Nov 30, 2008

Rhee Loses Favor With WaPo Readers !

In response to the WaPo Saturday story "DC Schools Chief Makes Times Magazine Cover" it is interesting to note that most readers do not favor Rhee's education reform strategies and recent appearance on the cover of Time. Twelve on line posters gave Rhee a thumbs down. This seems to be dramatic shift in public opinion against Rhee as evidenced by not only these posts but other on line comments as well. I have posted a number of the noteworthy ones.(Posted by The Washington Teacher).

ilcn wrote:
Why are we so willing to blame the unions and teachers for what-is-wrong-with- public-education?My union has nothing to do with an administrator that doesn't follow up on discipline. In my area, one school had to beef up security because of gang related activity. And its working so far.Made me stop to think if I were 15 and at my school I was afraid to go to the bathroom, or walk down the hall, or attend a school activity, or say something in class another person might find offensive, I'd be more worried about surviving than learning. If I'm afraid I might not make it through the day, it is difficult to think beyond high school and consider college. You can pay teachers a million dollars a year, take away tenure, make them sign a legal obligation form, whatever, but it won't solve the problem if fear is ruling the day. If teachers don't receive administrative and parental back-up and feel THEY are valued as professionals then nothing will change. Does Ms. Rhee have anything positive to say about teachers, the unions, and public schools?

owldog wrote:
Well from the cheap shot bashing on this thread, it looks like the AFT and other teacher trade organizations got their emails out early for a heads up on this article. Finally we have someone with creativity and balls who is willing to throw the bums out. Everybody knows that the teaching profession is fraught with nepotism, cronyism, and dirty politics. The benefits are incredible. The hours are great. The pay is decent. The job security is better than the priesthood. And all we ever hear from the profession is whiny, whiny, whiny.There is no quality control and bad teachers are never fired. Tenure is obsolete and nothing but a battle cry for dead wood. Good teachers have community support and never get fired. Unjust firings can be addressed in the courts, like any other profession. Tenure is code for "job security for lazy and obnoxious, who just don't have what it takes for getting kids to learn." I'm a liberal, but sometimes I wish teacher trade organizations would join the republican party.

willdbrown wrote:
With all of the challenges facing students and educators in DC schools, if ever there was a time for all to come together for the future of children it is now. To simply attack front line educators when all of the safety and resource issues have not been addressed is short sighted and doomed to failure.To see Rhee and Fenty demonstrate leadership by working with educators and support for their efforts and dedication would be a miracle. Teachers are accountable every day. If there are some not meeting appropriate standards then work in a professional and responsible manner to address their shortcomings. Even if a highly qualified, energetic and motivated educator is in a school, they will not be there very long if the work environment is not secure, clean, controlled and maintained. (A teacher's work environment is also a student's learning environment) They also need the educational resources and supports to meet the tremendous challenges before them. Being under constant attack is not the motivation that these educators require.

korm wrote:
Maybe if Rhee spent more time actually doing something to improve DC schools instead of the endless rounds of self-promotion, then there would be something real to report. She's hell-bent on resume enhancement so that she can escape to her next high profile job with a mega salary increase. The announcement of her imminent departure, in a flash press release suddenly declaring victory over DCPS, will come around February or March, 2009. Just in time to escape the odor arising from dismal test results, out of control violence in many schools, and another round of firings of the mediocre principals that Rhee personally hired for their compliance with her domineering, insecure, and immature management style.

EthicsLawPro wrote:
The Time Magazine article is a negative article for Rhee and Fenty. Time is balancing itself for the messy first article they wrote about Rhee. This lady is no Virgin Mary savior to the children and families of Washington DC. She has a very one sided approach to progress which is fire the teachers. This takes the blame off of her and the Mayor for not providing opportunities and resources for the children of DC and makes good anti government steam. A Very Conservative and Republican approach and therein lies how she is deeply in love with the republican agenda and McCain. Once you peal back the Fenty onion you see his alignment being with big business, monied interest, and the affluent. Once he is convinced he can not fix the DCPS he will attempt to dismantle it or completely charter it. The Washington Teachers’ Union is being done a complete disservice by George Parker, its President. He is the most ineffective union leader in the nation without a doubt. Teachers bring additional scrutiny upon themselves by allowing him to consistently mishandle their affairs. Weakness invites attack and Rhee is just destroying the skills and morale of DCPS Teachers. Parker is a weakling with no answer for his members but perpetual servitude to Rhee. I think that Rhee's witch costume is fitting and the black represents removing black women who occupy the job she is interested in for new hires. This Rhee experiment is a huge failure and Fenty should pay the ultimate price in the 2010 mayoral race. wrote:
Will SHE ever stop the media circus and get busy with leading the educational system?!!!

edlharris wrote:
Oh, and for any real examination of Michelle Rhee and her "success" in Baltimore, check out :

Nov 29, 2008

DC School's Mascot - Broom Toting Rhee

DC Schools Chancellor Rhee (AKA The Broom Lady) gets the cover story in the soon to be released Decmber 8th issue of Time titled "How To Fix America's Schools". In the cover picture, Rhee appears with a broom. Sound eerily familiar to a former DC mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly who vowed to clean house with her infamous broom ? Some would argue that Rhee is on a singular mission to get rid of teachers (good and bad) and that she suffers from tunnel vision because she lacks multifaceted solutions to complex problems that plague public education and fails to include all of the stakeholders. Are you 'Yeah' or 'Nay' on Rhee's vision to save DC Public Schools ?

