Baker’s bid to take over schools gets nod from Rhee

Dick Uliano,

WASHINGTON — County Executive Rushern Baker’s attempt to take charge of the struggling Prince George’s County school system has won the qualified support of celebrated school reformer Michelle Rhee.

“If this county executive has what it takes, then I think it could really be beneficial for the school district,” Rhee says.

Baker is asking the Maryland General Assembly to put him in control of the school superintendent and the county’s $1.7 billion school budget.

Rhee, chancellor of D.C. public schools from 2007 to 2010, sought to boost student achievement and reform the system by firing under-performing teachers and principals and trimming the administrative staff. Her moves brought clashes with the teachers union.

She says if Baker is to meet his goals, he’ll need to be plenty tough.

“When you start to put in place the kinds of aggressive reforms that are necessary in a school district like (Prince George’s County), you are going to get a tremendous amount of push back and the county executive has to be ready for that,” Rhee says.

Assessing the D.C. public schools, since her departure in 2010, Rhee likes what she sees.

“If you look at it from the standpoint of student achievement levels, those have continued to rise which is a great thing for the city and the kids here,” Rhee says.

She also pointed with pride to the system for evaluating teachers that she first brought to D.C. schools.

“The teacher evaluation system continues to lead the nation,” Rhee says.

Rhee is not surprised that the Prince George’s County School system is facing the controversial takeover bid by the county executive.

“With Prince George’s County being right across the line from where I was in D.C., I can tell you that it faced a lot of challenges that we faced at DCPS,” Rhee adds.

Rhee is the founder and the CEO of California-based StudentsFirst, an organization devoted to promoting reform in the public schools.

The former D.C. school chief is in town promoting her book entitled “Radical – Fighting to Put Students First.”

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