Sep 28, 2015

The Dwindling Black Educator and the Death of Transparency in DC

By Candi Peterson, WTU Gen. Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own. 

Think back and try to remember all the teachers that left the District’s public school system since the era of former Chancellor Michelle Rhee and beyond? (2008-2015)

How many of those teachers were African-American?

Unfortunately, we can’t answer those questions because we don’t have hard data, mainly because the District fails to provide data on the number of teachers hired, separated, resigning, and retiring by race, age, gender, school and years of service on a yearly basis.

Simply put, government officials in DC do not have the authority to refuse to honor Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. When I chaired a WTU Data committee, we attempted to get information about teacher terminations through a FOIA request, as well as through other internal channels. We requested information be released by common identifiers but the information we received was heavily redacted and of little practical use.

Either approve or deny the request. The practice of keeping information out of the hands of the public is government’s way of covering its tracks. 

Albert Shanker Institute researchers encountered similar challenges when preparing their national Teacher Diversity report. “Despite intensive efforts over the past 1 ½ years, we have been unable to procure teacher-level data for the District and charter schools in Washington, DC. We were therefore forced to draw data from a sample provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Schools and Staffing Survey,” as quoted by Shanker researchers.

The Albert Shanker Institute gathered in September to release their findings from their study titled: “The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education.” The group examined teacher diversity from 2002-2012 in nine major American cities: Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, DC, LA, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

University of Pennsylvania Professor Richard Ingersoll, recently spoke about the Shanker diversity report to an audience at the National Press club gathering in DC. Ingersoll said the rate of minority teachers ballooned from 1980-2008 and doubled that of non-minority teachers, before the recession.

Since 2008 and post recession, Ingersoll reports that minority teacher rates across the US declined tremendously due to layoffs and “high quit” rates of minority teachers due to job dissatisfaction around poor working conditions in the mostly urban schools where they teach. Other factors cited for lower minority teacher hiring are budget cuts, new charter school openings, and shifting of resources from public schools to charter schools.

Due to a lack of data from DC, Shanker researchers were forced to draw data from the small sample surveys from Department of Education. Based on these surveys, African American teachers decreased from 77% to 49% while white teachers more than doubled in size from 16% to 39% between 2003 and 2008 in DC. Hispanic teachers increased moderately. In contrast by 2022, non-white students are projected to make up 54% of public school attendance, according to the Department of Education. 

The Diversity report noted that black teachers declined as a proportion of all the cities teacher workforce they examined but the shrinkage in black teachers in Washington, DC was described as “alarming”. I suspect if we had data available beyond 2012, the numbers of black teachers exiting our school system may be even greater.

“We just had no idea the extent of it. What’s clear from this data is over the last 10 years or so with the recession, if you look at every one of these cities, there’s a loss of teachers—but African Americans are bearing a hugely disproportionate share of the loss,” Leo Casey, executive director of the Shanker Institute told The Washington Post. The number of black teachers in the workforce declined, in varying rates of severity—from roughly 1 percent in Boston’s charter sector and Cleveland’s district sector, to more than 24 percent in both New Orleans sectors and nearly 28 percent in Washington, D.C’s charters and districts.”

The lack of teacher diversity has been addressed as a national epidemic by education scholars. Among the educational analysts studying this problem is Dr. Leslie Fenwick, Dean of the Howard School of Education. Dr. Fenwick sees the elimination of black teachers from the classroom as not only an economic loss for those educators but a disservice to their students and a detriment for the teaching profession as well.

Studies in the late 80’s and ’90s, found that teachers of color can boost the self-worth of their minority students, partly by exposing them to professionals who look like them. The benefits of keeping teachers of color in the classroom extend far beyond role models.

Research has also shown that students perform better academically and graduate at higher graduation rates, and stay in school when they have teachers who come from the same backgrounds as they do. White students benefit, too. Early interactions with teachers of color can help dispel damaging stereotypes about different ethnic groups.

The question is what can be done to stop high attrition rates of black teachers?  The Shanker Institute study suggests there should be more programs at the state and local level to help minority teachers stay in the classroom.

At DC's New Teacher Orientation (NTO) this school year, I had a conversation with a central office staffer who confirmed my hunch that more teachers of color, more male teachers and more veterans had been hired this school year. Certainly, that’s progress from where I sit but there still there is a lot more to be done.

