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Abstract: After nearly four years of controversial reform that included layoffs, school closures and battles with the Washington Teachers’ Union over tenure and seniority, Michelle Rhee resigned as Chancellor of DC Public Schools on October 13, 2010 when Mayor Adrian Fenty lost the democratic primaries to challenger and critic of Rhee’s style, city councilman Vincent Gray. Education reform had been the central focus of Mayor Fenty’s ambitious administration when he hired Michelle Rhee. But now the nation’s most provocative urban school reform effort was thwarted and the fate of DC schools, under newly appointed Kaya Henderson, was once again up in the air.
Learning Objective: This case is designed to teach the specific leadership concepts of: managing losses, disappointing people at a rate they can handle, pacing the work, and the distinction between the function and utility of authority versus leadership.
The case can also be used to explore education reform and leadership. Classes focused on general education reform issues can use this case to explore the politics of education reform in urban America, examine major themes in education reform policies, and examine the advantages and disadvantages of mayoral control of school systems. Classes focused on general leadership can use this case to examine leadership style, stakeholder analysis, leading social change, and leading in politically charged environments.