Apr 28, 2009

DC Teachers Deserve A Better Union President than George Parker

Teachers Deserve a Union President That is Good 4 Teachers

The Washington Teachers' Union under the leadership of union president George Parker is in dire straights. Too often Mr. Parker is as petty as they come. A DC teacher I know and longstanding and actively involved union member frequently refers to Mr. Parker as "Petty Eddie." I now understand why.

After a 4/27/09 entry on the DC Wire blog titled 'WTU Veep Sent Back To School,' WTU General Vice President Nathan A. Saunders sent an email to our executive board and board of trustees. I have learned based on reading Nathan's email that teachers' union president George Parker has yet to approve his leave of absence application to continue on in his elected role as the vice president of our union. What's interesting to note is that Parker , an elected official like Mr. Saunders, approved leave of absences for himself and certain members of the WTU staff.

Parker's delay tactic is not uncommon. He often fails to acknowledge board members concerns unless we email American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. It is not uncommon for Parker to also ignore constituents emails, or claim he is just so busy tending to union business that he is unavailable. Parker's latest act is unconscionable.

As a member of the union board of trustees, building representatives for teachers and related school personnel, as well as one who has served on union committees- I have seen first hand Parker's refusal to comply with motions passed by our executive board. He frequently fails to represent teachers in the media as required by our constitution , often doesn't make timely business decisions, fails to communicate, mismanages our union office, regularly cancels board and representative assembly meetings, excludes critical union stakeholders from having input and withholds portions of the truth from our membership. As noted on this blog earlier this year, members of our WTU executive board passed a motion in spring 2008 to seek the assistance of the American Federation of Teachers (our parent organization) due to board members concerns regarding Parker's poor management of our local.

DC teachers continue to complain that our union office under the sole helm of Parker has been ill equipped to respond to members telephone calls, complaints and concerns. With an increase in teacher complaints due to Rhee's 90-day-termination plans, Parker has been unwilling to compromise with board members requests that an administrative assistant is desperately needed for union field representatives. It is common knowledge that many who have been placed on 90 day termination plans by the Rhee administration still lack the promised administrative supports (i.e. helping teacher, etc). Little wonder why chief negotiator Parker couldn't negotiate a teachers union contract with Rhee without the assistance of the AFT.

While it pains me to post this email from WTU V.P. Nathan A. Saunders, I do so because I believe that DC teachers deserve a union president who is willing to act in the best interests of our union members and not like some woman suffering from PMS. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

April 28, 2009

WTU Executive Board and Board of Trustees:

This email is written to inform you that Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson has issued a “report for duty or be terminated” directive to me dated April 20, 2009. Her letter states the reason for this directive is that the official “DCPS leave of absence application” I submitted, is “not sufficient.” She asserts that “proper application” requires a memorandum of agreement signed by the WTU President. I have provided WTU President George Parker with a memorandum of agreement for his signature but, he has not signed it thereby negating my ability to submit the leave of absence application.

Article XVIII (E)(5) states “upon proper application, permanent teaches may be granted a leave of absence without pay for (1) school year to serve as a full time employee of the Union….” Deputy Chancellor Henderson states that WTU President George Parker’s signature is required for DCPS to grant my leave of absence.

In my attempt to secure his signature, he informs me that it may take some time “due to his heavy workload.” (see email attachment)

It is my responsibility to notify you of these matters and request you to demand his immediate action. I can be reached at (202) 213-7081.

Thank You

Nathan A. Saunders
General Vice President
Washington Teachers' Union
490 East L'Enfant Plaza, SW Suite 7200
Washington, DC 20024
Attachment #1

On Apr 27, 2009, at 7:27 PM, Nasaunders wrote:


As indicated in my previous email to you, on April 24, 2009 I left documents-for your signature- pertaining to my leave of absence from DCPS, with your assistant Herb Thomas. To date, I have not been notified that those documents have been signed by you and ready for pick up.

Please notify me as to the date and time that those documents, with your signature, will be ready for me to pick up from the WTU Office. If there are any other concerns regarding this matter, please advise me of such.

Thank you.

Nathan A. Saunders
General Vice President
Washington Teachers' Union
490 East L'Enfant Plaza, SW, Suite 7200
Washington, DC 20024

On Apr 27, 2009, at 8:03 PM, Randi Weingarten, AFT President wrote:

What needs to be done here ?


