Nov 11, 2009

Simply Fired: Pink Slips for DCPS CFO's

Seems the Rhee administration can't keep a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Turque reports on the "The hard road of Michelle Rhee's CFOs" in the DC Wire which is The WaPo online blog.
A DC insider posed a few interesting questions on the DCPS CFO story for all of us to consider: "Remember former CFO Graham left and received a job with Home Depot (Corporate). Rhee found out and blocked the position that she would have gotten and they rescinded it just like Rhee continues to do to principals who attempt to get jobs in other school systems.  Wepman also was removed from Special Education because of his poor handling of funds.  The question I would ask is what agreement was made with Rhee, Gandhi, and Fenty and what does Wepman's firing package include along with his new job ?"
I thought you might be interested in the goings-on in the DC Chief Financial Office. Here's the latest on that story:

"D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi named a new interim school system CFO Tuesday. Noel Bravo, a former senior budget adviser to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, replaces Noah Wepman, who resigned or was fired, depending on who you ask.

Bravo is walking into what has become one of District government's most punishing posts. Wepman's departure marks the second time on Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's watch that the school system's top fiscal officer has left in the wake of questions about the transparency of the agency's budget process.

Wepman and his predecessor, Pamela Graham, took different paths to the exit sign. But both ultimately discovered that trying to keep the numbers straight under Rhee's high-velocity attempt at transformation can be dangerous to your career health.

Part of the peril is structural. A congressional directive from the financial control board era gives the District's independent chief financial officer, not the head of the school system, power over spending. The set up put Wepman and Graham in a difficult position from the start: answering to District CFO Natwar M. Gandhi but facing enormous pressure to say "yes" to a chancellor given virtual carte blanche by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty to fix the schools.

Graham ran into trouble two years ago this month, when Rhee faced hard questions at a D.C. Council hearing about a projected $115-million-plus deficit in the school system budget, which members said they learned about only that day.

At the 2007 hearing, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), produced a memo from Graham urging Rhee to impose a hiring freeze and reduce spending. Graham attributed some of the deficit to what she called Rhee's improper hiring and promotion of 132 employees.

"The practice of overriding process and procedure in hiring new employees must not continue," Graham wrote. In what has become a recurring theme, Council members complained that Rhee's management style was disclosure-averse. They were also unhappy with DCPS' failure to get information to the public about the 2009 school budget in a timely manner. (School officials got somewhat better marks on that count this year).

Appearing on Rhee's behalf at the hearing was Wepman, a program manager for then-City Administrator Dan Tangherlini. He said in an interview that officials were disappointed that Graham prepared her memo without the administration's input.

Graham resigned in March 2008, as a direct result of the clash over new hires, The Post's V. Dion Haynes, quoting sources, reported at the time. Her replacement was the boyish-looking Wepman, then 34.

"The chancellor and I have a very good relationship," Wepman he told Haynes. "I have a good understanding of where she wants to take the school system and what reforms she has in mind," he added. "We're all on the same team."

He met his demise after the Oct. 29 council hearing on this fall's teacher layoffs and budget cuts, which followed the hiring of more than 900 new instructors. Testifying ahead of Rhee, Wepman disclosed the existence of a $13 million deficit, or "potential pressure" as the Chancellor's office describes it, in the 2010 budget that helped to trigger the 266 teacher layoffs. Wepman discussed it with Rhee in July, but never told Gandhi, who certified the budget as in balance without knowledge of the issue. Council members started calling for his ouster.

There is no evidence that Wepman withheld the information at Rhee's behest. What kind of consultation took place between Rhee and Gandhi prior to his accepting Wepman's resignation is also not known.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said:

"Noah has worked hard on behalf of the children of the District of Columbia for almost six years, and we are grateful for his service. Noah resolved the budget issues and balanced the DCPS budget by creating a solid reduction plan before a deficit ever materialized. However, he was unwilling to allow surrounding questions to distract from the important and ongoing work of school reform."

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


Anonymous said...

