May 30, 2009

A DC Teacher Speaks From The Hart

Hart middle school in S.E. Washington is being reconstituted and as many of you know has been in the news throughout this school year with stories about 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. The Washington Teacher covered what was happening at Hart back in November 2008. Hart is a school which merged with P.R. Harris Educational Center this school year against the advice of parents and community activists. Hart's problems have been complicated by not having adequate funding to run the school. When these complaints surfaced in the news, Hart's principal was fired by Chancellor Rhee instead of being given the supports the school desperately needed. It should also be noted that Hart was not given the financial support that it was entitled and this was revealed after the Levy report documented that approximately 31 schools did not receive the funding they were entitled based on their student enrollment. How does one run a school without adequate funding is beyond me ?

I am posting a copy of an email that I received from a teacher at Hart middle school so that you can see based on this insider's experiences that Chancellor Rhee is following through with her promises to rid our school system of a significant core of our DC teaching force as revealed in her 5 year educational plan. No credible school system seeks to rid a significant majority of its workforce. Who really cares about our students and the chaos Rhee's actions and 5 year plan of mass terminations and buyouts will create? Certainly not Rhee and company.

I also have my doubts that certain elected teacher members of our Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) Executive Board care about what's happening on our educational landscape either. One such board member who ironically happens to teach at Hart middle school along with a group of board members fails to 'adequately represent' the teachers they are elected to serve. In some board meetings, certain board members read cook books and magazines while others consistently nod off to sleep. Some do not attend board meetings regularly and one board member makes it a point to prematurely motion to adjourn most board meetings in the midst of our trying to conduct business because she would rather go home than address hard core issues.

At last week's Thursday's executive board meeting, a core group of board members ignored the pleas of teacher colleagues' complaints from the trenches. Even in the face of allegations of discriminatory practices by the Rhee administration which surfaced, our union members' cries went unheard and this motley crew of disengaged board members refused to take any action on these complaints. This same group of board members failed to insist that our union president hear the questions/comments raised from a teacher visitor about the 90 day plan. They also are usually on the DL (down low) and don't vocalize any concerns to WTU President Parker on most issues of merit. In the matter involving our WTU General Vice President, Nathan A. Saunders' leave of absence - this group of board members were missing in action (MIA) even while community activists, parents, teachers and the media expressed their outrage at Parker for taking his blessed time to resolve this matter expeditiously.

I hope you, like me take these violations of due process more seriously than some of our lackadaisical executive board members, union president and Chancellor Rhee. Here's the email from my teacher colleague working in the trenches. Even though some members of our union, are falling asleep on the job, The Washington Teacher is listening . Keep sending me your emails c/o The teacher's name has been removed in order to protect confidentiality.

A DC Teacher Speaks Out ....
"Hey Candi, I am a teacher at Hart middle school, and I read your blog. As you know, we were told at Hart that we had to either reapply for our jobs or become excess employees. I was placed on the excess list as well as many of my colleagues who either didn't reapply or opted out. The majority of teachers from the old regime at Hart (with the exception of two) are not coming back.

Anyway, I was just wondering if you had heard the news about all the other teachers being excessed. This week, the teachers at Kramer middle school , Kelly Miller Junior High, and Johnson Junior High were all excessed! These schools were not even on the list to be reconstituted. Then, Rhee allegedly went to Kelly Miller and told the teachers that, if the City Council did not get her 27.5 million back, then all the excessed teachers would be fired! I wonder why more people are not talking about this, because it is absolutely ridiculous!

When we go to these teacher fairs and tell them we are from Hart middle school, they look right past us as if we are invisible. A colleague of mine even told me that a school told him they were primarily only interested in teachers who were from "outside of DCPS". At Hart, the principal is walking around interviewing prospective teachers right in front of us for jobs for next year. The funny thing is, every single person he's interviewed (at least the ones that I know of) are from OUTSIDE of DCPS.

It is almost as if Michelle Rhee is purposely excessing all the teachers from restructured schools, replacing them with teachers from outside of the system, making it next to impossible for them to get jobs within the system, and then trying to use the 27.5 million as an excuse to terminate them. Meanwhile, students from at least 10 schools next year (and probably more that we don't even know about next year) will have to come back next year to buildings where they practically won't know a single adult working there! It will be absolute chaos!

