Michelle Rhee has announced that she will step down as head of StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based national advocacy organization she founded four years ago after resigning as chancellor of the District of Columbia school district.
She outlined her plans in a statement sent to the Sacramento Bee. She said that she wants to devote more of her energies working with her husband, former basketball star and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson.
In a blog post on the StudentsFirst site titled “Our Next Chapter,” she wrote:
While I remain 100 percent committed to the success of StudentsFirst, it’s time for a shift in the day-to-day management of the team and our advocacy work. We’ll be sharing more of the nuts-and-bolts details about that in the coming weeks.
It’s also time for my next step in life, which will be focused on my family and supporting my husband in the tremendous work he is doing as his he continues to move forward with his career. His focus and passion for underserved communities and ensuring access to equal opportunity will be central to whatever comes next for us.
Rhee announced the founding of StudentsFirst on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2010, and set an as-yet-unrealized goal of raising a staggering $1 billion to influence education reforms across the nation. The announcement triggered speculation as to whether the organization could survive without her.
Yesterday, an article in Politico opined:
Leading education reformers said they doubted StudentsFirst would be able to pull in substantial funding without Rhee at the helm. The organization already has scaled back its ambitions; it recently pulled out of five of the 15 states where it had significant operations, including Florida and Indiana.
However, StudentsFirst staffers told EdSource that the organization intends to continue its work, and that the search for a new president to replace Rhee is almost completed. “We are near the finish line to announce a viable candidate,” said Francisco Castillo, the organization’s deputy communications director. “We are excited by the prospect of new leadership, and are confident that StudentsFirst will be more effective in the coming years.”
Rhee, he said, would remain on the board but remains “fully committed” to the organization, “even when she transitions away from day to day management.”
Jovan Agee, StudentsFirst California director who worked for years as a leader in the America Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME), said he is looking forward to strengthening StudentsFirst work with education labor and management coalitions in the state. Among other goals, he said, the organization wants to developing a working relationship with both the leadership of California’s teachers unions, as well as rank and file members.
“They understand as well as I do that we have a common objective, to ensure what is best for kids in the classroom,” he said.