All this week the PBS NewsHour is broadcasting slightly-edited chapters of our coverage of the troubled public schools in Washington DC. Put another way, it’s a Michelle Rhee Film Festival.
We’ve been following the efforts of this dynamic young leader since she took office in June 2007. When I read about her appointment that spring, I called her up, introduced myself, and invited her out to dinner. Our senior producer, Murrey Jacobson, joined us, and I made a pitch: “We’d like to chronicle your efforts on the NewsHour. What do you say?”
Her immediate reaction was notable for its candor: “I have to figure out whether it will help me do what I have to do, which is make things better for kids,” is what she said in roughly those words. If it would help, she’d be on board. If not, forget it.
I don’t know if our coverage–11 segments and counting–has helped her, but I do know that the NewsHour audience has benefited from a rare inside look at how a big urban school district works–and how it resists change. We’ve watched Michelle Rhee change as well.
Producers Cat McGrath and Jane Renaud and I will continue our reporting into the coming year. Watch the full series online and I hope you’ll stay tuned for more in 2010.