by Julie Dodd
JEA Mentoring Committee co-chair

The news from Education Week is that controversial Michelle Rhee will be ending her 3 1/2-year term as chancellor of the Washington, D.C., schools because the mayor who named her was defeated in the recent primary.

I was introduced to Rhee in the cover photos and story of Time Magazine (Dec. 8, 2008).¬†When I saw the photo with the headline “How To Fix America’s Schools,” I wondered if Rhee realized the stern clean-sweep attitude she was conveying in the photo.

So I bought the magazine and read the story. The photo did, in fact, capture her outlook.

She was brought in to straighten out problems in the D.C. schools, and that’s what she was going to do — her way.

She is credited with making changes that led to improved test scores and needed changes in the school system bureaucracy, but her abrasive style led to problems in working with teachers and administrators.

For all of us who have taught, we know how important school administrators — at the building level and at the district level — are to setting standards and goals and encouraging or discouraging teachers. That is especially true for journalism teachers, who have a special teaching situation with the public nature of their students’ work (i.e., newspapers, yearbooks, broadcast programs, websites).

The Journalism Education Association and other regional and state scholastic journalism organizations recgonize administrators who support scholastic journalism in their schools. The recipients of JEA’s Administrator of the Year Award are invited to attend the JEA/NSPA convention to receive the award and make a speech at the Advisers’ Luncheon.

As teachers and mentors of teachers, we may not be able to have great influence over who is named principal, superintendent or chancellor of education. But we can nominate supportive administrators for recognition.

I’d encourage journalism teachers and mentors to nominate those administrators who are supportive of scholastic journalism. The JEA Administrator of the Year Award deadline is July 1 each year.