Former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Almost Mayor Vince Gray may not have gotten along very well, but it’s clear that Rhee rubbed off at least a little on Gray.
Take the fact that Gray’s picks for his deputy mayor for education and head of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education both have Rhee-like resumes: Classroom experience before diving deep into the education-industrial complex.
De’Shawn Wright, Gray’s pick to be deputy mayor, seems well-suited to continue Rhee’s aggressive push to get overly rich patrons to give part of their fortunes to public schooling. Wright is currently a senior adviser to Still Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s doppelganger, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, where he’s led “collaborative efforts” to raise and invest $250 million worth of private funds into Newarks schools, Gray boasted at a news conference today announcing his picks.
Wright also the founding partner of the Newark Charter School Fund, which raised money from some of the same foundations that were so critical for Rhee’s efforts, including the Gates, Robertson and Walton Foundations. Gray made sure to mentioned those foundations by name at his presser.
Gray also named Hosanna Mahaley to head the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Mahaley was president of the Atlanta Education Fund from 2007 to 2009, which, you guessed it, raises private funds to pay for school reform efforts. And look to how Gray’s press release on Mahaley describes her time as the chief of staff in the Chicago Public School system: “She executed a controversial school reform initiative, which included closing underperforming schools and replacing them with high quality classrooms.” Sound familiar?
And then there’s Gray’s pick to replace Rhee, interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who has long been one of Rhee’s top deputies, both at DCPS and at the New Teacher Project nonprofit. (Gray, btw, said today that he has no intention of naming Henderson his permanent chancellor anytime soon, despite what you may have heard from some other media outlets. That’s no dis on Henderson; Gray has said several times he’s happy with the job she’s been doing.)
Gray picked Katherine Bradley, whose Citybridge Foundation was also a big Rhee donor, to co-lead the education part of his transition team. From the sound of it at today’s news conference, the transition team had a big role in picking Wright and Mahaley, while the Washington Teachers Union had little or no say.
Remember after the election all that chatter about Gray being in the unions’ pockets and Rhee’s reform efforts going out the window? Yeah— it’s not happening.