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Michelle Rhee in D.C. and Chicago’s Ron Huberman were very different cowards

Michelle and Ron
Michelle and Ron

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


  • Monise Seward 4 years ago

    Wow. After a week of national spotlights covering her resignation, someone finally decided to call a spade a spade. Very, very rare in this education 'reform' circus, unless of course people are talking about how poorly Black kids are raised. It's amazing how people in powerful positions continue to gamble with the education of our kids and get away with doing so simply because of their pedigree, connections, or skin tone. DC and Chicago are definitely two places to watch in the upcoming months.

  • Profile picture of Edward Hayes
    Edward Hayes 4 years ago

    Yeah Monise, my professional honesty, which worked very well for me as an Army Officer, was always my undoing in my civilian career. The world of K-12 education CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH. In fact, the only reason I managed to stay on the payroll was because I actually improved bad schools enough that my superiors could not easily fire me. BTW, you are very correct in saying we should watch D.C. and ChiTown. At this moment serious people are contacting their school boards to encourage them to hire Rhee. Any urban school district that hires her had better fasten their seat belts because D.C. proved that RESISTANCE is not necessarily Futile.

  • Larry Biddle 4 years ago

    Rhee left after it became clear she was dead woman walking. She could have stayed, but to what end? The mayor made it clear she could no longer do the job as she saw fit. Therefore, she made the same decision any sane person would - she left. Game over! I think calling her a coward is ridiculous.

    Any school reform that happens, will only happen with support form the top. as you will probably agree - w/o it, you are wasting your time. For better or worse, its the new mayors ball. Its best to let him run with it. I think you are right on point to blame the parents for their role in lack of movement on education. But why slam Rhee for accepting the reality of the situation?

  • Profile picture of Edward Hayes
    Edward Hayes 4 years ago

    Larry: I fly airplanes for a hobby. If the the weather suddenly gets tough or the engine unexpectedly gets rough, I don't bail out and leave my crew and passengers to fend for themselves. I owe those on board who were counting on me, my best effort to get them to their destination; it isn't their fault that the flight plan hit a snag and the job got more difficult. Rhee, in her first superintendentcy, has never demonstrated she has the 'real' toughness required to do the job on her own merits. The real boss of D.C. schools was Fenty just as Daley really ran Chicago's mess, not Huberman and not Basketball Duncan. I call Rhee a coward so that future hiring decisions by the pinhead big wigs in public education take this reality into account. Dedicated educators never abandon their children. Some have even taken a bullet to stay the course. Rhee is also leaving her personal staff high and dry to fight of the new mayor. Furthermore, who among us can do any job 'as we see fit?' We have to make adjustments and sacrifices if we believe in what we are doing. I stand by my assessment, but also appreciate the discourse.

  • Larry Biddle 4 years ago

    @Edward. I think the world of Rhee and Fenty for that matter, although as I think you suggest correctly he needed to be a better politician to run interference for Rhee. That being said, Fenty lost the election. And the new mayor has the right and duty to have his own people in sensitive jobs. Given that Rhee was a key issue in the campaign and the people voted against her leadership, she did the honorable and CORRECT thing by leaving. In a democracy, this is that way it works.

    Now, as to the her leaving her personal staff "high and dry, to fight the new mayor", I say this: (1) Her staff are grown, professional adults, who have options just like her, and have to do what they wish with their lives. New management will want its own people (some might be members of Rhee's staff, who knows?) but in any event her staff is not the people who needed protecting - its about the kids. It would be hypocritical of her to hang on to protect her staff, when she had to lay off building supers and lunch ladies, to make the cuts needed for this new contract. Its not as if Rhee had the clout to protect them anyway.

    (2) What kind of has me baffled about your problem with Rhee quitting is that you say above that " They (including Rhee) did nothing that the average school administrator could not do".. Huh? Well if you believe that, what difference does it make if she stays...anybody can do what she did. The truth is she was brought in to be a hard-charging, change agent. If they don't want that kind of leadership, they don't need her. That is the one thing she brought to the table, that's different than her predecessors. Surely you have to agree?

    (3) Let's be real..she didn't quit..she was the voters of DC. She knew it. You should too. The coward thing is way off base...We much disagree.

  • Profile picture of Edward Hayes
    Edward Hayes 4 years ago

    Larry: You drive me nuts. Your argument is reasoned and substantiated. And for the first time I am giving a reader a Mexican Standoff, jeez, can we even use that term anymore? Nonetheless, I defend my 'coward' statement. Every 'real' principal of a troubled school has to make a personal stand in the face of constituent opposition, why not the principal's boss in a troubled district? Rhee did not have to do that, thus she is like a rear echelon soldier who has never been in direct combat. That disqualifies her from leading those that have been. The only thing standing in the way of school reform for children is adults, so the education leader must have the courage, fortitude, and guts to take on the parents, teachers, unions and other assorted pinheads. I give Rhee, and Chicago Huberman, credit for knowing their limitations and running for hills after losing their protector. The point here is: Don't hire weak people to run school systems and even dare to think you will get any type of school improvement, much less REFORM.

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