Simply setting goals to hire more teachers of color is a simplistic solution to a complex problem. If we are really serious about attracting minority teachers to our school district, we are going to have to be willing to examine the reasons these teachers leave, get forced out and what we need to address to retain them. If we are not willing to be honest- it will be impossible to make things better.

One of the major reasons that DC is taking steps to recruit more seasoned Black teachers is likely due to the breakdown in classroom discipline as the recent wave of Teach For America teachers from suburban and mid-western backgrounds are failing to understand the cultural complexities of teaching and communicating with urban youth. New teachers also don't receive the much needed mentoring they need to be successful. 

Not to mention, the results from the independent evaluation of DC public schools which shows that student gains still remain acceptably low and more than 50% of students of color, English language learners and students with disabilities remain less than proficient despite the purging of many of our veteran teachers.

The perverse cycle of "teacher churn" has come full cycle in the District as DC's Human Capital Team are beginning to realize the value of “culturally appropriate” relationships and classroom role models as they ramp up their efforts to recruit more seasoned veteran black teachers.

Yet at the same time the District government resists the demand from parents, school activists and the public to be more transparent as the demographics of Washington, DC's  under-performing schools stay persistently black and charter operators continue to cherry pick students and diversify the teacher workforce as the Bowser administration continues to pay lip service to transparency.

© Candi Peterson, 2015

Sep 20, 2015

Cynthia Lee: The Price of Justice is Too High in a Fairfax County Public Schools Teacher Firing Case

By  Candi Peterson, WTU Gen. Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own. 

It’s easy to take for granted the rights and benefits we have as union members. That is, until we need the support of our local union. It’s like insurance. No one ever thinks they are going to need insurance until you get sick, you are in an accident or your house burns down.

Working in education carries risk and none of us, even tenured teachers aren’t immune anymore. From accusations of corporal punishment, workplace disputes, imperfect evaluation ratings, bully principals, suspensions and terminations, teachers regularly face a myriad of problems in the workplace, like never before.

Imagine if you had to seek redress on your own. The price of justice would be way too high for most of us to afford. Not to mention, most people need technical assistance in  interpreting their union contract or help with understanding all the rules and time lines governing the grievance and arbitration process.

I get a lot of calls regularly from DC teachers ranging from questions about the contract to how to approach their boss to advice on how to deal with an administrative investigation to requests to grieve a workplace dispute, suspension or termination.

 It caught me off guard when I received a voicemail from Cynthia Lee, a former African American Fairfax County Public School teacher who had been terminated in 2012 after 13 years. I couldn’t imagine how I could be of help. So it seems my blog, The Washington Teacher caught Lee’s attention and she thought I could offer her some media coverage about her termination.

I guess I always thought the grass was greener on the other side and that teachers in Fairfax County Public Schools somehow had it better. On the national front, in my opinion there seems to be a push to rid our schools of veteran teachers and teachers of color. What a pity for the children we serve.

In many ways, Cynthia Lee’s story is similar to another African-American teacher Fairfax County Public Schools tried to fire in 2012. Violet Nichols, a 30 year veteran tenured teacher also faced threats of termination due to allegations of incompetence.

Virginia law says that teachers may be dismissed for incompetency, immorality, noncompliance with school laws and regulations, conviction of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, or other good and just cause. Regardless of whether a teacher in the state of Virginia is tenured and has a long history of good evaluations, one administrator can throw all that out the window and deem a teacher incompetent.

Some of the reasons cited for Nichols incompetence was that she used too many worksheets and had poor use of technology which she rebutted. Let’s say for a minute we believe these allegations, doesn’t sound like a very high bar to label a teacher incompetent.

Nichols story appeared several times in the Washington Post beginning in June 2012. Although personnel proceedings are confidential, according to the Post-Nichols decided to make her fact finding hearing open to the public , “because she wanted to shine a light on what she felt was a witch hunt.”

Nichols was eventually vindicated after a public fact finding hearing in which evidence was presented and many supporters testified (parents, students). She was later reinstated. Thank God for union representation and media coverage.

Unlike Lee, Nichols was a union member and held a leadership role in her union. Her union membership status afforded her certain rights that non-members in the Virginia Education Association (VEA) aren’t entitled to including representation during the grievance process and payment of her attorney fees as well as hearing costs, which can be quite exorbitant in Virginia (roughly $8000 assessed as the teacher’s responsibility plus payment of half of the panels’ salaries during the hearing).

