The myth and polished image of urban school reform blew up in smoke this month after two high-profile mayors suddenly bit the dust. The abdication of Chicago’s Peasant King, Rich Daley, and the demise of the one-term wonder in Washington D.C., Adrien Fenty precipitated immediate reports of resignations by the outside agitators that were running their respective school systems.
Tired Irishman, Daley, still reeling from the embarrassment of a second round loss of the 2016 Summer Olympics, and the vigorous African-American Fenty, who could not prove he was ‘black enough’ for his Negro constituents, are leaving town soon. Their hand-picked school chiefs have both decided to tuck tail and hop the first thing smoking as well.
First we will take a look at Michelle Rhee, the Korean-American Chancellor of D.C. schools, and yes her ethnic heritage is important to mention because were she a black woman, a very strong argument could be made that Fenty would have won his democrat primary battle, been re-elected and Rhee retained in glorious perpetuity. But that was not to be; after more than three years of carte blanche leadership in which she battled the union and terminated 241 bad teachers last July and installed multiple reform initiatives in the virtually all-Negro school system, she is hightailing it.
Rhee has been hailed as the second coming of creamy peanut butter since her 2007 arrival on the scene in her first school superintendentcy, which is more than likely her last. Why? Because I do not give a fat flying fish how good you are as an educator, you cannot force feed urban school reform into a failed school district. Why not? Because the pinhead parents that are the true source of the district's failure will beat you down for discipling their feral children, and the inept teachers, hiding behind Fort Union will wear you down with red tape to keep their jobs despite their glaring incompetence. This is true today and has been true for twenty years. The only reason Rhee survived as long as she did is because she labored under the protective flag of the naive Mayor Fenty. Now that Fenty is history, the heroic Rhee will not even stay the course until Thanksgiving break. She is bugging out before the mid-point in the school year!
At mid-September’s red-carpet premier of the sensational education documentary, Waiting for Superman, that features Rhee, she said ‘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.’
In Chicago, the Peasant King just up and said, ‘duck it; I’m out of here.’ And just as quickly the Jewish and openly-gay Chicago Public Schools CEO, Ron Huberman, said the same. Like Rhee, he initially indicated that his departure was imminent, but later toned it down, likely after Daley told him to back off a bit and take a deep breath before running for the hills. Like Rhee, Huberman would not either be the boss, or survived the experience without the iron-clad protection of either the FSB or a friendly Mayor.
But unlike Rhee, Huberman was no educator. He never taught school, not so much as ever wrote a bloody lesson plan and surely did not know a ‘scope‘ from a ‘sequence.’ He was never a principal and did not have the joy of suspending a violent student and then facing the angry black, single-mom who is screaming at you for picking on her baby. After all, little Rufus didn’t actually pull the pin on the fragmentary grenade. Also unlike Rhee, administrative evidence suggests that Hub did not give a damn. You see Hub is jumping ship while in the midst of constructing a bureaucratic kingdom to serve one purpose: To protect his backside.
During the 19 months Hub has been in office, he routinely refused to provide an organization chart. When he finally did in July, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) analyzed the CPS 2010-2011 budget and reported that Hub radically changed the governance structure to eliminate trained and certified educators and replace them with senior cronies from his past appointments in the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the city’s police department (CPD).
Without getting too deep in the weeds, I can cite a few examples:
- Hub changed the qualifications required for the position of Area Instructional Officer, purged the qualified people who had it, then changed the title to Chief Area Officer and filled them with his non-teacher friends from his past careers.
- Hub appointed Sarah Kremsner from the CTA as Chief Performance Officer; Monique Bond from the CPD as Chief Communications Officer, Michael Shields also from the CPD as Chief Officer for SChool Security and Safety (nice security Mike), and Pat Taylor from who knows where, as Chief Operations Officer.
- Hub, without any public discussion, forced out the only real educator in his inner circle. Last May, Barbara Eason-Watkins, stripped of her power as were those she supervised, left the number two job in CPS to run a small school district in Michigan City, Indiana.
The point here is very clear. If you are in charge of a hospital and you, yourself, are not a physician and you get rid of everyone that is, obviously medical care is not important to you. Huberman, the third of the three stooges under the Peasant King to run Chicago schools without ever teaching in one, must have realized that his protector, Daley, would soon leave him naked and exposed. So he surrounded himself with a bunch of fig leaves of his own choice. But Daley announced leaving too soon for those plants to cover him sufficiently.
Now Hub is running away. There is no telling what will happen to the rest of his cronies, but that isn’t one of the two points that I want you to take away from this article. Michelle will narrow the distance between herself and fiance, Mayor Kevin Johnson (ex-NBA star) of Sacramento and live happily for a while. And Hub, too, will run off into the sunset with his 'partner.'
Point One: Rhee, despite all of her awards and celebrity, is, just like Huberman, a coward. Both of these part-time school chiefs were ready to bolt the second their protectors left the room. Neither had the guts to stay the course and bear the thousand cuts every school administrator suffers for the sake of children. Both announced leaving before the end of the school year and the kids be damned. Don’t waste your tears on these pretenders. They did nothing that the average school administrator could not have done; indeed, Huberman did nothing at all.
Point Two: Rhee and Hub, and Paul Vallas, and Arne Duncan were all part-timers because they did not have to worry about either internal or external scrutiny. Hell, that pressure is one third of a school chief's job! Mayors Daley and Fenty shielded them. The Big Picture of school reform, as these two Canterbury Tales tell us, is that urban school superintendents all across America, that have not had the luxury of executive muscle from City Hall protecting them as Rhee and Huberman did, are in daily peril. However their predicaments are not episodic, they are continuous and ongoing. Hostile unions, bad teachers, slimy politicians, frightened principals, pinhead parents, and corrupt school boards undermine school reform and the entire bloody education system in urban America is corrupt and impossible to reform as it stands.
Stop kidding yourselves. With the exception of a couple of isolated and non-replicable feel-good stories like the trumped up myth of Urban Prep in Chicago, there is no school reform.