Gray, Rhee tightlipped on her future with city

D.C schools chief still in limbo

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D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, widely expected to be the city’s next mayor, and schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee emerged Thursday from their first private meeting since the Sept. 14 mayoral primary with her employment status likely still up in the air.

“This was not a decision-making meeting,” said Mr. Gray, who defeated Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the Democratic primary earlier this month and is an overwhelming favorite to win the general election in the heavily Democratic city.

The two city officials will meet again in the “next couple of weeks,” said Mr. Gray.

Ms. Rhee, who was appointed by Mr. Fenty, would not discuss anything about the meeting.

The press briefing was held in the corridor that connects the mayor’s office to the chairman’s office. After the meeting, which lasted about an hour and a half, the two city leaders walked toward a wall of media, and Mr. Gray immediately took to the microphones.

Ms. Rhee, shoulders slumping, wedged herself in a corner between the elevators and doors of the corridor, and, when questioned by reporters, deferred to Mr. Gray. Arms folded, she gestured with her handbag on more than one occasion to point to Mr. Gray as spokesman for their meeting.

“We’re not making any other comments,” said Ms. Rhee, who has been chatting up the media, including TV celebrity Oprah Winfrey, since the primary.

On Thursday, she was mum.

After the briefing, the chancellor at first turned toward the elevators to leave, but changed her mind as reporters and cameras approached. She moved in the opposite direction after a D.C. policeman opened a door for her and an aide.

Ms. Rhee’s status as chancellor was a heated issue throughout the Democratic primary, and it intensified as polls showed Mr. Fenty trailing. As Ms. Rhee campaigned harder to get her boss re-elected, Mr. Gray remained steadfast in his refusal to say whether she would stay or go.

Gray backers ran ads criticizing Ms. Rhee’s policies, including her firing of hundreds of D.C. public schools teachers and other school personnel. Mr. Gray won endorsements from most of the city’s major unions, including the Washington Teachers Union and the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police.

Mr. Gray’s refusal to commit himself on Ms. Rhee’s status contrasts sharply with his support of Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, another high-profile official who serves at the pleasure of the mayor.

Mr. Gray said in July that Chief Lanier was “doing a positive job.” But on Thursday, as on most occasions, Mr. Gray said he will not make any appointments until after the general election.

The Gray-Rhee meeting followed a courtesy call from U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., a longtime Gray acquaintance, to discuss public safety and other issues. Mr. Holder said he was representing the Obama administration and would begin an “ongoing dialogue” with Mr. Gray. The attorney general, who formerly served as a judge and top prosecutor for the District of Columbia, said he had met with Mr. Fenty on two occasions since he became mayor.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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