On Apr 27, 2009, at 9:22 PM, George Parker wrote:


I am in receipt of your envelope around 4 pm today left on my desk by Herb Thomas on Friday. I have not had an opportunity to review the information but will do so ASAP given my heavy workload ( preparation for negotiations, placement of excessed teachers, transition to People Soft, 90-day plan, school restructuring, teacher certification notices, etc.). Once I have had an opportunity to review the documents and consult with the WTU attorney, I will get back with you immediately.

In the meantime, if there exists any reason why you feel I should not take reasonable time to review and investigate all documents and information associated with this issue, as well as seek appropriate legal counsel from the WTU attorney, before taking any official action on behalf of the WTU, please provide the reasoning behind such urgency.

As you are aware, leave of absence to work for the union is a collective bargaining issue and how we resolve associated conflicts can possibly become precedent setting for future contract interpretation. Therefore it is critical that we analyze all facts that led to this unfortunate incidence, how to avoid this in the future, and legal options for resolution.

Finally, to date, as WTU President I have received no official notification from you that you have reported for duty as a full-time DCPS ET15 WTU bargaining unit member at Eastern SHS, although rumors are that you reported. Please advise. I will get back to you within the next 72-96 hours.

George Parker

Apr 16, 2009

Herald of Truth Award

And the Award Goes To: Bill Myers, Staff Writer for the Washington Examiner

"Here's to a real DC journalist dealing with covering the news on public education reform in DC and not sweeping it under the rug. " The Washington Teacher

Although it is reported that DC's Shadd Transition Academy has improved since the beginning of the school year, some are not so happy about Bill Myer's recent DC Examiner coverage which outlines a chronology of horrors in three Examiner articles. As you may recall this special education program was under the direction of Dr. Phyllis Harris, DC Deputy Superintendent for Special Education who was hired by the Rhee administration from Oakland, California. Many soon learned that Dr. Harris had her own share of problems even as an administrator in Oakland public schools. As reported first on The Washington Teacher blog, Dr. Harris allegedly got the boot from the Rhee administraton during the fall of 2008 , according to inside sources.
The Washington Teacher covered a piece titled: "SOS - DC Shadd Center: A Wholly Mess" on October 9, 2008. This entry was a follow up to "NO Special Education Teacher For You." A DC teacher colleague sent me an email regarding some of the problems at this self-contained warehouse for students diagnosed with emotional disturbances. I also talked with other un-named sources. I reported that there was a significant teacher and service provider shortage at Shadd with morale problems and many safety concerns for both students and staff. In addition, sources acknowledged that DC's central office administrative staff were deployed to Shadd due to teacher vacancies . DC teachers also complained that some staff were placed at Shadd outside of their area of certification .

Unfortunately, what many fail to realize is that DC special education centers like Shadd are just the tip of the iceberg with what's wrong in special education in the District of Columbia Public Schools . This year many of Dr. Harris' newly created special education programs even like the one where I work in S.E. were poorly designed from the outset. Not only did many of these programs lack a written model of service delivery, they also lacked the necessary certified special education teachers and related school personnel and the program resources, professional development that came too little too late and out of control students who present discipline and safety issues that contribute to high turnover rates of inadequately trained teachers and para-professional assistants. Many of these newer programs rarely receive the 'promised assistance' from central Office special education managers. Local school principals that house some of these special programs often have to supplement their limited school resources .

Here's to DC teachers and related service providers who stayed put in some of the worst special education programs and try to 'wing it' on their own without the resources they need despite Chancellor Rhee's daily regimen of teacher bashing . There is no apology that can compensate our DC parents for the types of atrocities that occurred at Shadd and other special education programs serving the E.D. (emotionally disturbed) population. Here's Bill Myer's most recent April 14th article titled:

Council woman challenges Rhee on special-ed ‘disaster

"An Examiner investigation published Monday revealed a host of problems in the planning and opening of Marion P. Shadd Elementary School in Southeast D.C. A D.C. councilwoman Monday pressed Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to explain what went wrong in her attempt to create a special school for the city’s most troubled kids.

Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, said Rhee should give a public explanation for a series of costly failures at the Transition Academy at Shadd Elementary, a refuge school designed to provide intensive therapy for some 175 “emotionally disturbed” teens and young adults. “As they’re experimenting, our kids aren’t getting the services and care they need,” Cheh said. “You may have had a colossal waste of money in a part of the school system that has been wasting money for years.”

An Examiner investigation published Monday revealed a host of problems in the planning and opening of the school. Not enough teachers or staff were hired, the building was considered unsafe and infested with rats, and kids were rushed to emergency rooms in droves thanks to daily, sometimes hourly, riots in the hallways. The school was supposed to be Rhee’s case study in rebuilding the moribund $300 million special education system, which is already subject to two federal consent decrees. Instead, the school system fell further behind as untrained special-ed bureaucrats were thrust into Shadd in a vain effort to keep the peace. By October, a federally appointed monitor was declaring Shadd “a disaster.” A desperate “relaunch” by Rhee’s bureaucrats has calmed things down, but Rhee is still being urged to close the school and start again.