The Virginia Education Association (VEA) represents more than 50,000 teachers and support personnel in the Common Wealth of Virginia. According to VEA website , “union members are entitled to a hearing. Either the teacher or the school board can ask a fact-finding panel (made up of one school employee nominated by the superintendent, one school employee nominated by the teacher, and a neutral chairperson) to conduct a preliminary hearing and offer findings and recommendations. However, the final decision to dismiss the teacher for cause rests with the school board.”

Cynthia Lee describes herself as the poster child for becoming a union member. Lee said “teachers should join the union, the minute they walk in the door.” She dropped her membership for financial reasons thinking she was safe as a tenured teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools. In hindsight, Lee now knows differently.

There are some parallels to both Nichols and Lee’s cases. Both were African American tenured teachers with advanced degrees and a history of good evaluations. Both had letters of support from parents. Both demonstrated student tests results that supported student achievement gains, no worse than their peers. Both filed discrimination cases that their negative treatment was racially motivated. Both were placed on probation.

In Virginia, once a teacher is placed on probation they must accept a plan of assistance to help them improve. Fairfax County Public Schools provided Lee a coach as well as a committee that helped her to improve her teaching. Lee reports she passed with flying colors and was quite excited about her success and recommendations that her conditional status as a teacher be removed. 

Subsequently, Lee’s principal arbitrarily recommended her for termination due to incompetence in spite of the recommendations by her coach/committee to have her conditional status removed. The principal’s recommendation was made during Lee's mid-year evaluation in January.

Lee states she had a presentation ready to show her principal during her evaluation and was stunned when the principal and her assistant refused to see the presentation. Lee was escorted to the back of her classroom by the principal. At that time, the principal gave her the news that she would be "fired" at the end of the school year. Lee asked the principal, “Is there anything I can do to improve between now and June so I won’t be fired? The principal responded,“no”.

What followed next is unconscionable. Lee attempted to file a grievance about her recommended termination at the Step 1 level with the principal but Fairfax County public schools denied her right to file steps 1-4 because she was a non-union member. Nichols, on the other hand- a union member was able to grieve her recommended termination with the support of the union by her side during the various stages of the process.

“Every time I called the union for help, they told me they couldn’t help me because I wasn’t a union member”, Lee said. The school district advised Lee that she could only appeal her recommendation for her termination at the Step 5 level which is an advisory fact finding hearing. 

Initially Lee had no idea that her cost to pay the arbitrator alone would be more than $8,000, until she hired an attorney who advised her of the fee-splitting costs charged by Fairfax. Ultimately, she spent thousands of dollars on attorney fees.

 According to a Fairfax County Public Schools regulation 4461.1 “the employee shall bear his or her own expense. The school board will bear the expenses of the superintendent. The expenses of the panel shall be borne one half by the school board and one half by the employee.” Lee was livid when she learned that non-union members also were required to pay for the panel members’ salaries during the course of the hearing. Had Lee been a union member, the union would have subsidized these costs.

Fairfax officials also told Lee that in order to appeal using the Step 5 hearing, she would have to waive her right to grieve her termination (using steps 1-4 that had no cost). So Lee wrote the letter to waive her rights.. Even with an attorney, Fairfax refused to allow Lee to use the grievance steps to appeal her termination.

As you can imagine having to make this kind of choice is no choice at all. Lee was unable to afford the costs of the Step 5 fact finding hearing and had to forgo it.Lee admits to signing a settlement agreement with Fairfax County Public Schools under duress, so she wouldn’t be fired and agreed to take a lesser job as an instructional assistant with a $25,000 pay reduction. She remained 1 ½ years in that position. 

 “Thank--you for helping to get the word out about my case. Most minorities cannot afford the high costs of litigation so when employers put fees in their grievance and arbitration procedures, it produces a disparate impact.  Just like the poll tax. We need to lobby congress to create laws that regulate fee-splitting.  Two good teachers with two different results.  By going public with a comparison of my case (no union - no due process - no money to pay for "Fact Finding Panel" - no vindication) and Violet Nichols case (union paid all costs – due process- vindication) it will get the word out to the public that unions are necessary and that law makers need to intervene,” Lee said.

