Sep 11, 2009

The Washington Teacher Responds To Allegations

I do hope that as readers of my blog that you will read today's Washington Post's article in which I have responded to allegations recently made by the Washington Teachers' Union President, George Parker. I encourage all of you to focus on the larger issues at hand that impact teaching and learning.


Rather than accept personal responsibility for not having negotiated a union contract over the past two years as the chief negotiator, George Parker scapegoats union members while using members dues monies in order to do so. As many of you may be unaware, Mr. Parker shared with all WTU Building Representatives that negotiating a contract with Chancellor Rhee is an elusive proposition. In Parker's words to city-wide Building Reps. in an August 29 meeting at AFT, the real reason there is no teachers contract proposal is because as he stated there were 4 sticking points that prevented him from finalizing our teachers' contract proposal with Rhee. Going to impasse was an option that Parker reiterated to members was a real possibility for the Washington Teachers' Union.


Please be mindful that as we face a possible reduction in force or outright termination of teachers, now is not the time for teachers and concerned others to be at odds with one another. This divide and conquer mentality is counterproductive for all of us.


I thank many of you for your kind words, emails of enouragement and support, text messages and phone calls on this subject. I encourage all of us to stay informed about what is happening on our educational landscape. I remain committed to the transparency of our union and providing all of you with relevant information as I learn of it as I believe that information is power. I have never at any point violated union confidentiality because there is no confidentiality agreement binding me nor teacher members of our negotiations team.

In solidarity,
Candi Peterson
(The Washington Teacher)


Rhee, Union May Be Close to Deal
Chancellor Might Drop New Pay Idea To Get Other Teacher-Removal Powers

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 11, 2009

D.C. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and the Washington Teachers' Union are close to an agreement that would give the District more power to remove ineffective teachers, but both sides say the negotiations could still collapse, and the union's president places the chances of actually closing a deal at no better than 50-50.

Neither Rhee nor Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker would elaborate on the unresolved issues, citing a confidentiality agreement. Interviews in recent weeks with sources on both sides of the bargaining table emphasize that nothing is final and that any agreement would require the approval of teachers. But they also say that the deal taking shape has evolved substantially over the past year, with both Rhee and the union poised to yield ground on key issues.

Gone, for example, is the two-tiered, "red-and-green" salary plan that garnered Rhee national attention when she unveiled it last summer. It would have paid some teachers as much as $130,000 annually -- with help from private foundations -- but required them to relinquish tenure protections for a year to qualify for the top pay scale, exposing them to dismissal without possibility of appeal. Gone also, city and union sources say, is Rhee's attempt to weaken tenure provisions as they are currently written, which grant teachers with at least two years' experience due-process rights in the event they are fired.

The nearly two-year negotiations are widely viewed as a potentially precedent-setting showdown between an aggressive new generation of urban education leaders, led by Rhee, and the American Federation of Teachers, WTU's politically potent parent organization. Although the major players decline to disclose details, they agree that their bargaining has reached the endgame.

"There are a few very critical issues that both sides have very strong opinions about," Parker said in an interview Wednesday. "The question is whether we can craft language that both sides can live with. We're at 50-50."

Rhee said the two sides are "very close" and characterized the talks as "down to a couple of smaller issues."

"Would either side say it is definitely going to happen? No," she said in an e-mail Wednesday. "However, we're further than we've been."

The pay package under discussion calls for a 20 percent increase over five years, including 3 percent retroactively for each year teachers have worked without a contract since it expired in September 2007. Under the terms being discussed, teachers with good records would be eligible to earn extra money under a pay-for-performance program that would begin in 2010.

Tenure protections are likely to remain in place despite Rhee's outspoken criticism of the provisions as a major obstacle to reform. As recently as July 5, she told an audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival: "Right now, the culture within education and within the teaching ranks is once you have tenure, you have a job for life. I believe that mind-set has to be completely flipped on its head and that we have to move out of the idea that a teaching job is a right. . . . And unless you can show you are doing positive things for kids, you cannot have the privilege of teaching."

But Rhee is close to securing other new powers that would allow her to eventually remove ineffective teachers from classrooms. The proposal, first reported by teacher and WTU trustee Candi Peterson in her "Washington Teacher" blog, would allow the District to remove teachers from schools -- because of closure, consolidation, declining enrollment, budget cuts or takeover by an outside organization -- with minimal regard for seniority. Under current rules, teachers with the least amount of service are "excessed" first.