Anyway, you are probably already aware of most of this, but I just wanted to give you a point of view from someone who works in one of the schools that's being reconstituted. I really hope that whatever scheme Rhee is pulling (as well as all of her other schemes) becomes exposed because this is absolute insanity!"
(Posted by The Washington Teacher).


Old School DCPS said...

This looks like it may be a theme: outside of DCPS. None of the excellent and experienced teachers in my school who applied for summer school were hired. These are not merely veteran teachers. They are long-time professional career educators who know how to teach and motivate children to learn. They were not picked up to teach summer school, much to their surprise. They were told that positions were already filled.
Summer School was recruting teachers in a way I'd never seen before, as a veteran teacher. Usually, there is no outside of DCPS hiring for summer school. My friend in a neighboring county says it's the same where she teaches; hiring for summer school is within the system only.
It looks like this is a pattern and it is perfectly in line with Rhee's 5 Year Plan. In it she states that a significant portion of the current teaching force (that means you and me) are not up to the job of effectively teaching DCPS students. So that means getting us out and putting others in.

Anonymous said...

It's very obvious what she is trying to do. The question is, will we, the DCPS staff, be dumb enough and lackadaisical enough to let her get away with it??? Right now, it looks like that is what we are doing.

Anonymous said...

Fire, Fire, fire, for all veteran teachers your just a number to Rhee. Unless of course she's convinced you to become a mouth piece for her sinister plan.

A Veteran Teacher said...

No, we are not just a number. We are much more: we are, in Rhee's mind, exactly what is wrong with DC schools. We are burned out, retired in place, deadwood, bedroom slipper wearing, badly spoken, lazy and incompetent, unable to get jobs anyplace else, too young or too in debt to retire. We teach phonics and the phonovisual method instead of "literacy", times tables instead of higher order math thinking skills. Our methodologies haven't changed in thirty years and we don't want them to. And we aren't leaving unless she dynamites us out.

Old School DCPS said...

Another thing. I looked at the on Friday and noticed a posting about a job fair, like the next day. Funny, I thought. That's not a lot of notice for excessed teachers or teachers who want to transfer. But that's just the point. Current DCPS teachers are not the ones Rhee really wants placed. She wants new hires, in the restructured schools, in summer school and anyplace else she can put them, over veteran, experienced teachers.

The Washington Teacher said...

Veteran Teacher: While you may speak for yourself, you certainly don't speak for me nor does your characterization represent my experiences. I imagine that there are countless others who will agree with me. This is not to suggest that there aren't teachers in our mist who suffer from burnout.

What troubles me is your painting everyone in DC schools with one monolithic brush. It is historically how whites have portrayed African Americans as lazy and incompetent and needing to pull ourselves up by our own boot straps.

Generalizations and stereotypes of any kind are dangerous and do not help anyone to arrive at solutions to the problem. You veteran teacher sound a lot like Chancellor Rhee and her team of incompetents. Bash teachers, blame teachers, call them incompetent and a host of other negative adjectives to anyone who will listen, then click your heels three times and presto maybe when you wake up from your fantasy our school system will be reformed.

Heather said...

I think we need to admit that plenty of the type of teachers the previous poster mentioned do, in fact, exist in our schools.

Heather said...

By the way, I like the clever play on words here, Candi. ("From the Hart")

Anonymous said...

It should also be noted that Hart was promised an outside partner from the Charter system this school yearto provide the school with resources, support, and professional development. A representaive from the Charter that was supposed to be working with Hart even came in on the last day of school last year to speak to the staff about the resources they were going to bring to the table. However, when the school reopened this year, this partner was MIA and things were the same ole same ole.

Anonymous said...

Washington Teacher,

I think VT was being sarcastic and/or simply stating Rhee's opinion of veteran teachers, not necessarily his/her opinion. Since their name is "Veteran Teacher", I seriously doubt the poster would bash him/herself.

The Washington Teacher said...

Thank you Anonymous for your clarification. I do hope you are right that Veteran Teacher's comments were an attempt at sarcasm but I'm not so certain.

Veteran Teacher said...

Sorry, Wash Teacher (our dear Candi) for any confusion. And I'm glad anonymous above got my point. Sometimes saracasm or subtlety in print is not clear. I was not saying that we veteran teachers were all those negative behaviors I listed. My point was that those are the things Rhee and her people think about us. Maybe some veteran teachers may be a little burned out. But my experienced friends and I get reinvigorated every day to try to make a difference in children's lives.

pat said...

Vet teacher -- not to worry - I got it immediately - maybe because I feel the same way.