In time, Lee retired and was able to hire another attorney with some of the proceeds from her retirement funds. It’s a shame it had to come to this. She has had several attorneys working on her behalf and remains committed to pursue her case by filing a petition for an en banc hearing (heard by the full court) with the 4th circuit in the hopes they will address the fee-splitting clause in Fairfax's grievance procedure. Hope this helps.

New and veteran teachers, this could be you. Take Lee’s advice, join a union.

© Candi Peterson 2015

Aug 20, 2015

Rockin' IMPACT: How to Improve Your Teacher Evaluation Score

By Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

Great teachers are not born, they're made. It takes time to become a great teacher.

We are more than just the sum of our teacher evaluation (IMPACT) scores. But let's face it, IMPACT scores determine whether teachers remain in our school system or get fired. I've seen great teachers get forced out of DC Public Schools because they didn't really have a good grasp of the Teach standards by which teachers are judged. Not to mention the training that has been provided in recent years by DCPS has been less than adequate.

It seems like a 'no-brainer' to me that professional development is one of the main ingredients to turning around teachers' effectiveness. Not just any professional development but specific training on the Teaching and Learning Framework (TLF), Common Core state standards and job-embedded professional development.

When I learned of the Masted Educator led professional development series on IMPACT last year, I began encouraging many of the teachers I knew to sign up for a workshop after school. After all, getting training on strategies to improve your teaching practice from the very people that evaluate you- couldn't hurt, in my opinion.

I hope all new DCPS teachers and any teacher who has received a Developing or Minimally Effective IMPACT evaluation score last school year will sign up for one of the Master Educator Led professional development sessions, - Setting Up For Success.

This year, Master educators will host Teach Sessions to introduce and deepen understanding of the Teaching & Learning Framework. Four series (General Education, Special Education, Language Acquisition and Early Childhood) will be provided starting on August 24.

All participants must register for each session they will attend on PD Planner at or complete the Google Survey at Participants will receive 2 PLUs for each session. For more information, please see the  “Setting Up For Success PD Sessions" flyer below or reach out to or contact them on 202-719-6553.

Hope you will share the flyer with your colleagues and encourage them to sign up as well. Use the scroll bar on the right of the flyer to see the entire flyer. Here’s to a successful year and Rockin' your Impact evaluation!

Aug 16, 2015

State of Our Union: California Teachers Take on Their Union

Friedrichs v. CTA to be heard by Supreme Court
By Candi Peterson, WTU Gen. Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own. 

California veteran teacher of twenty-eight years, Rebecca Friedrichs, a fourth grade Anaheim public school teacher leads the fight to sue her own teachers’ union in a federal lawsuit, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers’ Association.

Friedrichs has had longstanding problems with the way the California Teachers Association (CTA) collects union dues from rank and file members and how her union spends the dues money they collect. Friedrichs is fighting an “agency shop” agreement which forces teachers to pay fees for collective bargaining that the union performs not only for members but non members as well. 

Joined by nine other teachers and the Christian Educators Association in their lawsuit, these teachers argue that the California Teachers Association (CTA), the largest affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), has no right to spend the rank-and-file's money on political campaigns with which members disagree.  Friedrichs was opposed to a portion of her union dues going towards efforts to defeat the school voucher campaign. Other measures such as Proposition 30 were supported by Friedrichs union, which she opposed.

In California, public school teachers can create an “agency shop” arrangement whereby all teachers in a district are represented by one union. Nonunion teacher members must pay fees for their union’s collective-bargaining work.

If this case prevails, this could eliminate public sector unions right to automatically collect fees from public employees.

This case is scheduled to be heard before the Supreme Court later on this year. 

To give a brief history, thirty-eight years ago- the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) that states may allow unions to collect fees from non-members to pay for collective bargaining costs, but not for the unions’ political spending. 

Under state law, teachers and government workers covered by collective bargaining agreements are not required to join a union and pay dues. But they must pay a fee — a bit less than dues — to cover the union's cost of representing their interests, for example in negotiating higher wages.

About half of the states and Washington, DC, public sector workers are automatically enrolled in unions.  

Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, a non-profit interest group who is working with corporate law firm, Jones Day who represents Rebecca Friedrichs and the other aggrieved teachers says, “This case is about the right of individuals to decide for themselves whether to join and pay dues to an organization that purports to speak on their behalf. We are seeking the end of compulsory union dues across the nation on the basis of the free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” he said.

