Oct 9, 2009

Show Me The Data Why DCPS Teachers Were Fired !

When I learned that four WTU Executive Board members were laid off during the latest reduction in force I was devastated. They included Willie Brewer, Agnes Dyson, Sheila Gill and Robert Willis. Three of these board members were some of our teachers and related school personnel most ardent advocates. Could it be coincidence that the most vocal of them were hardest hit ? I don't think so. Having our WTU Executive Board wiped out like this in an instant will have an adverse impact on conducting business at the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU). So far we have lost two other board members to retirement, one board member is no longer a teacher and therefore no longer eligible to be a board member while another has vowed not to return. Getting rid of our advocates in this way ensures that no one is sitting at the helm to represent the interests of city-wide teachers and related school personnel. This is the real tragedy as who will speak for you ? Firing our strongest representatives ensures that Rhee will have a greater likelihood of getting a teacher contract ratified that is unfair to teachers and bad for students.

What is most troubling to me is that our WTU President, George Parker did nothing to stop this DCPS train wreck even though he saw it coming. As some of you may be unaware there are mandatory reporting laws that require agency heads like Rhee to inform unions in anticipation of a layoff as well as apprise the union of the names of workers who were laid off. Consistently Rhee fails to apprise our union of anything with no push back from Parker. The WTU under the helm of Parker has been accused by our members of being Rhee-active versus Pro-active. As our union president, Parker has not filed any unfair labor practices as suggested by our labor attorney. What a pity for our members.

I supported the recent WTU Rally For Respect which was co-sponsored by our national organization, American Federation of Teachers (AFT). However, as one of our union members stated in a special meeting -it was day late and a dollar short. I am still waiting to hear what are Parker's next steps for relief to fight what he calls arbitrary and capricious termination by Rhee and company ? In our union meeting on Tuesday, members learned that while our union filed an injunction against layoffs- the bar for this legal maneuver is quite high. What happens next if we don't win ?

According to an October 2, 2009 report by Mary Levy who has analyzed the DCPS budget for many years : " Reconstitution of school staff took place in June 2008 and June 2009. If there were excess teachers, the problem was known then and a RIF (reduction in force), if needed could have been done in June, without disrupting instruction. " The million dollar question is why then did Rhee hire 900 new teachers when for the last seven years the city has averaged 294 new teacher hires annually . Hiring 934 new teachers in inconsistent with annual hiring practices according to Levy.As noted in today's WaPo, our WTU attorney states : "DCPS' attempt to disguise this mass discharge as a 'RIF' [reduction in force] caused by a 'budget shortfall' is clearly a pretextual attempt to sidestep the [Washington Teachers' Union] contract and to discharge a substantial number of veteran teachers." 

Ms. Levy questions in her report questions whether the RIF was the case of too many teachers ? I think not. Levy's one page report reveals that "at the beginning of last school year DCPS lost over 4, 300 students. At a ratio of 20 students per classroom teacher, that could mean 200-250 excess teachers. The system terminated 248 teachers in June 2009, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (US GAO). Additional teachers resigned or retired. " Levy asks some important questions to clarify where is the data and other information justifying cutting school staff in October. After all isn't Chancellor Rhee accountable for data as well ? After all it is government funds that Rhee is managing not her own personal bank account. I can't wait until Mary Levy completes her full analysis of this whole mess so we can get to the bottom of why teachers and related school personnel were really terminated. Perhaps then our union president, George Parker will get up off his duff and take Rhee head on in this fight and other battles to come.

This Saturday, DC public high school students will have an opportunity to challenge Rhee's decision to fire 266 teachers, school social workers, school psychologists, librarians and school personnel before the DC City Council at 11:00 a.m. On October 16- the DC City Council will hold hearings on these layoffs. It is my hope that as many teachers and related school personnel will testify. Arrangements can be made to testify after your work day ends at 3:30 pm.

If we are truly data driven then we must ask for all and any data that involve these terminations by Rhee . Talk is cheap and it's time for accountability for those at the top to be held to the same standard as those of us lower down on the food chain.
Show me the data.

The bottom line is after the council hearings on these layoffs are finished , what's next ? You tell me what actions that you would like to see .

Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson blogger in residence


Anonymous said...

Rhee requires teachers to provide data on the spot. So, why doesn't she do the same? Is is because she needs time to falsify the documentaion?

Anonymous said...

Rhee needs time to manipulate the data, make false statements about it and hope people forget about it before the real data comes out, which she tries to prevent.

Sharon B. said...

Now, I'm going to be very Blunt!!!! All this TALK and rationalization, and analysis, and blame is sickening. I've said before that all we need to do is shut the schools down. It's got to be felt. As long as the talk continues NOTHING will happen. If you know you have a compromised and weak President (and he has been since the beginning), you then take things into your own hands. Let the chips fall where they may. Try and organize a "sick out" and shut the doors of the school houses. There are ways that it can be accomplished. You're going to have to be creative. Understandably, everybody needs a job, but the madness must stop. Rallies are great, getting the truth out is fine, but when the rubber meets the road, they must be able to FEEL the knock out punch. There should be a "work to the rule" implemented immediately. If you don't have enough teachers during the day, then the same should apply to after-school. If there are no "babysitters" to watch them in the afternoon and tey start getting into trouble...oh well. It's not something we want or encourage, but sometimes as a parent we must administer "tough love". Come on folks, lets stop pussy footin around and in the words of the great theologians The Isley Brothers "fight the powers that be ".

