Yesterday, hours before he upended D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray appeared on CNN to chat about the contest. The early signs weren't great for those worried about what Gray's win means for the Michelle Rhee's reform efforts. Host John King asked Gray, "[The mayor] says...he's making tough choices and maybe he lost contact with some people. How do you keep that from happening to you...?"
Gray answered, "Well...I'm a very inclusive person. I reach out to people. I've done that as council chair. I've been very inclusive with the members of the council, very collaborative with people in the city."
Later, King got to the real question for those in the education space, observing, "One of my neighbors said last night that, 'I would have voted for Vince Gray but I wanted to keep Michelle Rhee so I voted for Mayor Fenty.' If you win this election, can you keep her?"
Gray bobbed and weaved in response, saying, "Well, we'll see. I've said many times that education reform has to be about more than one person. And I have been a strong proponent of education reform. I have indicated that I am going to continue with education reform. I helped to shepherd the legislation through the council in the first place. I'm going to continue with a very strong chancellor. We are going to have a birth-through-24 approach. We are going to frankly involve all the stakeholders in how we make our decisions and restore fiscal responsibility to our schools. And I have said on many occasions that after this election is over, I'd like to sit down with Michelle Rhee and let us walk and talk through it, you know, how we might work together."
King followed up, asking, "Would you like her to stay?"
And Gray weaved again, saying, "Well, we--we'll decide that. I think that's a conversation that she and I, you know, need to have in terms of what's important to her with respect to what she's looking for in a mayor and the things that I think are important to me as a mayor."
So, in fourteen sentences, that's one "collaborative," one "reach out to people," one "involve all the stakeholders," one "walk and talk through it," one "birth-through-24 approach," one "work together," two "inclusives," and three "education reforms." If experience is any guide, it's looking like Rhee's steel-spined vision of educational transformation is about to give way to a softer, cuddlier, and more hug-filled version. That'll be bad news for D.C.'s fragile improvement efforts, and bad news for reformers nationally if Gray's words presage his actions.