Not surprisingly so, public sector unions are gravely concerned about the ramifications such a challenge to the Abbod v. Detroit Board of Education could bring.

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) issued the following statement on the upcoming case,  “In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a group of educators backed by a right-wing pressure group filed a lawsuit that has made its way to the highest court in America. It asks the court to decide whether public sector unions may continue to charge nonmembers a fee equal to the cost of representing them to their employer.

This fee is called "agency fee" or "fair share." In states where there is no fair share, the union must sign up everyone as a member—not merely a fair share payer—to keep the union strong. If the court rules against us, then our work to support working families and reclaim the promise of public services will become harder. “

Other national unions have expressed concerned if the court rules against the teachers union, public employees could pay neither fees nor dues, but still reap the benefit of union negotiated contracts as well as representation in workplace complaints. Some also believe it is part of  an ongoing effort to undermine and weaken the existence of unions in this country.
Washington Post reporter Emma Brown did an interview with the leading plaintiffs, Rebcecca Friedrichs and Harlan Elrich. Read it here.

I can’t help but believe that this case has little to do with first amendment rights. It seems like it has more to do with these teachers being used as pawns by right wingers who are more interested in dismantling public sector unions.

Friedrichs claimed that she was powerless to make change from within her union by serving on the union's Executive Board. She said, "every time I would bring these things up I would just get shrugged shoulders from our union executive board. They wouldn’t even give me a response." 

Certainly there were other ways this problem may have been addressed by directing her concerns with the union leadership, rank and file members and trying to get an amendment to the CTA's constitution. One such example would be having a separate political arm under the umbrella of California Teachers Association (CTA) that did not require compulsory fees from  full or agency share members. Membership dues should not be used for political purposes. This way members would be free to voluntarily donate to political causes of their own choosing.

What will it look look if the Friedrichs plaintiffs are successful? I shudder to think.

Moshe Marvit, attorney and fellow with The Century Foundation sums it up best, what  a victory in this case may look like, “the burden will then be on unions to shift more of their resources to constantly convincing their membership to choose to pay their dues. Public sector unions will be like public radio, having to spend more and more time on pledge drives, espousing a message of fairness and responsibility, in order to encourage workers to pay their fair share.”

You tell me would you rather have a union that regularly hosts membership drives or one who  gets you a contract and defends you in workplace disputes?

© Candi Peterson 2015

Aug 2, 2015

NY Principal Commits Suicide Amidst Testing Irregularities Investigation

TCCS Principal Worrell-Breeden 
By Candi Peterson, WTU Gen. Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own. 

One of my worst twenty-something memories was a visit to my best friend after her boyfriend committed suicide in their apartment. He shot himself in the head on the bedroom floor. When I arrived to help my friend retrieve her belongings, I vividly remember seeing the large pool of blood matted into the carpet. The impact of this man’s decision to end his life stayed with me for many years to come.

Those memories came rushing back when I heard about the forty-nine year old Harlem principal who took her life by jumping in front of a New York subway train.

Principal Jeanene Worrell-Breeden committed suicide in April of this year.  According to the NY Post, “around 9:20 a.m. April 17, Worrell-Breeden walked onto the platform at the subway station at 135th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem and threw herself in front on an oncoming train. She was rushed to the hospital, where she would die eight days later (April 25th) from her injuries. The medical examiner ruled Worrell-Breeden's death a suicide.”

According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one-third of all suicides are from hanging. Subway related suicides are the least likely form of suicide and represent 7% of suicides in New York City. Men are far more likely to attempt suicide via subway than women.

The aftermath of Worrell-Breeden’s suicide sucks for everyone she leaves behind. Her family, her school community- her colleagues, her students and their parents.

Worrell-Breedon was the founding principal of Teachers Community College school, an elementary school in West Harlem. A tribute to honor the popular principal is listed on the school’s web page. It reads- “Principal Breeden was a tireless champion for all of the children of TCCS, and she will be greatly missed.”

Worrell-Breeden was a highly accomplished career educator, graduate of Penn. State, held two master’s degrees (from NY City College and Fordham) with 20 years of experience in NY City public schools and served as a classroom teacher, staff developer, assistant principal and principal.