In the Time story, reporter Amanda Ripley reports that "Rhee has promised to make Washington the highest-performing urban school district in the nation, a prospect that, if realized, could transform the way schools across the country are run..." Ripley also looks at where President-elect Obama stands on education. (This subject of what should happen to No Child Left Behind sparked interesting conversation by many on line commenters. Of particular interest to me is a comment posted by Suzie from Maryland. Suzie sums up her thoughts this way: " Rhee is right that too many crappy teachers stay way too long in some of our schools. But I think she as someone earlier said needs to get more of those involved on board. She can do that by looking at what problems other than bad teachers lead to low student achievement and working on those problems too. Her current tone and singular mission isn't the way to do it. Black and white answers to problems shaded in gray won't solve those problems."

Suzie's entire post: "Now I understand better where Dee was coming from in the previous post though I still don't agree with a lot of what she said. I'm guessing that Dee is a Rheephile..If I had to sum up everything I learned as a historian in two sentences: Very few things in history and life have one cause. Also, very few things in history and life have one solution..To get less technical, I will quote wvng and say that there's no magic pony. Very little in life is black and white. So when, according to the article, Rhee blames the lack of achievement by students in inner-city schools pretty much solely on teachers, that worries me. Yes, there are sucky teachers in schools. I taught alongside some of them. I agree that it should be easier to fire them. But teachers alone can't solve the problem, in my view, as I said the other day. A few extra thoughts: First, teaching is like any other skill. You can get better through practice and study of that skill, but some people are just naturally more talented than others. Yes, you can attract more talented teachers through pay incentives. But does Rhee really think there are enough genius-level teachers who are ALSO willing to work incredibly long hours (as would seem to be necessary, given her requirements for teachers) to staff EVERY classroom in EVERY school in EVERY city? Even at a high pay ?

Second, I will second (!) what several others have said. Rhee is going all-in on her plan. But where is the data to back up the miraculous results that she thinks will occur?
Third, she taught for three years. Three. The same number I taught for, also in an inner-city school. Obviously, I feel like I know enough to run off at the mouth about the topic on the Swampland website. But I also have many family members in education, and you won't find me anytime soon claiming that I personally know how to fix all public schools. It's hard to build a grassroots movement when you only got a glimpse of what those grassroots look like--and moreover, she seems to be more into top-down management than bottom-up leadership. Does she have any mechanism actually to help improve the skills of teachers she finds lacking, or is it simply "meet my somewhat unclear requirements, or you're fired"? Wouldn't it be somewhat less expensive in the long-run to train at least some "substandard" existing teachers to meet her standards, rather than firing all of them?

One last thing: The snide tone of much of what Rhee said was really troubling to me. The parts that particularly grated: "They bicker over small improvements such as class size and curriculum, like diplomats touring a refugee camp and talking about the need for nicer curtains." And: "In the hallway, she muttered about teachers who spend too much time cutting out elaborate bulletin-board decorations...".Here's my point: these things matter. Maybe not as much as getting rid of obviously incompetent teachers, but they do make a difference. I taught a class of twelve one semester, and another of 32. I'll give you one guess as to which group of students got the most attention to their individual needs and difficulties.

As far as those bulletin boards, my mom is a second-grade teacher whose results (which are actually provable! imagine that!) are pretty much those that Rhee wants. Mom has taken kids reading at a 1.0 level and gotten them to 3.0 by the end of the school year. And yes, she spends a lot of her own time after and before school working on bulletin boards, along with homework, lesson planning, parent contacts, etc.You know why? My mom has found that when kids--particularly young kids--have a cheerful, neat, and creative (apparently a deadly word for Rhee) environment around them in the classroom, they tend to be more orderly and excited about school. At the beginning of each year, Mom laminates cuts out a big, bright cardboard cupcake with a candle on it for each student, and puts their name and birthday on it. Silly? Maybe. But it tells each student that she cares about them as individuals, and they love it. It gives them a sense of investment in the class and in their teacher. It means something. It takes time, though--time that Rhee might say is a waste..." Friday- November 28, 2008- Picture and post courtesy of Time. (posted By The Washington Teacher).

Nov 27, 2008

WTU Plans Special Executive Board Meeting

Unfortunately our WTU Representative Assembly November 25th meeting was cancelled once again by President George Parker due to the holidays. As a result the WTU has failed to hold a representative assembly meeting in September, October or November.

WTU Executive Board members have been notified that a special meeting of the executive board will be held Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 7:00 p.m. at the WTU office. Ms. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has been invited to the meeting to discuss critical issues affecting the WTU. I am sure that issues related to our tentative agreement (teacher contract) and recent discussions with Chancellor Rhee will be among the hot topics to be discussed.