Cheh supported Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s takeover of the $1 billion school system and approved Rhee as chancellor. But she said the revelations at Shadd were a blow to the chancellor’s credibility. “Every time we ask about special ed, we’re told, ‘Trust us. There’s a plan. We’re making progress,’ ” Cheh said. “This undermines all that. They should come forward with an explanation and also say what comes next.” Rhee didn’t respond to requests for comment. " (Posted by The Washington Teacher). Article courtesy of http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/

Apr 10, 2009

Hypocrisy of Mayoral Control

The Mayor Is Out Of Control !

Norm at Ed Notes on Line has an excellent piece on mayoral control titled: Barron, Klein, Spellings, Sharpton Confrontation: New Video by Angel Gonzalez. I wanted to share this with my readers here in Washington, DC. I believe Norm's piece deserves front page billing. Even though the subject of Angel Gonzalez's video is about NY public schools - it sounds eerily familiar to what is happening right here in the District of Columbia Public Schools . I can't say that that NY parents and teachers didn't warn us before DC Mayor Adrian Fenty started down this very slippery slope of mayoral control of our public school system. I encourage you to watch closely this must see video.

There are many similarities of mayoral control of public schools gone bad in NYC and DC. They include: waiving public school superintendent's credentials, pitting charter schools against public schools, blaming teachers, failing to be transparent as promised, disenfranchising parents and other critical stakeholders, dumbing down the curriculum, teaching to the test/creating test taking mills, and blaming schools when they fail after they have not received required funding , etc. For example, when 31 of DC Public Schools did not receive the funding they were due in SY '08-09, DC Schools Chief Financial Officer , Noah Wepman said that it won't happen AGAIN next school year. Oh Really? It's hard to believe this especially when a plan was not immediately developed by Fenty, Rhee or Wepman over 1 year ago and only some adjustments were made. It wasn't until 1 year later after the release of the study by Mary Levy on DC public school funding was featured in the March 28th WaPO article by Bill Turque titled, "Study Questions Disparities in Funding Among Some Schools"did the general public learn that there was such a problem with funding. This is just not acceptable from an 'administration that vowed transparency' to the DC community.

Courtesy of
Ed Notes on Line & Angel Gonzalez: "In a brilliant new video, Angel Gonzalez of ICE and the Grassroots Education Movement exposes the hypocrisy of mayoral control and the phony mantra that their critics are all about adults and they are all about children." Here's Angel's introduction :

4-3-09 "Sharpton-Klein National Action Network / Education Equality Project Forum with pro-mayoral control and pro-charter school panelists from across the US. NYC Councilman Charles Barron condemned their privatization of public schools agenda. After protests from the NO Mayoral Control Coalition, Sharpton conceded Barron's address prior to the speeches of the panelists. Barron condemns the profiteering & the educational devastation promulgated by the Bloomberg/Klein Dictatorial Control of public education in NYC. "- Angel Gonzalez (Posted by The Washington Teacher)


Apr 4, 2009

No Money For You DC Teachers !

In article that appeared in the DC Wire on April 3, 2009- the title says it all "No Dough for Teachers in Funding Formula." Just like DC students, DC teachers have been pawns in Rhee's political game and are still being mislead by Chancellor Rhee and her company spokesperson- Dena Iverson. I also blame the Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker, the Chief Negotiator for the predicament DC teachers are presently in as well. Parker created a controversy when he allowed Rhee to present a pay proposal to DC teachers last summer that was not legally feasible and encouraged teachers to believe that they did not have seniority rights. Both Rhee and Parker have all of us "Going In Circles" for these last 20 months like lyrics to the song,

"We're an ever rolling wheel without a destination real and we're an ever spinning top, whirling around 'till we drop Oh, but what are we to do ? our
minds are in a whirlpool, give us a little hope - one small thing to cling to
you got us going in circles Oh, around and around we go, going in circles Oh, around and around we go.... going in circles"

It is Parker not Rhee who should have been looking out for the best interests of ALL teacher union members. After all we pay Parker a hefty six figure salary to be our union president and chief negotiator which implies that he is our chief agent and should be adept in labor relations and negotiations, responsible for oversight of the WTU contract negotiation team as well as responsible for the interpretation and application of contract language, negotiations, and implementation of collective bargaining agreements and settlements. Rather than work with the WTU negotiation team in the best interests of DC teachers and related school personnel - Parker chose to meet privately with Rhee and company in order to craft some 'clandestine deal' that even members of the WTU negotiation team have complained that they had minimal input and knew little about. This is a NO-NO in labor negotiations.