Authorities revealed that the suicide occurred during a Department of Education (DOE) investigation that started the same day the principal took her life.  A complaint was made that Worrell-Breeden cheated on the Common Core standardized test. An internal investigation found that the principal had cheated by forging students’ answers.

Prior to her death, Worrell-Breeden confided in a colleague that she had completed 3rd grade students answers on incomplete exams. While students were interviewed, the principal had yet to be questioned due to her untimely death.

Department of Education (DOE) spokeswoman, Devora Kaye issued the following response to parents, "Principal Worrell-Breeden was the subject of allegations of testing improprieties.” An investigation substantiated these allegations, and we closed the investigation following her tragic passing."

There are plenty of ways to commit suicide, but few more painful than hurling oneself in front of a train. Why would anyone want to suffer this way? Has it come to this for those of us in education?

There is so much emphasis on high-stakes testing that many in education feel the heat. According to Arthur Goldstein, NYC educator and fellow blogger, “the recent example could only have been possible against the backdrop of ed. "reform."  Ed. "reform" is killing the teaching profession; it kills the will of some students to learn.  It closes schools, rips communities apart and, apparently, takes lives.  I would argue its long-range damage will be far more severe and, sadly, that damage remains to be seen.”

And for some like Worrell-Breedon, it drove her to choose "dishonesty" and impose a self-justice that’s unthinkable.

© Candi Peterson 2015

Jul 26, 2015

DC Corporate Profiteers Expose the Dark Side of Charter School Industry

Written by Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

Recently, an education colleague asked me how do we make charter schools better? I really had no answer to his question in light of some of our recent local charter school scandals. Some of the lessons learned nationally from charter school mismanagement reveal that it is a business opportunity for some to make a quick buck at taxpayers and students’ expense.

Nobody embodies one of the most glaring problems of mismanagement of charter schools better than former Xerox Corporate executive Ken Amos in the District. He was exposed for siphoning off taxpayer money into the hands of for-profit management companies owned and controlled by the non-profit charter school sponsors all for their own personal gain.

Amos owned one of the largest charter school networks in DC. Amos is a DC Native who is highly regarded by many as a long time advocate for parents and children. He founded Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School, known as CAPCS in 1998. DC law requires that charters schools operate as non-profit corporations.

Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter Schools served more than 1,600 students at four campuses, Armstrong, Burdick, Keene and Nicholson, including an online school.

In June 2014, Amos was charged by then DC Attorney General Irvin Nathan of funneling $13 million dollars in charter school funds for over a decade to a for-profit management company he owned.

The lawsuit alleged that Amos forced the charter school to pay his management company more than $13 million in what was known as “management fees” since 2004. According to Nathan in the lawsuit, "the diverted funds were used to enrich the company and Amos, to the detriment of the school."

Stories like Amos are all too common. I remember being surprised when J.C. Hayward, a popular Channel 9 news anchor here in DC became embroiled in the Options Charter school scandal in 2013. This scandal led to Hayward being removed from her post as Channel 9 anchor after a long-time stellar career of forty years.

The lawsuit alleged that three former managers, the Options school’s board chairwoman, Hayward, and a senior official at the D.C. Public Charter School Board allegedly concocted an elaborate contracting scam that led to improper payments of more than $3 million to for profit companies

Days after the Washington Post submitted a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request seeking information about contracts between the school and two for profit companies founded by the schools senior managers; Exceptional Education Management Corp. (EEMC) and Exceptional Educational Services (EES), the DC charter school board launched an investigation.

The sad thing about these stories, both schools ultimately closed their doors to its students, totaling 2,500 students. Regulations governing charters differ among states. In the District of Columbia, for example, a separate school board authorizes charters and monitors them.

Options closed at the end of school year 2015 after being placed under receivership and parents were given the choice to attend another charter school; Kingsman Academy. In February 2015, the DC Charter School Board unanimously revoked CAPCS charter and the school officially closed at the end of school year 14-15. The school’s campuses were transferred to other entities including DC Public Schools.

Amos and his management company settled his lawsuit by entering into an agreement to repay $3 million dollars, a far cry from the $13 million dollars diverted from the school.

Charter school closings due to financial mismanagement underscore the need for more transparency, oversight and accountability. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) claims that within the last 20 years, the federal government has spent $3.3 billion on charter schools but cannot account for which charters received taxpayer money and how those public dollars were spent.

This just isn’t acceptable.