Michelle Rhee has to go! MR had no regards for laws and procedure that are in place to prevent these type of situations from occurring. Anyone else who found themselves in this position would have been fired along time ago.

Michelle Rhee has to go!

Sharon B. said...

Everone is of the same mind!!!! Michelle Rhee has to Go!!!! The question that needs to be asked is "How do we accomplish getting rid of her?" Then following that question we must ask "Who will step in and tackle the mess she's made?" There has to be a "Plan B" when and if she goes.

I also wanted to throw another thought out there. Just like MR can travel around to different cities spewing her venom, a coalition of teachers should get together, see if someone would be the sponsor in terms of raising funds, and that group of teachers should do likewise and tell the "real story" of what is actually occuring in the DCPS. The nation needs to hear from the victims themselves along with supporting documents.

Anonymous said...

If we get this traveling coalition, it better be good - no one can match MR in terms of star power, so our people need to be very credible- that is armed with facts and using the kings english

Anonymous said...

Somehow this just does not make me feel better. I feel like he was used as the scaptgoat and now everything is ok. This did not even make the major news. I fear that the City Council, Union,the teachers left in the buildings have all forgotten about us. Rhee has gotten away with this and who knows what's next. I agree that MR needs to go but I also agree how do we get rid of her and what is the plan once she is gone. I really believe that we need to organize and have a clear plan. I can be contacted at

Anonymous said...

I urge you all to research that happened in Chicago, Arne Duncan then CEO of Chicago Public Schools fired over 1000 teachers, and closed over 500 neighborhood schools. When the Union, community, and parents would not rally to help the teachers they helped themselves. They started their own organization and filed a law suit in June on the grounds of racial discrimination. This may inspire us.

Sharon B. said...

"Star Power" is overrated. TRUTH dear anonymous cannot be refuted. See, Ms. Rhee tells lies. The coalition doesn't need to be famous with a following..They need to take one step at a time and gain momentum. The following will come. Yes they will need to be armed with facts, and yes, they must be in command of the english language. This would not be a competition, but a mission of TRUTH.

Glenn Watson said...

This paragraph from Rhee is very interesting, especially the last part.

"Noah resolved the budget issues and balanced the DCPS budget by creating a solid reduction plan before a deficit ever materialized. However, he was unwilling to allow surrounding questions to distract from the important and ongoing work of school reform."

Is the implication that Noah should or should not have been unwilling to allow surrounding questions to 'distract him?' If the surrounding questions came from the city council then Rhee also did not want Noah 'distracted.' Rhee wants to fix the schools and any awkward question are by definition 'distractions' that Noah dutifully 'resisted' in the pursuit of 'important work.'

Rhee seems to be saying Noah was let go because he was doing what she wanted him to do but she says it in such a strange way that it almost seems she is castigating Noah for doing what she wanted while at the same time praising him for doing it.

It’s a lovely bit of double speak.

Anonymous said...

We miss you Ms. Gill. Why did they fire you and let Wilson stay on? You realy had our students' back. Mr. Pinder does not care for any student in the school and I know this first hand. I understand there is a teacher there who truly does not teach and the students are fed up with this.

I remember that you had my baby's back when others did not.

You always had a caring and cheery up beat nature that is not false. I hope you are doing major court action for your case and hope you win.

We know you will. No matter what anyone says or believes, God is in control and is in the process of putting his foot down as I write this!

The word is that parents and students talk about Mr. Pinder like a dog for real!

Got your back!

Anonymous said...

If god were in control of this process, it makes you wonder how it ever could have happened.

I think we should look to human causes and human solutions

Anonymous said...

Some things or situations happen for a reason.

Keep the faith!

Anonymous said...

What is the cause that monumental unjust and illegl activities go on in DC amongst those in high places on an ongoing basis more now than ever. What is that cause, many are Godless. I have been in many states, but DC has far too many people that actually say aloud "there is no God"

I then understood DC in full at that point and why many things have and will happen!