This meeting will be held at the WTU office located at 490 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 7200, telephone : 202-293-8600. Union members interested in attending should email WTU President George Parker @ to let him know that you will be attending. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Nov 24, 2008

Fenty = Catastrophe, Intimidation, Terror !

On last Thursday evening , DC Jobs with Justice hosted a Workers' Rights Board hearing at the DC City Council. I was happy to be an invited guest to speak at this event. The purpose of this event was to allow city workers to discuss their concerns about what is happening across the board to city government workers and public services under the Fenty administration. Panelists of city workers testified before the Workers' Rights Board. This board plans to develop an action plan to address concerns from city workers in DC Public Schools, Child and Family Services Administration, and Department of Mental Health. Amongst the recommendations are upcoming meetings with the DC City Council.

"Catastrophe, intimidation, terror. These were common words used to describe DC Mayor Adrian Fenty’s two years in office by over a dozen speakers at Thursday’s Workers’ Rights Board (WRB) hearing. The hearing – which took place at the John A. Wilson Building to a standing-room only crowd of hundreds of residents, workers and activists – was held to examine Mayor Fenty’s assault on DC public sector workers and proposals to cut public services. “I see what is happening right now as a major catastrophe,” said Roger Newell, chair of DC Jobs with Justice. “We need to speak loudly and strongly that working people made this city and stuck with this city through times of crisis. Workers should be respected not attacked and politicians who attack workers should be held accountable.”

Metro Council President Jos Williams said that Mayor Fenty has created an “environment based on intimidation” of workers through the gutting of the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) , abolishment of the Labor-Management Partnership Program and the appointment of School Chancellor Michelle Rhee who “has made it her mission to make every employee at-will.” “The door was closed to labor immediately by the Mayor after taking office,” said Dwight Bowman, AFGE National Vice President for District 14. “The Mayor chose to ignore our efforts to reach out.” Bowman also compared Mayor Fenty’s refusal to address the crisis with the PERB to similar moves by the Bush Administration to destroy the federal grievance process.

Other panelists discussed Mayor Fenty’s assault on DC public sector workers in specific agencies, including the DC Public Schools, the Child and Family Services Agency and the Department of Mental Health (DMH), and its impact on education and public and mental health services. “I have never seen a climate like what is occurring now,” said Jeff Canady, a 17-year teacher in the DC Public Schools (DCPS). “Everyday I run into workers and teachers who have horror stories about intimidation on the job…It is an absolute climate of intimidation and terror that teachers are facing.” Canady argued the problem is not bad teachers but a lack of resources, supplies and support for teachers as well as Chancellor Rhee’s “complete lack of understanding about what needs to be done.”

Candi Peterson, a 16-year veteran of DCPS and active member of WTU Local 6, criticized Fenty and Rhee for the firings of hundreds of DCPS workers which, she argued, created overcrowded classrooms and forced teachers to work in areas outside their certification. “Rhee regularly blames teachers and argues that union contracts and teachers' seniority rights stand in the way of the best education for our children.” But the reality is that her “anti-union tactics support more privatization and outsourcing of public education, the creation of more unchecked charter schools, unsound educational practices, gutting hard-earned job protections and union busting”."

Maria Jones , a parent active in school issues and a 26-year resident of DC, called Rhee’s school reform plan a redistribution of wealth and “children are being exploited and denied a quality education” as a result.

Marketta McCoy – a recently fired investigator at the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) and member of AFSCME Council 20 – said workers are being scapegoated for the recent high-profile failures at the CFSA . McCoy added that the real issue is Mayor Fenty and CFSA management’s refusal to help provide workers with desperately needed resources and a reduction in caseloads. “Management should treat workers with dignity and respect,” said McCoy.

Roy Rogers – an employee of the DC DMH Community Services Agency (CSA) and 1199SEIU member – and Dr. Ray Brown – President of the DC Doctors Council/AFSCME – also discussed the Fenty Administration’s plans to privatize mental health services . “Closing DC CSA will leave the most vulnerable, victimized, voiceless, neediest and exploited citizens of the District without a safety net,” said Rogers. “Why eliminate these jobs now with the current economic crisis which is bound to cause more need for mental health services?” Brown said the privatization plan could affect 4,000 patients and put communities into crisis. “This is a catastrophe,” said Brown adding that the DC City Council must act to pass emergency legislation to stop the contracting out (click here to take action on this issue).

DC City Councilmembers Phil Mendelson and Harry Thomas Jr. briefly sat in with the Workers’ Rights Board to listen to panelists’ testimony. Councilmembers Kwame Brown and Yvette Alexander also made appearances. Mayor Fenty, Chancellor Rhee and other Councilmembers were invited to attend but did not show, says DC Jobs with Justice Organizer Ruth Castel-Branco. “The response to this event was overwhelming,” said Castel-Branco. “We received more requests for people to testify than we could fit into the short time frame we had. It shows that workers and DC residents are fed up with Mayor Fenty’s anti-worker, anti-democractic agenda.” An action plan, based on the testimony and recommendations of panelists, from Workers’ Rights Board members is expected in the coming months. Courtesy of DC Metro Labor-AFL-CIO. "(Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Nov 20, 2008

More DC Principals Will Get The Ax

In a DC Wire article yesterday written by Bill Turque, it is reported that under Rhee's helm (17 months and counting ) , one third of the DC principal corps have either been fired, resigned or retired. Three principals have been replaced already this school year by Rhee. The Wire reports that Rhee's draft "action plan, which will be presented before the city council today, "says that while there has been improvement, "DCPS still lacks a critical mass of leaders with instructional expertise and/or a proven track record of success in turning around low-performing schools."