Anonymous said...

What's amazing to me is that she's allowed to constantly spin. When she was on Fox 5 this morning, she reacted to the protests and the students involvement as well, we expected it; but it doesn't matter because it's done and won't be redone. Really, she and Fenty are willing to risk it all and not safe the schools at the same time. I really don't think if we fast forward that something miraculous is going to happen to change around the system that she has so worked hard to dismantle and what will they say then?

Sharon B. said...

On October 16th flood the City Council Chambers. Everyone should try and testify. Arrangements to be made after school to testify? POOO !!!! It starts at 10 AM. The next question is what's next?

I_educ8 said...

I agree with Sharon B. Rallies and marches only serve to get media spotlight shone on an issue. Enough is enough!

My question: what's next? I'm tired of reading--and writing--the same kinds of things on blogs and comment boards. I, too, think we need to do something to shake this system to its core. Desperate circumstances require desperate measures!

lodesterre said...

If you are a teacher and live in this city you need to be in the ear of your council member, along with any neighbor, friend or family member that lives in the city. If you are a teacher who lives outside of the city you need to be in the ear of the many people you know who live in DC and get them complaining. Along with this we need to get our parents behind us and get them to realize what is going on under the name of reform. We really do have the numbers and that is what sways politicians one way or another.

If we strike, however, we will lose our parents. Period. We end up looking anit-child which plays into Rhee's hands. We cannot act in anger no matter how angry we are.

Kings said...

I agree with lodesterre - A strike looks worse than what Rhee is doing, even if it's not, and will get even more negative press.

I think a massive turnout at the upcoming council meetings are a good idea, more pieces from respected, obviously competent teachers in the paper. More gathering and reporting of REAL data from your schools; More demonstrations; more shows of strength in numbers without taking time out of the classroom.

Maybe some of this can be led by those newly RIFd teachers who suddenly have time on their hands.

AVERY said...

We must remain in the press.

Work to the rule sounds good.
A sick-out will have the same result as a strike. We have to be smart and pro active not Rhee-active.

Continue to protest. Teachers with the extra value added data on your evaluations better watch out, you are next.

The Wash. Teacher said...

There were many good recommendations at our WTU September meeting. Of course some did not want to consider some of the proposed actions. So here we are again- no where.

I was really surprised at the passivity after many learned that teachers and school personnel would be fired. We were supposed to have a membership meeting to discuss various options but that has not been scheduled to date by WTU Prez George Parker.

Avery said...

There is an interesting article in the Post. It states much of the same things Candi has said.

Did Rhee Overplay Her Hand or Seek A Showdown? - Robert McCartney

Sharon B. said...

Understand something!!!!! I am from a BIGGER urban city than this (Philadelphia). When the going gets tough, the TOUGH get going. If you do your research what you will find is that almost every union in the larger cities. STRIKE!!!!! when conditions are not to the teachers liking. In this case it is down-right criminal what is going on. It's time for the "correct" way to approach this and other issues here in DC in a manner that will get the correct peoples attention. Call it Rhee-active if you will. IT IS NOT!!!! I am soooooo pro children that its ridiculous, and sometimes in life the hard things have to be done. You might be correct when you say the parents will be mad. Hell, that's exactly what you want. You want the parents to be fired up. What that will do, is make them start saying.. Give these folks what they want. Maybe they need to start losing time at work, or having to find and pay for sitters. There is always more than one way to get things done. STOP being afraid. What has it gotten you thus far? NADA., and you still may get the ax for being "correct". If MLK Jr was afraid to take quantum leaps, where would we all be? Something to think about.

Sharon B. said...

In case you didn't know; You're in the Army now!!!! You're in a fight for your very existence. When you're trying to win a battle, you don't say " ok, we have to be very careful that we don't appear to be........" You start swinging with everything you have. Well, the time is now people. Pick up any weapon in your arsenal and FIGHT!!!! This battle is not for the faint of heart. We need real soliders. Like my grandma used to say " if you can't stand the heat, get out the kitchen".

Anonymous said...

Sharon B. I feel your anger and I understand your anger. The disrespect for teachers is nation-wide and there needs to be a strong action plan in place so that teachers can go back to teaching and being respected. However, a caveat to everyone who wants to do a walk-out or sick-out. It's called the Taylor Law. You need to investigate if this is imposed in your state. The Taylor Law prohibits any city employee to strike, walk-out or have a sick-out. But, I do agree with you that a class-action protest must be done where teachers en masse can make the land shake hard to the point of extreme awareness by all. Good Luck and I support all the members of the WTU!