superintendent like Crawford Lewis come and speak to them. His message, vision and ideas are so compelling.

I mean, isn't Crawford Lewis in high demand as a public speaker?

Aren't schools all over America just clamoring to have Crawford Lewis come and speak to them?

Anonymous said...

C Lew claims other school systems are interested in him. If that's true, I say to the BOE: Let him go!

Anonymous said...

Oh they're interested in him alright. Interested in making sure they don't hire him or someone just like him.

Anonymous said...

What does "Visionary Leadership" look like? It looks like this:

Crawford Lewis getting a contract extension, pay raise, expense account increase and unfettered use of an automobile and credit card.

That's what "Visionary Leadership" looks like.

Next topic, please.

Peter Banks said...

DeKalb, if you want Michelle Rhee, please take her. We don't want her anymore.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:04 PM, we will gladly trade Crawford Lewis and all of his upper level administrators from Rhee. You can even have their take home vehicles and $90k per year admin assistants.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:04, I'm interested. Could you expand on what the issue is? Also please tell us your role with the DC school system. Are you a teacher, administrator, student, parent, bus driver, instructional specialist, vendor, ex-employee, citizen not otherwise involved in the schools, or what?

Our offer to trade is still on the table. We'll send you a superintendent who's a bargain at $255K salary + $30K expenses. (Or maybe it's really $287,991.63 salary + $9,452.75 expenses, according to state records.)

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 2:04, sorry we can't take Rhee. Upon further checking Rhee has no relatives employed in the DeKalb County School System nor on the school board.

It's our practice in DeKalb that we only hire into top administrative positions if a relative was secretly involved in the hiring process.

We may be open to bribes if you want us to reconsider.

Anonymous said...

I attended the Galloway speech and was impressed with some of what Rhee has done. I was raised in the are and am familiar with the issues in DC.

I came away really impressed with her. But, a quick "Google" took that feeling away. Rhee may have some good ideas but her lack of management experience will hurt the city in the long run.

She was a teacher for a few years and then she started a coporate teach for America type thing. Knowing the right people got her into DC and she's become a MAJOR liability because she failed to read up on the rules and laws.

Then there's the recent interview where she implied that numerous teachers were sexing and beating kids. Oh and that coverup of her fiance Kevin Johnson's sex scandal really stands out.

Trust me....we don't want her!

Cerebration said...

I bold-faced the quote that struck me.

“We were right. For the first time we ensured that every single school had an art teacher, a music teacher, a physical education coach and a school nurse,” she said, speaking of how the school closures helped the district. “Sometimes you’ve got to make the hard decisions because you know where you’re going to end up before everyone else does.”

Dr. Lewis has so far only said that principals have to deal with their FTE credits and that smaller schools will have to do without. So far - redistricting has been tabled over and over.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ms. Rhee may have made errors because she has inexperience, but her heart is for the kids and wants the best education for the children in D.C. Lewis doesn't seem to give a rats a** about the kids in DeKalb.

I'd take someone who wanted the best for the children and their education than the foolish that we have now.

Dekalbparent said...

The "Baby Blues" stlogrip in today's AJC just about sums things up for me. I don't know if there is any way to post it on the blog, but if you can, just go read it.

Cere - I tried going out to the Baby Blues website - nothing from 2010 available. Went to AJC website, but Baby Blues is not one of the online comics. Maybe one of you sophisticates can figure out how to capture it...

Dekalbparent said...

"strip" is what that unintelligible word in the above post was SUPPOSED to be. Damn crummy keyboard...

Anonymous said...

"Lewis doesn't seem to give a rats a** about the kids in DeKalb."

Do you know Dr. Lewis? Have you ever met him? Did you know him when he taught at Montgomery? It's fine if you disagree with Dr. Lewis, but I think the level of personal attacks on this board have reached a new low.

Anonymous said...

If Lewis cared about the kids, he would spend all money in a wiser way that actually benefited the children and showed integrity and honesty. As I was taught growing up, actions speak louder than words. Lewis' actions are speaking very loudly and they are not in favor of the children who are the reason why each and every employee in DCSS has a job in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the recent poster that personal attacks, name calling, etc. are not the way to make a point.
It may well be that Dr. Lewis was a fantastic teacher, Principal, etc. The problem is that he is not a good leader. Just look at a few things:
System cannot meet AYP
Construction Program out of control
Hiring of some personnel in high level positions that had to undone
Dollars spent for attorney fees to "cleanup" after folks he hired behaved in less that a professional manner
Suspect use of the P card for gasoline purchases.
Demanding a pay increase when the real workers get furlough days
These are just a few of the things that should give the School Board pause in supporting him as the "Leader" of what should be the best school system in the state.

Anonymous said...

If Dr. Lewis cared about the kids, he would not have told that embarrassing lie about his gas purchases and been such a poor role model for them. Also, he would find out from the teachers what their students need instead falling for smooth talking sales pitches for money wasters like SpringBoard and America's Choice. One size never fits all and that goes for these programs as well. Teach the child not the program.

Anonymous said...

A congressional investigation of the volunteer organization AmeriCorps contains charges that D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee handled "damage control" after allegations of sexual misconduct against her now fiance, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star and a prominent ally of President Obama, The Washington Examiner has learned.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Cerebration said...

That's depressing. Geez - are there any decent people in leadership roles? Please - someone share a good story!

Anonymous said...

Of course there are good people in public service. But, there are very few who can stand up to the intense scrutiny of the press these days. Everyone makes mistakes...but those of us who are not in public service do not have our mistakes aired in the press and on internet blogs.

I think it's much harder to be in the public spotlight than ever before. This is positive in some ways, negative in others.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anyone with hard evidence of "significant expenditures of DCSS funds for a possibly fraudulent activity" really should contact the US attorney.

Anonymous said...

US Attorneys rarely investigate school systems and when they do, there has to be evidence of systemic, long time fraud. They usually only target situations with malfeasance for multi-million dollar contracts. if there just some fraud and waste here and there with DCSS, it will never be followed up on by a US Attorney.