Many believe charter schools should be held to the same standards as public schools to make sure students get the most of out of their educational experience and protect taxpayers’ investment.

The Annenberg Institute for Reform at Brown University has put out its own set of standards to bolster oversight for charters. Here are a few of their recommendations: [1.] charter school finance documents should be made publicly available; [2.] require charters to report administrative expenses; [3.] all vendor or service contracts should be made available to the public; and [4.] protect governing board members, students, staff, parents from retaliation for whistle blowing. Read the full report.

The Annenberg report is a major contribution to offering constructive suggestions on key concerns in the charter sector. Somebody has got to stop making it easy to steal from the kids.

© Candi Peterson 2015

Jul 12, 2015

Teachers Say No Freaking Way to AFT Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

By Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

On Saturday, July 11th - the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President, Randi Weingarten came under fire after her executive council voted overwhelmingly to endorse Hillary Clinton for the democratic primary for President of the United States. AFT is the parent organization of Washington Teachers' Union, Local 6 and has 1.5 million members. 

In an AFT press release, President Weingarten said "Hillary Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities. That fight defines her career." 

Weingarten added that Clinton is a "product of public schools and believes in the promise of public education.... Hillary understands that policymakers need to work with teachers and their unions. She's ready to work with us to confront the issues of children and their families today, including poverty, wage stagnation, income equality and the lack of opportunity."

Even though AFT's press release explained the process of how members were polled, including several town hall meetings, multiple surveys and a "you decide" website, the announcement of the endorsement erupted a firestorm of outrage from AFT teacher members nationwide on twitter.

In the course of hours, many teachers hurled questions at @Rweingarten and @AFTunion twitter accounts asking, when was there was a poll of the membership and requesting links to all of the polls. 

Renowned NY Teacher *blogger, Arthur Goldstein  (known as NYC Educator) said "...AFT Link says they used telephone town halls and a web-based survey, I didn't even know existed."

Katie Osgood, a special education teacher from Chicago said "I know many AFT members too and have not heard one person polled either." Mary Ahern called it "B.S. and queried how many of the over 1 million members responded?”

Activist teacher members and others lamented that the AFT endorsement of Clinton was a clear reminder of President Randi Weingarten's autocratic leadership style that treats teachers like passive herd-driven professionals rather than independent thinkers with a voice.

Phil Soreneson tweeted to President Weingarten, “glad I’m NEA, u don’t speak for me, u just made teachers’ look politically inept. Thanks for nothing.”

Naturewoman tweeted to AFT, "guessing you did not poll your members! No to Clinton who promotes Teach for America and charters!" Mr. Stevens echoed "Clinton endorsement is a joke & local union voices are being silenced to retain AFT union funding."

Minnsanity added, "AFT tried to shove NCLB, common core, PARCC and now Hillary on us - we ain't buying." Barmak Nassirian ‏summed it up best in his tweet, "sad day when political expediency trumps legitimate representation of members' real priorities." 

Within hours teachers demanded fellow members to contact AFT and demand they rescind the Hillary Clinton endorsement. Teachers began adding their comments to Diane Ravitch’s education blog where she posted AFT’s press release on the Clinton for President endorsement. So far 147 comments have been posted, to date.

Given no one could locate AFT’s poll of members', the Badass Teachers Association  (BAT) took matters into their own hands by conducting a poll on Face Book. So far   1240 teachers endorsed Bernie Sanders and only 84 endorsed Clinton. One teacher said "Weingarten has this thing about giving false information via polls... It's scary." 

Some of our AFT members  are taking matters into their own hands and have created a petition to demand AFT rescind their Hillary for US president endorsement. Click on  LINK  for the petition. So far 1,109 had signed on.  

I too was up in the wee hours of the morning watching all of this unfold. Right here in DC, as an active member of WTU local 6 and elected General Vice President- I wondered how I had never been polled or invited to participate in AFT’s web based town hall or knew of members who had?

I concur with Aixa Rodriguez’s tweet, “it is 2:23 am and I am so mad at  AFT’s  #prematureendorsement I cannot sleep. And so I tweet. And all my friends are up too….”

Don’t get this twisted, in the words of Lace to the top, “The story isn't Randi Weingarten and AFT’'s endorsement of Hillary Clinton. The story is all the amazing teachers saying no freaking way!!!!”

 © Candi Peterson 2015