"The plan calls for intensifying what had already been touted by Rhee as a vigorous national recruiting effort. The goal is to provide seven "high-quality principal candidates" for every future vacancy and three qualified prospects "pre-approved by the Chancellor before they even meet with the school community panels that screen potential principals. Rhee also wants to open a "School Leadership Academy" that will nurture new principals and develop administrators with the potential to become school leaders."

It seems that many who have posted comments on the DC Wire question Rhee's management acumen (or lack thereof) . Here's what they are saying:

"Rhee is quite delusional if she thinks she's going to attract "top-shelf" principal candidates to the current low-morale school system. A coach is only as good as his/her team. She has to build from the bottom up (i.e., support for teachers, training, etc.). It doesn't help that she espouses a leadership style where "collaboration and cooperation" are overrated."

"If only such rigorous rules were in place before Mayor Fenty basically appointed Rhee as Chancellor. Has any team or organization ever done markedly better after a midstream firing? So far, that is about all Rhee seems to be able to do. Can someone tell me what she and Fenty do between the end of June and early September? Do they actually vet their administrative hires? So far the strategy it seems to be "Fire, ready...set...aim!" And one more point. Fenty is trying to get Obama to take a look at DC Public Schools. Did you know that Fenty sends his kids to a private school? I did not vote for Obama to Chair the DC School Board. Fenty should have to fix this mess himself."

"Finally - someone is taking action to bring the District teaching corp into the 21st century! People defending the current system should be ashamed of themselves; every day they spend arguing that we need to protect the rights of the people who aren't qualified to educate our children is another day that those children are falling behind the rest of the country and the world. If people want to protect the good teachers (which they should), they need to come up with a radical idea to get rid of the bad"

"If there were any doubts before, there should be great clarity that DCPS is "stuck on stupid" Principals whose school were making AYP were not re-appointed. Now the new army of believers that were hired are getting fired by the month. The best in terms of experience were let go and the new inexperienced NLNS are getting fired. Who is left? Who wants to re-locate to DC? Seven candidates for every one vacancy? Who are we kidding? This is coming from a person who is clueless when it comes to knowing what administrators do on a daily basis. She taught for three years, has never been a school administrator and was a poor manager when she was at ST. Hope. Read the articles on the turn-over. Principals and teachers left due to the bullying tactics of Rhee and Kevin Johnson. She just doesn't have the skills needed to run a school system."

"I hope the new principals get a big fat signing bonus like Rhee got before they commit to working in a DC school. A housing allowance might be nice too. Unless they come from Manhattan, San Francisco or Boston, they might be discouraged by the high housing prices, knowing they could get fired at the drop of a hat - especially if one of their disgruntled teachers goes to the press with a problem principals are afraid to report because it might make them look as if they can't control an uncontrollable school. I hope the prospective principals do a little googling and read some recent Washington Post articles to get a real feel for the problems here. If they just listen to Rhee and the national press, they'll erroneously think they're walking into a grand educational opportunity - A chance to shine and make their reputation. I hope they talk to some current principals who are candid enough to acknowledge their regret for falling that false promise."

"To be perfectly blunt Rhee must really be possessed by the desire to fire people because that's all she seems to do. It is a shame!!"

"No one really knows how hard it is for DCPS but the people who work in the schools. Rhee has done nothing but destroy our schools with her poor management skills. DC council members were right when they questioned her a few weeks ago and told her how non effective she is at running our school system. Well what do we expect since she got her "power" from our mayor. (who by the way has too much power). The city council better step up and oversee what is going on. What we do today is effecting our youth tomorrow. Rhee and Fenty's goals are to rid our city of public schools and increase charter schools. Wake up DC residents. Rhee did an awful job in NY and now she's doing the same here in DC. These new teachers don't plan to stay and have no vested interest in our children and their future. HUMMM, I wonder if Rhee has a vested interest?"

"At Shepherd, we had a panel of principal candidates presented last spring. One parent rep on the panel described the candidate pool as "shallow." A major problem with the process at Shepherd occurred because we had been repeatedly told by several DCPS officials that every panel received its first or second choice candidate, and the schools were always very happy. In this case, because the candidate pool was so shallow, the same candidates were sent to multiple schools. Two of the current DCPS employees were ranked first and second by our panel. These same individuals were each ranked high by at least one other school. Rhee then gave the panelists the choice of which school assignment they preferred (a logical way to resolve the assignment). She told Shepherd this in October, after she had appointed a lower ranked candidate. No one knew why when the appointment was made in June. So, if last year's candidates are any measure of who Rhee is able to attract, she attracts about 1.25 candidates for each open position (4 of the 5 panelists received appointments), all candidates live locally, most are internal to DCPS, and few if any have prior experience at the job they are applying for.