Under the proposal, teachers would be cut according to a formula that gives greatest weight to the previous year's performance evaluation, "unique skills and qualifications" and other contributions to the school community. Length of service would be weighted the least.

The proposal would also give principals more latitude to select staff from the pool of cut teachers. Currently, teachers in that group who don't find spots are assigned to schools by the school district's human resources department. If there are more excessed teachers than open slots, teachers at other schools can be bumped from their jobs on the basis of seniority.

Under a proposed "mutual consent" provision, principals would have more power to pick and choose teachers. Teachers who failed to find new assignments would have three options. They could remain on the payroll for a year, accepting at least two spot assignments as substitutes or tutors or in some other support role. If they can't find a permanent job after a year, they would be fired. Teachers could also choose to take a $25,000 buyout or, if they have at least 20 years' service to the city school system, retire with full benefits.

The proposals have triggered new tensions within the union's leadership. Executive Vice President Nathan Saunders, a longtime critic of Parker's, said the proposals all but eliminate job security for teachers.

"This contract looks to be another approach to diminishing teachers' employment rights," Saunders said.

Peterson's decision to publish draft documents from the contract negotiations drew an unusual public rebuke from Parker, who sent a letter and a voice mail message to members denouncing her for having "maliciously undermined" the confidentiality of the talks.

Peterson, who said she is not bound by any confidentiality agreement, said teachers have grown frustrated with the lack of information available about the protracted negotiations.

"He's promised to tell members about the contract, but he never follows through," she said.

Posted by The Washington Teacher


23 comments:

Kings said...

Go Candi - keep fighting the good fight.

If there's a confidentiality agreement - let's stop talking about it - let's see it.

Anonymous said...

Bravo!









Rog. Teacher

lodesterre said...

Candi,

Is there anything in the WTU bylaws that allow members to come together for a vote of no-confidence? When is the next election? And, most importantly, will you be running for Union president?

Veteran Teacher said...

Though I don't always agree all your positions, I always read your blog. You are not bound by any confidentiality agreement, as you aren't part of the negotiating team. You just did what you could to keep teachers informed, SOMETHING OUR UNION HASN'T DONE IN MONTHS. Teachers around DC thank you and count on you, your blog and other blogs for info.

Anonymous said...

Keep the news coming, Candi. I don't know why the membership never took a no-confidence vote against Parker a long time ago. Having some details early has given us an opportunity to discuss critical components of the proposed contract with other colleagues before hand.

Brava!! Job well done.

Mr. Potter said...

Candi,

I have to disagree with your decision to publish portions of the draft contract. I want to see what's going on as much as anyone, but I also feel that if something I were working on were published -- without my knowledge or consent and in draft stages before the two sides had come to an agreement -- I would be frustrated.

I respect what you do, and while I don't always agree with your positions, I always feel like I learn something new from reading your blog.

Obviously, you are under no confidentiality agreement, and did nothing legally wrong. But just because you had a right to do it doesn't mean it was necessarily "right." I have to ask: if someone you like better -- Nathan Saunders, for example -- were the chief negotiator, would you have made the same decision?

Anonymous said...

Rogue Teacher would like to vote NO Confidence for George also.

Keep up the good work. Hopefully there will be a membership meeting this year. At least one. Then perhaps we can introduce the resolution. The last public gathering was at the Convention Center. Remember the boos then? Can't wait.

Anonymous said...

Vote no confidence in George Parker- That was last years action plan. This year throw the Bum Out.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the 2009 Hart research that the union did.

The 2008 Hart study was published, but not the 09 report. What gives?

Kings said...

Harry - I see your point. But if Saunders were the negotiator, chances are Candi would be more satisfied with the contract and not see a useful purpose in publishing it.

The Washington Teacher said...

Lodesterre: The WTU Executive Board certainly could render a vote of no confidence as well as the WTU Rep. Assembly which includes the WTU building representatives. All that they would have to do is make a motion on the floor. As long as we have a quorum in either the Exec. board mtg. and/or the rep. assembly mtg. which should meet monthly - then members could vote up or down any motion.

At this point, I have not decided whether I will run in the WTU elections for 2010. Thanks for asking.

The Washington Teacher said...

Reply to Mr. Potter:

I don't like the implication of your statement. My actions have nothing to do with like or dislike. Certainly my actions are not personal. I don't dislike Mr. Parker but I do disagree with his failure to be transparent with elected teachers' union officials and union members. When we ran on this slate this was one of Parker's campaign promises.

