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Michelle Rhee-branded, But Still Promoting Crap

August 12, 2014

If I had to choose one individual for the title of Most Polarizing Educationist, that person would certainly be Michelle Rhee.

(You know– educationist— the genuine article, like the Rolexx watch or Louis Wuitton handbag.)

Though Rhee has received much press in venues including Time, the  Harvard Political Review, the Washington Post, and the New York Times for being “polarizing,” the problem with being polarizing is that those with influence might like to read about you and talk about you, but because they are mindful of their own career climbing (as many educationists and politicians tend to be), they won’t want to be closely identified with you.

Sure, in your only year as the single teacher in the classroom, you might tape children’s mouths and cause them to bleed— and later joke about it to a group of first-year teachers– and never be called to answer for such behavior. Or, you could start your own Teach for America-styled nonprofit and be catapulted into the spotlight as– of all things– a chancellor of schools. But then, things become more complicated as you deliver on your No Excuses, Fire the Teachers Who Don’t Deliver Pre-determined Test Score Gains in a manner that warrants criminal investigation– and no serious investigation happens, even years laterAnd you might even follow-up that “polarizing” stint as chancellor by starting your second nonprofit and brag that it will raise one billion dollars in its first year.

But then, not only does that billion not even come close to materializing; your beloved educationism-promoting nonprofit has even had to scale back its operations.

Not every educationist-supporter will support a polarizing educationist.

Whatever is Michelle the Polarizing Agent to do?

First, she might turn to her scandal-embroiled husband, former NBA star-gone-mayor, Kevin Johnson, and be reinstated as a board member of the St. HOPE Public Schools in Sacramento.

And if that is not enough, she might follow the educationist-product-promoting advice and rebrand.

Rebrand herself.

Shake off that polarization, not with a “new Rhee” really, of course, but with the veneer of a “new Rhee.”

Rhee-newed. Rhee-branded.

Enter Michelle A. Johnson. 

Next, Michelle A. Johnson must be willing to exit “her field” of educationism for, say, lawn and garden care.

That’s right: Rhee is ditching her name (at least when it serves her to do so) and is also planning to forego her CEO-ship of the struggling StudentsFirst.

A new Rhee– now a “non-Rhee”– on a new board, where the manure she’ll be shoveling in the name of “change agent” board member will be figurative for a company where dealing in fertilizer is literal:

Scott’s Miracle Gro:

MARYSVILLE, Ohio, Aug. 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (NYSE: SMG), the world’s leading marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products, announced that Michelle A. Johnson has been named to its Board of Directors, effective immediately.

“Michelle is an innovator, a change agent and has clearly helped shape the national dialogue in her field,” said Jim Hagedorn, chairman and chief executive officer. “We look forward to her bringing a unique perspective to our Board that will help shape our thinking and make Scotts a stronger and smarter company as we look to the future.”

Johnson is the CEO of Sacramento-based StudentsFirst, which she founded in 2010, a bipartisan grassroots movement aimed at making sure all kids have access to great teachers and schools. She is also the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

She graduated from Cornell University in 1992, and went on to join Teach for America. Johnson subsequently spent three years as a teacher at Harlem Park Elementary in Baltimore.

She went on to earn her Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, after which she launched The New Teacher Project, where she was chief executive officer and president.  In 2007,Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Johnson to be the city’s schools chancellor.

She is from Toledo, Ohio and currently resides in Sacramento, California.  Johnson currently serves on the board of The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, a nonprofit organization that prepares system-level leaders in public K-12 education.

Johnson will serve on the Company’s Compensation and Organization and Innovation and Marketing Committees, with a term that expires in 2015. [Emphasis added.]

What in the world would the Scott’s Miracle Grow CEO see in Michelle Rhee… uh… Michelle A. Johnson?

Unfeeling, No Excuses downsizing and restructuring agent.

Rhee/Johnson is able to callously sever an underling’s employment. She can even invite a camera crew to film her firing a principal— demonstrating her ability to objectify human beings in their most vulnerable moments.

And Scott’s Miracle Gro has had a rough couple of years, with record “slow” 2013 and 2014 springs cutting into its profit margins according to its August 5, 2014, third quarter earnings call.

They have had to “say goodbye to some old friends.”

Scott’s CEO Jim Hagerdorn refers to “the team”– but it is clear that “team members” are dispensable in an effort to “return more cash to shareholders”:

Over the past several months, we’ve aggressively attacked our expense structure. We’ve made some tough decisions and parted company with some old friends and talented co-workers. … They were the best decisions for the long-term of this business.

Hagerdorn continues by noting Scott’s profits are just above breaking even.

As Columbus Business First reporter Tom Knox reports, Scott’s spokesman Jim King stated that Rhee/Johnson “will help Scott’s think through broad organizational issues.”

Look out, Scott’s employees:

“Michelle A. Johnson” or no– you’re about to learn what it felt like to be a 2007-10 DC teacher.

The numbers matter. Not you.


Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education




  1. Danny permalink

    This could not have been scripted any better. You must have laughed out loud when you heard this news. I certainly did. Great post!

  2. Thanks Mercedes for weeding through the PR news. This is so weird. Maybe she can develop a Scottish accent. Maybe she can put on some repellent to keep the critics at bay. New product coming out too: Reformers-B-Gon. Looks like their Directors get compensation. Stephanie M. Shern got $100,000 in 2013.

  3. Peggy Schwarz permalink

    Boycott Scott!

  4. Bertis Downs permalink

    it is only a matter of time til the worlds collide– Miracle Grow Charter Schools– coming soon to a state near you– ugh!

  5. patriciahale permalink

    You could not make up a crazier story. Thanks so much for this.

  6. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Yep. This is a beauty. The miracle-grow monster will burn your lawn, kill off your underperforming crops, walk away to another venue with lots of cash.

  7. M J Meyer permalink

    How appropriate that she is now really involved with delivery of fertilizer — except her brand was more like burning chemicals. Marysville is a quiet, common sense town. I assume she will “fly in and fly out” for her “duties” on this board. Even though she probably thought she had “escaped” Toledo, she has found home the place to do more damage to a seemingly struggling company. 2015 — let us all see what damage she does to this company in a year’s time.

  8. cmzirkelbach permalink

    I think this is the first time I have heard of bringing a rat onto a sinking ship.

  9. dolphin permalink

    Reblogged this on Dolphin and commented:
    Be sure to click on the video of her firing a principal–stunning…just stunning….someone could be so freaking cold and heartless.

  10. Candyce Watsey permalink

    I sent Scott’s an email saying that am a teacher and will no longer buy their products. Join me. Here is the link:

    • Annat permalink

      Thanks. I just did. Let’s snow them!

      • valeriejean permalink

        Thanks for the link. Just emailed Scott a few thoughts on their decision. And thank you to Mercedes…your meticulous research and sharp edged pen never disappoint. Keep slicing and scratching at the layers of deceit and manipulation as the light always manages to shine through even the tiniest of crevices.

  11. Florence permalink

    Rhee has only retreated from the East coast. She is very much alive in Sacramento, CA. She was just appointed as chairwoman of the board of the St. Hope Public Schools, the independent charter schools started by her husband, Kevin Johnson, the present mayor of Sacramento (who plans to run for a 3rd term).

    She is here to help him win a November ballot measure to make him a “strong” mayor in the image of former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg. Additionally, she is working with her StudentsFirst group to elect school board members, on the same ballot, who are sympathetic with their corporate school reform.

    Johnson and Rhee are busy putting in place the steps necessary to take over both the city and the schools.

  12. booklady permalink

    If their profit margin is slim, why wouldn’t they pick a board member w. experience at for-profit companies? They don’t need someone who stimulates greater than average Erasures on student tests or falls short of $1 billion donations to her nonprofit.

  13. John Gulino permalink

    I’ve been observing Michelle Rhee (or Michelle Johnson) for a few years now. I participated in a protest outside the Paramount Theater in Oakland when she spoke there. I made a simple sign to use as a protest: it said “RHEE, LIAR!” Short and sweet. A local organization sponsored the talk at the Paramount. It’s an organization that has public talks by “establishment” types like Michelle Rhee/Johnson. It seems to be difficult to find out who they are, at this organization, and what their objectives are. (I forget the name of the organization, but I can look it up.)

    Another local theater, Piedmont Avenue Cinema (I might be mistaken as to the precise name, but it’s the movie theater on Piedmont Avenue, in Oakland, might be named “Piedmont Cinema”) ran the movie, “Waiting for Superman.” Why would they do that? They are part of the “Landmark Cinemas” organization. Why does Landmark Cinemas sponsor this unadulterated drivel?

    Why does Michelle Rhee/Johnson do all this? Why doesn’t she go to work for a non-profit, organizing fundraising for worthy organizations, for example, a group helping foster youth? Or a non profit helping youngsters in the juvenile justice system? Or a non profit helping needy kids in whatever area?

    Well, my answer is this: when I look at photographs of Michelle Rhee/Johnson, I see an angry, resentful woman, who genuinely does not love kids. Look at her face. She does not care deeply about kids. It’s obvious. I do not mean this in a sexist fashion. I am not making fun of her as an unattractive woman, in the manner of Donald Trump talking about Carly Fiorina. I mean, look closely at her face: she looks angry and resentful. She looks phony.

    Perhaps she is involved in all of her work as some sort of twisted revenge against teachers and other adults that mistreated her when she was in school. I also believe she revels in the publicity, all the attention from newspapers and the news media and the cover of Time magazine, etcetera.

    We have some absolutely brilliant educators out there that the general public has never heard of, but Michelle Rhee/Johnson is a celebrity. What a shame.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Links 8/19/14 | Mike the Mad Biologist
  2. Michelle Rhee’s DC Legacy: “A Monster.” | deutsch29

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