By the way, in October, the next principal that Rhee appointed to Shepherd after firing the one that she had just appointed in July, also does not have prior experience as an elementary school principal. And this newest principal announced at last night's PTA meeting that she'll be out for 3 to 4 weeks in March/April on maternity leave. So for Shepherd, the final count is 4 principals and interims in the 2007-08 school year, and at least 2 principals and 1 interim in 2008-09 (it's still early in the year for us). I think the mainstream press that believes Rhee when she says folks are coming from all over the country to work for her needs to do a little more fact checking." Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Nov 18, 2008

AFT Watch

Many spectators are conducting an American Federation of Teachers' watch now that AFT President Randi Weingarten recently retracted her original position to stay out of local union matters and has now become involved in DC teacher contract talks. A meeting has recently been scheduled with Chancellor Rhee in order to forge discussions ahead according to today's WA PO articled titled: "Union Chiefs and Rhee Will Meet- Talks Will Involve DC National Teachers' Group" by Bill Turque. Weingarten made it clear that she "disagrees" with Fenty and Rhee's recent proposal to possibly seek federal legislation declaring the DC school system in a "state of emergency".

In today's article , Randi Weingarten stated , "I've reached out to the chancellor. In an interview later, she said she and WTU President George Parker "are anxious to meet with the chancellor. . . . There's been a lot of buzzing back and forth trying to find a date." ....

Weingarten appeared before an audience of union leaders including Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. George Miller (D- Calif), New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt. In her speech she indicated that -- "no issue should be off the table, provided it is good for children and fair for teachers. She also cautioned school administrators and policymakers to reconsider their demonization of teachers unions as the main impediment to school reform. Think of a teacher who is staying up past midnight to prepare her lesson plan . . . a teacher who is paying for equipment out of his own pocket so his students can conduct science experiments. . . . These are the people the AFT represents. Make no mistake about it -- when you attack us, you attack them."

The Post reported that, "Weingarten did not mention Rhee by name in her prepared comments. But during a brief interview after her speech, she criticized Rhee's consideration of measures that would release the District from its legal obligation to bargain with the Washington Teachers' Union. These include seeking revival of the city's ability to open nonunion charter schools, and legislation that would declare a post-Katrina-style "state of emergency" that would effectively allow Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to create a new, union-free school system."

Education notes on line blogger from New York had this to say about AFT President Weingarten's involvement in DC contract talks: " Mayor Mike is showing his appreciation by introducing Randi Weingarten at a big shindig in DC. Randi watchers are sitting back to see how Randi, with her speak-out-of-5-sides-of-her-mouth tendencies," handles the Rhee situation."

Given the fact that the AFT has historically chosen to not become involved in local union issues even while the WTU, local 6 was swindled out of millions of dollars by former WTU President Barbara Bullock it will be interesting to watch the outcome of these discussion with Rhee. Feel free to weigh in on this latest development. (posted by The Washington Teacher).

Link to today's article in its entirety :

Nov 16, 2008

Union Busting 101

Union busting is by definition a practice, considered by some to be unethical, undertaken by an employer. It is the process which some employers may use to prevent their employees from joining a labor union. Another form of union busting is firing an already organized workforce and hiring non-union labor.

In todays WA PO story: "Fenty, Rhee Look for Ways Around The Union" (By Bill Turque, page C01) states that the Mayor and Chancellor are considering restoring the District's power to create nonunionized charter schools and possibly seeking federal legislation declaring the school system a "state of emergency" , a move that (the Post) reports would eliminate the need to bargain with the Washington Teachers' Union. Could their strategy be union busting ? Before you answer, here are some of the tactics of typical union busters. Sound vaguely familiar to what's happening in DC? You tell me?

Tactics of Union Busters:

INCREASES IN PAY: They tell you that you don't need the union to get wage increases.

LET'S BE PALS: They set up meetings with union members citing : don't let the union get in the way of our wonderful relationship.

ONE-ON-ONES: Management may call you in for face-to-face talks about the union.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER: They will try to play one group against the other: "Disloyal" union supporters against "loyal pro-employer" union opponents; older vs. younger, men vs. women, one department against another - whatever works for them.

VOTE-YES COMMITTEE: A small group of employees might be set up to "stand up" for the employer. They want to "save" the organization from the Union. The Union Buster is behind this committee and is training the leaders to destroy the union.

SCARE TACTICS: They threaten to fire you, outsource jobs, make jobs at will . They blame employees for all the agency's shortcomings.

Bad Press About the Union: They paint an ugly picture of the union in the press.

