Bobbing and Weaving in DC–-By Way of Detroit

In the education-reform movement there have always been two schools of thought—when there aren’t a dozen—about what makes a good reform superintendent.

One side believes in cleaning house; the other, tidying up. Michelle Rhee, on the Time cover, broom in hand, clearly represents the former. Tom Payzant, “the Bostonian,” as Education Next called him in its 2006 profile, clearly personifies the latter. As Alexander Russo wrote in the Payzant story,

Many other major school districts are currently trying to decide whether to find someone who can emulate Payzant’s focused strategy or someone who is going to break down doors and take few prisoners.

This brings us to Nick Anderson’s lengthy Washington Post profile of Robert C. Bobb.


Pay attention, educators, Bobb, writes Anderson, “is viewed as a potential candidate to head the D.C. public schools if interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson stumbles.” In fact, Bobb had been elected president of the Capital’s school board four years ago, but was sidelined by the Fenty/Rhee stiff arm.

With Fenty and Rhee gone, Bob Bobb is back. Sort of.

Though Anderson doesn’t say much about his qualifications for the job or education track record, he describes the heroics of Bobb’s current job as emergency financial manager of Detroit’s beleaguered schools—Michigan’s governor says he “doesn’t take any prisoners” and isn’t “afraid to make the hard calls” or “fire people”—and notes the coincidence of Bobb’s tenure in the Motor City expiring next June, about the same time as Henderson’s interim contract ends.

Six months is a long time in the world of big city education politics, but the race is on.

—Peter Meyer

Last Updated


Notify Me When Education Next

Posts a Big Story

Business + Editorial Office

Program on Education Policy and Governance
Harvard Kennedy School
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone (617) 496-5488
Fax (617) 496-4428

For subscription service to the printed journal
Phone (617) 496-5488

Copyright © 2024 President & Fellows of Harvard College