Mr. Potter writes: " I have to ask: if someone you like better -- Nathan Saunders, for example -- were the chief negotiator would you have made the same decision ?"

My answer in a word would be 'yes'. If Mr. Saunders conducted our negotiations in the same manner as Mr. Parker - then I would conduct myself exactly the same.

Dee Does DC said...

Keep kicking ass and taking names Candi!

While I will wait to make a decision on the contract until we have a hard-copy, I appreciate you keeping us in the loop.

Anonymous said...

Transparancy,facts and a search for truth,real communications and concerns with solutions shared.Is that a breach of confidentiality ? A place for educational information unfiltered but the comment moderation has been enabled.Do you hear it thunder before a rain ? Let's see the rough draft and post it ! We want to take cover before the lightening strikes and be prepared.Those across the country that read this blog may see something in that rough draft that looks like it needs to change. Teachers are use to reading rough drafts and correcting areas of concern.

Anonymous said...

How do you end up with a contract that will work under Rhee reform ? Is Rhee reform working for the best interests of Public Education ?

Anonymous said...

Dee and other, don't you get it? There is an attempt being made to never let this thing become a tentative agreement for us to even see and be able to vote on. I personally don't think the provision of giving excessed teachers an early out if they qualify and a year to get picked up by a school so horrible.

lodesterre said...

Giving teachers an early out isn't horrible unless it is deliberately deceptive, as this one. Anyone who was at last year's ridiculous meeting at McKinley knows that George was not being forthright about the contract at that time. The lawyer's performance that night was evidence of that. There is no reason to believe he is being forthright now nor that he is working in the best interests of the union membership. We have been left in the dark for over a year. Ignorance is far more damaging to these negotiations than anything else. After all, wasn't it George who kept saying at McKinley that when we have the information we could make an informed opinion?

Kings said...

Anon of 1:55 -- the point is that some people will be excessed for the primary purpose of pushing them to take the early out to avoid the trauma of being humiliated for a year in a grunt job, then fired.

it's a way to get rid of vet teachers who otherwise would never think of leaving teaching.

The Wash. Teacher responds to Anonymous said...

This is my moderated response to an anonymous poster (as listed below).

Some people believe what they want to believe. If Rhee leaked the information that I provided to teachers on this blog, she would be shooting herself in the foot as I see it. What I have seen of this contract proposal - harms teachers more than it supports them. Teachers will be forced out regardless of their performance evaluations and are certainly devalued by this proposal. Imagine any other profession forcing you to work in either the central office or as a 1 year long term sub if you are excessed.

Mr.Parker, WTU President by his own admission on August 29th at the Building Rep. training indicated that contract talks were already derailed in front of approximately 100 building reps. I am not asking you to believe it and frankly don't care if you do. What you are doing amounts to blaming the victim. But for the life of me- I don't understand why you keep reading my blog if you are so opposed to the information I post here.

The Washington Teacher
Blog Administrator

Anonymous poster writes:
"What if this info was leaked by someone on Rhee's side?

(I dare you to publish this, Candi. Although I know you won't.)

Admit it: you impaired the negotiating process by posting this information, and you would have crucified anyone from Rhee's camp had they done what you did. "

Anonymous from Georgia said...

Just finished reading your story. All I can say is: Keep telling the truth! Unfortunately there are not enough people like us in the business of Education, so when we start telling the truth and stating the facts, people get uncomfortable. Personally, I think the fact that the mayor selects the chancellor is a big mistake anyway. But who am I? I don't have 20+ years in education, just common sense. I certainly hope things work out for the teachers in DC. BTW, if administrators actually put effort into evaluations, they would not have to worry about ineffective teachers. Isnt that what professional development is for anyway?

Peter said...

Candi,

You wrote: Imagine any other profession forcing you to work in either the central office or as a 1 year long term sub if you are excessed.

You're right, it wouldn't happen. You'd just get laid off.

The Wash. Teacher responds to Anonymous said...

Reply to anonymous @ 4:12 p.m.

The Hart research was made public at one of our WTU representative assembly meetings. Copies were given out to the WTU Building reps. last school year. Hopefully they disseminated information to the members in local schools. If not contact the WTU @ 202-293-8600 and ask them to mail you a hard copy. You are entitled to it as a member.

The Wash. Teacher

"Whatever happened to the 2009 Hart research that the union did.

The 2008 Hart study was published, but not the 09 report. What gives?"

Anonymous said...

Run for WTU president Candi!! Run!!