DC Teacher said...


I want to start going to these executive board meetings. And I might be interested in running for a spot next go-round. Sounds like we need more people with a backbone and a voice.

Anonymous said...

Candi, thank you for the information. I am very troubled by what seems to be a very short sighted and punitive approach to employing ways to make our schools better. Please keep me informed as we move forward together to bring about respectful, inclusive, progressive and equitable change in our schools.

Service Provider said...

As my handle implies, I am a related service provider. At the beginning of the month, when I checked my paystub via PeopleSoft, I was correctly identified by my title. When I checked last week it had been changed to "teacher, elementary." I wonder if this is just a glitch or another part of Rhee's nefarious scheme to get rid of all veterans, not just teachers.

Has any other provider had the same experience?

Anonymous said...

I'm the Anon that Veteran Teacher replied to. I get exactly what you were saying. My point is yours.
Your talking about the method that Rhee uses to make teachers seem less than human. I just spoke about the bottom line. Rhee only cares about her narrative. She's very good at dehumanizing teachers. While at the same time over stating her comcern for children. Rhee is an
symbol of everything wrong in our education culture. She has cleverly used corporate America to expand her own personal and business interests in blaming teachers for Americas lack of committment to poor people especially African Americans. In a few years she we be seen as the most exploitive con woman every to grace the pages of Time magazine. The Rhee Con can only go on as long as it fueled by misinformation and cheerleaders like The Washington Post. She has laid waits to thousands of educators and support workers careers. She's Washington DC version of a weapon of mass destruction on the black middle class. Something that a lot of people in this area have wanted to see for a very long time the firing of black workers in mass. I think people don't see the shifting tide. She and her boss over played their hand. When he goes, she goes, and takes her hatred and subtle racism with her.

andrew said...

Michelle Rhee was served up to the DCPS by the "global economy". Globalization is at the very foundation of business model for schools, charters, vouchers, data driven instruction, merit pay, standardized testing, and most perversely of all, paying students to consume their version of education. It was the reason the Business Roundtable and Bill Gates were interested in public education at all. The CEO's wanted a profit making private school system and Gates wanted visas for Indians and Taiwanese who work for less. Lacking any discernible qualifications, her shocking appointment as Chancellor of D.C. public schools, can be understood only when you realize that Michelle Rhee was brought in to inflict maximum damage on the district's public schools and its children. And as a cultist (Teach For America, New Teacher Project) and true believer she came at a bargain basement salary. Really qualified superintendents were courted (Mayor Fenty even visited Miami with several members of the D.C. commission to interview Dr. Rudolph Crew) but those candidates would have asked questions. They could not be counted on to mindlessly take a club to D.C.'s public schools. The havoc and chaos that Rhee caused was no accident. It was the plan!

But in the midst of the global economic wreckage Rhee looked around the other day and her financial backers were in trouble. Melinda Gates' and her husband lost $18 billion of their personal fortune last year, and Eli Broad's KB Homes and his insurance division of AIG are in freefall. The Gateses and Broad have gone to see about their own survival.

The recent Time magazine profile provides great insight into Rhee's true mission. In it she denigrates every other adult in the D.C. school system including her staff. She mocks teachers that dare speak of building an emotional connection with their students. She clearly and coldly exploits a true leader at Anacostia High, young Mr. Rhodes, to advance her agenda. She seems to have no use for children being nurtured emotionally in the classroom. Just teach them to read for the test! And make sure there's no poetry involved!

When the history of Michelle Rhee's brief tenure in Washington, D.C. is written one of the last chapters will describe the heroic resistance of the WTU rank-and-file.

Blessed are the union teachers, for they shall inherit the public schools. Remember it's always darkest before the dawn.

Kat said...

Candi, please, the phrase is not "in our mist," but "in our midst." You've made this particular error twice in this post.

As for Hart receiving PD, they were assigned a literacy PD who was largely an embarrassment to the PD department: when she actually showed up for trainings, she was always late, had nothing of value or importance to contribute, then would complain and talk you-know-what about people sitting right next to her. I feel for Hart, because if that's the professional caliber of employee they're stuck with, no wonder they're trying to clean house.

Mr. Potter said...


A bit hyperbolic, don't you think? You say Michelle Rhee was brought in to ruin DCPS. But DCPS has been being ruined for the last 40 years. You can disagree with her and think she's making things worse (and I think there's a case to be made there), but be honest -- this school system was a crap storm way before Rhee.