Sam Smith of DC City Desk tells yet another heartfelt union busting story of a former DC teacher Harold Cox who was fired at the beginning of school year 2008. I think this story is worth posting for all to read. This story provides a glimpse into Fenty and Rhee's tactics which robs our students of many qualified DC teachers who happen to be union members . Like Cox, DC blind teachers - Denise Hamilton and Fred Kamara ( as reported on The Washington Teacher) also lost their teaching jobs this school year. Lost count already of how many certified DC teachers were terminated from their jobs - I know I have ! Here is Sam Smith's story in its entirety:

"Former DC teacher Harold Cox is the definition of a dedicated teacher. A twenty-one year teaching veteran, Cox worked hard inside and outside the classroom, frequently staying late after class to work with students and lobbying DC City Council to address problems in the schools. So Cox was shocked when he was fired, without any explanation, at the beginning of the school year. Like hundreds of other summarily-dismissed teachers, aides and principals, Cox was forced to reapply for his position as part of DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty's controversial plan to fix the ailing DC public schools.

But Cox now says that he thinks "Rhee was brought in to break the union" and that the "hiring process had little to do with guaranteeing teaching standards and everything to do with strong-arming teachers to make concessions union have fought off for years." For example, when Cox re-applied for his job, he discovered that the principal of the school was insisting that teachers "sign an agreement which included extending teaching hours," a clear violation of their union contract. When Cox refused to sign, he "was sent packing." (Posted by The Washington Teacher). Union busting information courtesy of labor union resources.

Nov 15, 2008

Believe It Or Not !

A DC teacher just emailed me that the former principal Lynn Gober, who was fired from Anacostia Senior High School last year by Chancellor Rhee, has been asked by Rhee to come to Hart Middle School to clean it up.

A Roving Leader sent the following message about the new principal at MacFarland Middle School:

"To Whom It May Concern:
I am a visitor to MacFarland Middle School twice week. I have observed the new principal on numerous occasions. It is my conclusion that Mr. Barber, principal, is too young and inexperienced to deal with the type of students at MacFarland. All of the problems that were noted at Hart are ongoing at MacFarland. Apparently Chancellor Rhee does not understand that it takes poise, experience, sensitivity, and mental toughness to lead the type of students at MacFarland. Mr. Barber does not have any of these qualities. He lacks communication skills with staff and more importantly, he is unable or unwilling to communicate with the students. The situation at MacFarland is totally out of control, due to daily food fights, water fountains being ripped from the walls, and fires being started in the schools, and staff and students being assaulted. Something needs to be done YESTERDAY." Fact or fiction - you tell me ? (posted by The Washington Teacher).

Nov 12, 2008

Taking It To Hart: A DC Teacher Speaks Out !

The discussion on the firing of the Hart principal, Ms. Webster has sparked a lively debate on blogs, amongst colleagues, parents, community members and on Wash. Post blogs. Surprisingly in the comments I read, many expressed outrage that termination is the only strategy that our DC chancellor uses to address the multiple problems that our urban school system faces. An anonymous poster on this blog wrote: "Rhee believes she is a weapons expert at DC police academy. "Fire, Fire, Fire". Donald Trump is starting to look a little soft."

Jerome Brocks, a DCPS special educator of 34 years speaks out about the situation at Hart middle school. Having worked at Hart during his career , Jerome contacted me and asked if I would post his comments on my blog. I titled this entry: Taking It To Hart. Here goes:

"Let the truth be told. No one seems to be willing to tell the truth about the problems at Hart Middle School. Not the president of the Washington Teachers' Union , who blames the problem on administrators, not Chancellor Rhee who does not have a clue about what is going on in the neighborhoods of DC which is evidenced by her decision to close down PR Harris and send students to Hart and subsequently fire the principal because she (Rhee) can't solve our schools multifaceted problems, and certainly not the Washington Post who fails to do a full investigation and print the truth.

Two years ago, I witnessed a mob of students from Hart Middle School entering PR Harris Educational Center looking for several students from PR Harris. Both schools have an ongoing rivalry. The Hart students went through the building looking for their victims until the police came and then they ran from the building. Everyone knew there was an ongoing battle between Hart and PR Harris students. Michelle Rhee decided to close down PR Harris and transfer many of these students to Hart MS making an already bad situation worse. This is what happens when a new person comes to our city and is not aware of important facts when making decisions to close schools and relocate students from one neighborhood to another.

Ms. Webster, principal of Hart was set up for failure. Adequate staffing and supervision was never received. Teachers were put in dangerous situations where their safety was at stake. This person that we call chancellor is responsible for all the problems that have been allowed to occur at Hart and she should be held accountable. Equally responsible is George Parker, so called president of the WTU who has been derelict in his duties as he has failed to take an active role in speaking out on what is in the best interests of DC students and teachers. Shame on all of them who have been directly and indirectly involved in sidestepping the multiple problems at schools like Hart middle school. They say children first -what hypocrites they are!!!! If anyone should be fired it should not be principals and not teachers but Rhee herself should be fired immediately ! Lastly, WTU President George Parker needs to resign at once !" (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Jerome Brocks
DC Teacher ( 34 years)

Nov 11, 2008

So You Wanna Become a DC Principal ?

