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Editorial: Gray, Rhee should visit Georgetown schools

Georgetown's highly-regarded schools, including Hyde-Addison Elementary and Hardy Middle School, have experienced turmoil and uncertainty in recent months. The removal of Hardy's popular principal Patrick Pope has caused continuing unrest, including active organizing by the school's parents and children in protests at the D.C. Council, at parent meetings, and even in recent days by students during school. Now, popular Principal Dana Nerenberg of Hyde-Addison is running Hardy as well. This able leader is doing well at a challenging assignment, shuttling between two busy schools with active parent organizations. Nonetheless, many Hardy parents, encouraged by election results that some view as a referendum on Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, seek Pope's return. Chancellor Rhee, championing needed reforms, spent three and half years leading the most sweeping overhaul of schools the District has ever seen. After calling the election of presumptive Mayor Vincent Gray "devastating" -- not for herself, but for the kids, she explained -- Rhee needs to show with deeds as well as words that her first priority is truly the students of the District of Columbia. She needs to set aside personal and political preferences and become a real partner in the transition to a government headed by Gray. If she doesn't, it will strongly indicate that the Chancellor does not have great confidence in her particular brand of reform. Rhee needs to bring stability to the transition very quickly. Last week, D.C.'s State Superintendent of Education walked off the job and took her chief of staff with her, possibly jeopardizing the District’s newly-won Race to the Top award of $75 million for DCPS and 34 public charter schools to invest in turning around failing schools. District taxpayers paid the salary of a state superintendent who was supposed to be independent and, thus, would stay through changes of government. We paid staff and consultants, who made promises on our behalf, to write the winning proposal. Do we get the money back if Rhee et al walk off the job while the feds take back the prize? Mayor Adrian Fenty spoke movingly at the Democratic Unity Breakfast last Tuesday, pledging his administration’s total commitment to an orderly transition and acknowledging mayor presumptive Vincent Gray’s high qualifications for the job. We invite presumptive Mayor Gray to visit Hyde-Addison and Hardy sooner rather than later, to meet with Ms. Nerenberg, the parents and students, to hear concerns and to spell out his vision for the future. He should be introduced in these meetings, as a sign of her professionalism and integrity, by none other than Chancellor Michelle Rhee.