WTU Chief Negotiator, George Parker should have first explored with our the WTU law firm- O'Donnell, Schwartz and Anderson whether DC teachers had seniority or not. Had Parker done this, initially he would have been advised that teachers have seniority under the Merit Comprehensive Pay Act and Rhee nor anyone can negotiate, take away these legal statutory rights. Reason being- statutory rights are not contractual and cannot be negotiated in labor negotiations.

Parker should have also determined whether a privately funded contract was feasible for DC teachers who are also District of Columbia Government employees. Had Parker done this - he would have learned that city regulations require before any raises can be guaranteed to city workers- they must first be in the city coffer. Makes sense to me. The reason being- should a private funder (hypothetically speaking) like Bill Gates wake up one morning and decide to withdraw his private funding for teacher raises - then the city still would be required to pay out these hefty raises because of a legal binding contract. Had Parker done his homework, he would have saved all of us a lot of time squabbling over red and green tiers and fantasy pay raises that will never come to fruition . In other words, Parker should never have allowed Rhee to try to convince DC teachers into thinking that teachers do not have seniority. He should not have allowed Rhee to present a pay proposal last summer that wasn't legally feasible in the first place .

Turque's DC Wire piece reveals that there is a proposed 2010 budget for a performance based teacher contract under the per student funding formula. According to William Singer, mayoral budget expert's March 25th email - he stated that the District and other funds will be sufficient to support a compensation structure that is consistent with the Chancellors statements. Here's the catch- Rhee's spokesperson, Dena Iverson states that it ain't so. According to Iverson : "the payroll increases and performance pay system we have proposed are dependent on funding from foundations." Seems like Rhee isn't the only one not listening to DC Government's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Natwar Gandhi.

Where are we in terms of getting closer to a teachers' contract that is good for DC students and fair to DC teachers ? ... We're an ever rolling wheel without a destination real, we're an ever spinning top rolling around to we drop... (posted by The Washington Teacher). Quotes courtesy DC Wire.

Apr 2, 2009

Knock, Knock- Chancellor Rhee, Anybody There ?

It's time for a counter contract proposal from Rhee that's good for students and fair to teachers. This line is taken from the WTU buttons and yard signs recently displayed by teachers, parents, DC and suburban residents.

At this point, DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee and WTU President, George Parker will enter a little over 20 months and counting of bargaining for a teacher contract here in Washington DC. On January 31, 2009- WTU President George Parker submitted a Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) contract proposal along with the assistance of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to Chancellor Rhee's office for review. So far no counter proposal from Michelle Rhee. If we believe what we read in the DC Wire, Rhee stated the proposal looked favorable in February. However, in later reports Rhee claimed many of the WTU's contract proposal recommendations as her own. Go figure.

We just passed the two month waiting mark on March 31st. The kind of stalling tactics on display by Rhee seem intentional and could be designed to make DC students, teachers and the WTU wait as long as it takes for Queen Rhee to offer a counter proposal I suppose.

A little birdie told me that Rhee is not talking directly to Parker anymore even though Parker is the WTU's Chief Negotiator. I guess you could call Rhee's technique distance bargaining, bargaining put on hold, bargaining gone on vacation, too busy to bargain, or I'll show you whose in charge bargaining- just to name a few. To me one of the most crucial issues is that these two must communicate with each other and the WTU negotiating team not just through Rhee's subordinates. Leaving the WTU negotiating team out of the loop and demonstrating an unwillingness to collaborate is just no way to conduct labor negotiations .

Rhee continues to toy with us, by suggesting that the hefty privately funded pay raises promised to teachers is still an option despite recent statements to the contrary by Chief Financial Officer (CO) Natwar Gandhi in the news. Mr. Gandhi indicated that the DC government CANNOT GUARANTEE private funding for teacher raises.

Rhee can continue to stall us at the negotiation table. After all Rhee makes well over $275,000 with bonuses and perks. Not to mention that she knows that our union buttocks are in a proverbial sling pending the mayoral appointment and city council confirmation of two long awaited Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) appointees. Even if both sides were to agree to go to impasse- PERB has only 1 member and union cases aren't being heard.

Knock, knock Chancellor Rhee- anybody there ? It's time for a counter offer. Better answer the door- because we're not going away ! (Posted by The Washington Teacher).