Michelle Rhee has a plan.
Hours after she stepped out of the maelstrom that is the D.C. public schools system, her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty, having been bounced out of office, she launched a Twitter feed and a website, teasing would-be followers to find out what she'll be doing next.
Rhee is a Grade-A edu-lebrity, and she's the perfect bureaucrat for the Reality Show age, when personal brands matter as much as ideas. Or when, at the very least, ideas don't succeed unless they've got good brands behind them.
Rhee is well-liked by the major educational philanthropy organizations, and though I Tweeted last night that she's probably headed to the Obama administration or to another school district, she could just as well become the public face of a major, well-funded campaign to promote her ideas about teachers, merit pay, and reform.
Rhee courted the educational elite and charmed them. Oprah loves her. In a way, Rhee helped make it safe for liberal Democrats to gingerly question the hegemony of teachers' unions. Before Rhee, Washington, D.C. paid lip service to the idea that drastic reforms were necessary. After Rhee, every schools chief will be measured against her tenacity.
It appeared at times as if Rhee was dismissive of her real audience: the educational bureaucracy. She seemed indifferent at times to the emotions of teachers, parents, and students, most of whom were black and didn't trust her, initially, because she was just different. This sounds like a small point, but had Rhee kept her disdain for the current system and its leaders to herself, she might have built stronger and more lasting relationships with the constituencies she had to deal with. But Rhee doesn't self-censor. That's part of who she is.