The Washington Teacher said...

Kat: Writing a blog is a herculean task. To do it effectively, one really needs an editor. At the very least another set of eyes because it is so easy to make multiple mistakes. I kid you not, I have made aboout 5-6 corrections to this post already.

I state this because even after you read and re-read your document many times sometimes there are still mistakes that you miss.

While I appreciate you noticing that I am far from perfect, I will still have some errors like other bloggers. If you can live with the fact that sometimes after I put an inordinate amount of time researching, reading emails and burning the midnight oil to write- my eyes and sanity are not in tip top form. Bear with me as I am a work in progress. ;-)

Anonymous said...


You are making generalizations about an entire teaching staff based on your experience with one person. Yes, there are incompetent employees at Hart. But there are incompetent employees everywhere. The person you are talking about had only worked at Hart for one year anyway. There were many teachers at Hart who did a wonderful job working with very challenging students and situations. There were teachers who had been in that buliding for years and who had developed strong rapports with parents and their children. However, these teachers were let go without any cause or reasons being given to them, which is grossly unfair. I assure you most of the teachers I have seen the principal interviewing for our jobs (mainly TFA, Teaching Fellow, and Charter School rejects) are going to fare no better than us (if not much worse) in dealing with the very complicated situations surrounding Hart.

andrew said...

Mr. Potter, wasn't being the least bit hyperbolic. Probably understated the threat to public education in DC presented by Rhee's appointment as Chancellor.

Whenever poverty and racism are allowed to fester in a society, you get a "crap storm" as you so colorfully put it. But it is the poverty and racism that need attacking not the institutions they sully. Did you know that DC has the highest rate of severe poverty (10.8%) in urban America?

Michelle Rhee was brought into the DCPS and given a clear mission by her corporate masters. Undermine the unity of DC's teacher corps and destroy their union, promote the charter school movement and create havoc in the regular public school system. Her every action has been to prepare the ground for the abolition of the public education in the nation's capital.

No hyperbole, just going where the evidence leads.

Anonymous said...

"Create havoc", Andrew?? As if none existed??

Oh, right: what was in place when she arrived was "chaos," not havoc.

So sorry.

Anonymous said...

Cosign, Andrew. Well stated (written)!

The Washington Teacher said...

This comment is just in from KAT (below). I decided to moderate this comment as the owner of this blog. Unfortunately, Kat you don't know me. I am not attempting to put anyone on the defensive, white or black. That's not how I roll. Blacks and whites are already polarized especially in this country.

For the record, before you or anyone else misrepresent my statements as a blogger, I wanted to set my own comment straight.
I often by choice do not discuss race relations on my blog or in certain venues because it is my belief that some things whites and blacks just will never agree on. In print, people often want to mischaracterize your statements and attribute something that isn't there.

My comments as you have quoted have no hidden agenda and are historically factual and are only in response to the previous post on this blog. This is what I intended and nothing more.

Surely if you read my blog at all, then you know that I do not support the status quo in DCPS. I don't support mediocrity in the workforce or in management but I do support equity and fairness. Everyone should be held to the same standard of following the law and government regulations including the Chancellor and the mayor. Of course this is not the case and many believe these two operate as though they are above the law.

The devil is in the details and many in power don't really want to talk about the real hard core issues and solutions, just give lip service. I have put this issue to rest regarding your most recent comment. Thanks,
The Washington Teacher

Comment from Kat

"It is historically how whites have portrayed African Americans as lazy and incompetent and needing to pull ourselves up by our own boot straps."

I'm going to call you on this, Candi. The purpose of making a comment like this is to put whites on the defensive, polarize blacks and whites, and move the debate from issues that really matter (e.g. improving education, for one) to the downward spiral of race history.

Surely you don't think the current state of DCPS is acceptable. So please explain to me how a comment like this, from a locally well-known blogger such as yourself, furthers the debate rather than mires it in racial (and racist) politics?"

Anonymous said...


I'd just like to say that I can't for the life of me understand why you allow the postings of "Kat" to foul your blog.

Such relentless negativity and criticism can only come from a provacateur. She's one of Rhee's minions and she's trying to tie you up in meaningless debate.

Hit the delete key when Kat comes a callin'.

The Washington Teacher said...

Thanks Anonymous, I like your suggestion about the delete button.

highschoolteacher said...

Scary! I'm always scared of a new word (it is at least new to me): excessed.