Really. Well here's what becoming a DC Principal gets you : FIRED ! Hart middle school is the subject of controversy in DC Public Schools. First an article appeared in the Sunday Post which told an all too familiar tale of DC teachers being assaulted, teachers teaching outside of their certification area, substitutes covering classes, overcrowded classes, unruly students, possession of handguns, violence and a lack of supports promised by Rhee's office to a school being restructured. Hart is a school which merged with P.R. Harris Educational Center this school year against the advice of parents and community activists. Here is today's article written by Post Reporter Bill Turque (page B 1) in its entirety. My question is who is to blame ? Is Chancellor Rhee firing her way to a better school system ? You be the judge.

D.C. Fires Principal After Surge Of Violence Educator Says She Was 'Set Up' at Hart Middle School

"The principal of Hart Middle School was fired by District officials yesterday after two months of disorder and violence that included assaults on at least three teachers. Kisha Webster was informed of her dismissal at a morning meeting with Lisa Ruda, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's chief of staff.

Dena Iverson, Rhee's spokeswoman, declined to answer questions and referred instead to a letter over Rhee's signature that was sent to Hart parents yesterday. The letter, which did not mention the school's problems, said Webster would be replaced by a central office administrator, Billy Kearney, who had been serving as the school system's director of principal recruitment. Kearney was a key figure in the filling of more than principal 40 vacancies over the summer, about half of which were created when Rhee fired people for poor performance.

Webster, 37, a former assistant principal at MacArthur Middle School in Anne Arundel County, is the third principal to be replaced since the beginning of the school year. Galeet BenZion, principal at Shepherd Elementary, was fired last month, and the principal at Shadd Transition Academy was reassigned to other duties.

In a phone interview yesterday evening, Webster said she had been "set up" by District officials. She said she was put in charge of the Anacostia middle school without the resources made available to other struggling schools. Hart was one of nearly two dozen D.C. schools placed in federally mandated restructuring for failing to meet benchmarks for math and English test scores. Last year, just 17 percent of Hart students read at proficiency level.

Webster said publicity about the situation at Hart also played a role in her dismissal. On Sunday, The Washington Post published an article that described a school in disarray, with students fighting, roaming the halls and disrupting classes, according to parents, teachers and police. One student was arrested for possession of a shotgun."If I had been able to keep things quiet, I'd still be there," Webster said.

Webster had been hired as principal of Roosevelt STAY, an evening program at Roosevelt High School for people 15 or older who want to complete work on a diploma. She said she was reassigned to Hart after the principal who had been hired decided not to accept the post.
Hart's disciplinary problems did not begin this year. A review team that evaluated the school last year for Rhee noted many of the same conditions that contributed to Webster's ouster.

The school was a shambles when she took over in late July, Webster said. Summer renovations had barely begun, and the school had 21 teacher vacancies. With the summer hiring process winding down, she said, she was "forced to grab whatever was left" from a pool of teachers "excessed" by schools that had closed or experienced enrollment declines. At meetings of principals, she said, colleagues told her that she had teachers they were happy to be rid of. Webster said principals at some other schools that were being restructured under the federal No Child Left Behind law had more latitude in hiring teachers. Brian Betts, the new principal at Shaw at Garnet-Patterson Middle School, was able to replace more than 30 of the 37 teachers who finished the 2007-08 school year.

Webster also said academic programs and social services promised by Rhee as part of the restructuring never got off the ground. Many of the people involved are still in training, she said. Only one instructor is available for an accelerated reading program. Webster said she tried to avoid suspensions when discipline deteriorated because they are counterproductive. "They come back worse than when they left," she said. "They come back with this swagger. It's 'I was suspended, now what?' "Eventually, however, the suspensions mounted, and there were nearly 80 in one week in October, she said.

There is plenty of blame to go around for Hart's predicament, Webster said. She acknowledged that she probably alienated staff members by coming in with an attitude that was too hard-edged -- an attitude she said was influenced by her superior's judgment that the school was in terrible shape. "I will tell you, when you come into a building where you are told everyone is crap, you come in hard," she said. In retrospect, she said, she should have taken time to form her own opinions. But others also shoulder responsibility, including an administration that didn't understand, or care to acknowledge, the depth of Hart's needs. "I would say that everyone is responsible," she said. "The community, the administrators, the teachers, the central office." Courtesy of (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Nov 10, 2008

You Make DC Teachers Promises, Promises !

"You made me promises, promises
you knew you'd never keep
promises, promises
Why do I believe?
All of your promises
you knew you'd never keep
promises, promises
Why do I believe ?
Promises, promises, promises, promises, promises, promises "
(excerpt from Promises, Promises by Byrne, Peter, Fisher & Robert).

Last Saturday at our WTU Executive Board meeting , President George Parker informed board members that he has yet to submit his last and best offer to Chancellor Rhee despite promises he made to DC Teachers earlier this school year. According to Parker, he is still working on his last and best offer with the assistance of the American Federation of Teachers. Apparently this last and best offer will now include an educational plan. Parker was purposely vague when queried about details of our tentative agreement citing confidentiality as a reason for the limited information provided to board members. If you believe Parker, he promises yet another update on our contract negotiations within a week. Stay tuned for more..... (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Nov 7, 2008

Don't Miss This Meeting !

The Washington Teachers' Union Executive Board 2nd Saturday meeting will be held this Saturday on November 8, 2008 @ 9 AM. The meeting will be held at the WTU Office located @ 490 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 7200 Washington, DC. 202-293-8600. Directions: Take 7th street south, take a right on Independence Avenue, take a left on L'Enfant Plaza SW and the union office is midway up on your left next to the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel. Please email President George Parker if you plan to attend @ Hope to see you there !

I encourage all WTU members to attend and request that your elected teacher representatives address your concerns. In this meeting the union president will provide a Contract Negotiations update. Saturday's agenda includes the following:

90-Day Plan
Summary of WTU President and Field Staff meeting with DCPS Representatives regarding 90-Day plan

Staffing and Teacher Placement
Status Report by Clay White on Teacher Placement

Grievance Update
Status Report on resolving backlog of Grievances
Key grievance and arbitration cases

Vending Machine
Status of resolving Vending Machine disbursement of funds to SCAC's

Open Season
Health Providers

Executive Board Training
Dates for Executive Board Training

Building Rep and Representative Assembly
Status of Elections
Building Rep Training
Representative Assembly Meetings

Contract Negotiations Update
Status of collaboration on education component with AFT
General Status of Negotiation

(Posted by The Washington Teacher)

Nov 5, 2008

We Baracked The Vote !

In the words of my 19 year old son JB who texted me in the wee hours this morning- we Baracked the vote Mom-my. The sweet victory of change is a coming and I can't wait ! I watched on last night while many had tears in their eyes including my family. My Dad called me several times from L.A. at a watch party no doubt. I am happy for both of my parents to be able to experience the election of an African American president in their lifetime. What really captured my attention was how in another far away land- Africa the motherland many Kenyans celebrated President elect Barack Obama's victory too. It was an awesome and inspiring evening for all.

Today my students can hold their heads a little higher a little taller. When we tell them to shoot for the stars - it has real meaning. Wow ! Picture courtesy of Yahoo. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Nov 2, 2008

Turning up The Heat !

Check out the DC Wire's piece titled: WTU Board Turns Up Heat on Parker as written by Bill Turque and Marcia Davis. It seems to me that President Parker minimizes the seriousness of a censure by his board and misses the point totally that this is a serious warning . Here is the piece in its entirety. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.

"Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) president George Parker was censured by his executive board this week, the latest reflection of unhappiness with his leadership in the contentious contract talks with the D.C. school system. Union sources said a resolution, passed by a 9-4 vote Thursday night, accused Parker of failing to keep the board informed about negotiations with DCPS, and of providing no documentation of exactly what has been proposed at the table. Parker was also accused of improperly canceling board meetings.

"The resulting state of the WTU is one of membership confusion on contract negotiations, contract compliance and job security," said the resolution, drafted by Parker's chief internal antagonist, general vice president Nathan Saunders. The measure also directed the union's attorney "to take the strongest legal action against President George Parker if the same behavior continues.

"We've put George on the 90-day plan," Saunders said, referring to a provision in school system personnel rules that allow administrators to give teachers three months to improve their performance or face dismissal. Saunders said the documentation issue is especially serious because it may impede the union's ability to declare an impasse and take the matter to mediation." (Bill Turque)

"Parker dismissed the move as an empty political gesture by Saunders. "It ain't worth the paper it's printed on," he said. "It's another one of Nathan's little ploys." Parker disputed the idea that he hasn't kept union members informed. He added that the executive board has overstepped its authority under the WTU constitution. It is the union's representative assembly--consisting of at least one teacher from each school--that wields the real influence.

This is not the most severe sanction the group could have sought. It could have passed a vote of no confidence, or directed the union's attorney to sue Parker for misconduct. Moreover, eight members of the 22-member board were absent, leaving the panel with barely a quorum.

And support for Saunders is not exactly rock-solid either. Sources said there was an unsuccessful motion to amend the resolution to express unhappiness with his leadership as well. Still, it's another sign of the deep schism among leaders and rank-and-file over Chancellor Michelle Rhee's contract proposal, which offers big salary increases in exchange for a weakening of tenure protections for teachers. A largely--but not exclusively-- younger wing of the membership is furious with Parker for not allowing Rhee's plan to come to a vote. A more seasoned camp of teachers is opposed to any contract that would weaken job security. Rhee said she has secured $200 million in private foundation funding to pay for the first five years of raises--which are contingent on union acceptance of the tenure rollback.

The labor dispute surfaced Thursday during Rhee's D.C. Council appearance, when Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) put Rhee on notice that DCPS would not be immune to spending cuts if District finances continued to deteriorate. He added that if the contract had been settled a few months ago, the District would have been on the hook legally to give teachers a pay hike retroactive to last year. Now, there's nothing in the District's wallet. "The reality is they may have missed the bus," Catania said. "The union's strategy has done them a disservice." Catania also urged Rhee and the teachers resolve their differences, saying he did not want a repeat of the 1993 teacher "sick out" and other labor problems."We cannot afford to drag this out," he said. "You sew the seeds of bad faith with a prolonged dispute." (Marcia Davis) Courtesy (Posted by The Washington Teacher).