Oct 29, 2009

Reform The Rhee-form





In the October 29 council hearing, Chancellor Michelle Rhee demonstrated that she violated the law when she laid off hundreds of teachers and school staff. Rhee by her own admission acknowledged that she decided not to adhere to cuts previously approved by the legislative branch of government. Noah Wepman, CFO for DCPS certified the school budget and at no time did Rhee  submit a reprogramming  request to  the DC City Council as required by law when shifting funds. Not unlike Mayor Fenty her boss, Rhee also failed to communicate what she was doing with Chairman Gray or council members. Instead of reducing summer school programs in order to reduce costs- Rhee decided unilaterally to lay off teachers and school staff after hiring 934 new teachers this school year. Many believe that Rhee intentionally over-hired in order to worsen the already growing budget deficit which has now reached a whopping 20 million dollars under her helm. 
As reported in the WaPo in an article by Bill Turque:  "Joyce E. Smithey, an employment lawyer with Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, said in an interview that "if the evidence shows that the chancellor hired employees in bad faith, then the question is whether she did so with the goal of forcing a layoff of older employees. If that's the case, then any admission about advanced knowledge of budget troubles could be damaging." This abuse of power will more than likely help DC RIF'd teachers and staff get their jobs back.  In the words of Council member Michael Brown let's "Reform the Rhee-form ." Rhee & Fenty gotta go !

Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson - blogger in residence, graphics by Celeste Jones. Quote courtesy the WaPo.

Speaking Out On Behalf Of DC Teachers, Students And Schools

No TRO For DC Teachers

As reported by Bill Turque of the DC Wire yesterday evening - here are the details of what happened in the TRO (temporary restraining order) hearing filed by the Washington Teachers' Union. Strangely enough no article on this subject appears in the Washington Post on line site.

No TRO For WTU, Yet

"The Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) failed today in its bid to secure a court order barring the District from formally discharging the 266 public school instructors and staff it laid off Oct. 2. But a D.C. Superior Court judge left the door open to taking action next week.

The educators have been on administrative leave, collecting salary and benefits for the last month, but are scheduled to be dropped from the city payroll this coming Monday.

WTU has sued, arguing that the action was an illegal mass firing and not, as the District contends, a budget-driven reduction in force. The union wants a permanent injunction that reinstates the teachers and returns them to the classroom while the matter goes before an arbitrator.

But an initial hearing on the suit is scheduled for Nov. 5, three days after the final ax drops on the teachers. Union attorney Lee Jackson asked D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff for a temporary restraining order (TRO) compelling the District to keep the teachers on the payroll, arguing that once the teachers are off the books, it would be far more difficult to force the District to return them to their jobs.

Bartnoff wasn't buying, however, telling Jackson that keeping the teachers on leave status would not make any material difference to District schoolchildren, who have been without their services since Oct. 2.

"If you were a student at Spingarn High School when teachers were let go on Oct. 2, the reality [now] is no different than it will be next Monday," she said during the 90-minute mid-morning hearing.

Bartnoff was also more than a bit annoyed with Jackson for the union's decision to wait until this week to file for the TRO, when it had known for a month that the teachers would receive their final discharge on Monday, and the Nov. 5 hearing date had been set without objection.

"You could have asked the court to have a hearing...prior to Nov. 5. You never did," she told told Jackson.

The District's attorney, Robert Utiger, said that the machinery of discharging the teachers from the payroll was complicated and time consuming. At this point, he said, the process was far enough along that a restraining order would make little difference. In other words, restoring the teachers to the rolls would be no more difficult after Nov. 2 than it is now.

After hearing that, Bartnoff said she would consider the TRO and the permanent injunction together at next week's hearing. But she extracted a commitment from Utiger that the District would not use the passage of the Nov. 2 deadline as an argument against restoring the teachers to the payroll if that's what she ordered.

And she added: "The District should be prepared for the possibility that the teachers be put back on the rolls." Bill Turque


Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson - blogger in residence, story courtesy of DC Wire.

Oct 28, 2009

WTU Loses Temporary Restraining Order

This just in- the Washington Teachers Teachers Union Temporary Restraining Order was denied in court on October 28 by Judge Judith Barnoff of DC Superior Court.

Details forthcoming. The preliminary injunction will be scheduled after DC teachers' termination on November 5.

Posted by The Washington Teachers' Union featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence

Oct 27, 2009

Chancellor Rhee's Negative IMPACT on DC Teaching Staff

Rhee's IMPACT = (Equals)

-the terminations of masses of teachers, administrators and school personnel
- at-will central office hiring and firing
- a revolving door workforce created by terminations, RIF's & employee resignations
-ongoing hiring of new teachers and staff despite claims of budget deficits
- the erosion of due process rights for workers
- a hostile teaching and learning environment 
- appointment of numerous unqualified administrators 
-threatening new leaders who disparage teachers in order to lead
-a self-made budget deficit to justify terminating primarily veteran teachers  
-draconian performance based appraisals with inadequate staff development & roll-out
-police escorts of RIF'd employees
-fabricated lies by Mayor Fenty/Chancellor Rhee about RIF'd employees performance appraisal
-over sized classes, teachers assigned outside of certification, cancellation of high school classes needed to graduate, student unrest, parent dis-satisfaction

Posted by The Washington Teacher, Candi Peterson blogger in residence, Celeste Jones, graphic artist

Oct 26, 2009

Chancellor Michelle Rhee's Hit List


Rhee's Hit List of DC public School employees : Coming soon to a school near you !


1. WTU Executive Board members

2. DC Teachers

3. School Counselors

4. Custodians

5. Principals

6. Vice principals

7. 90 day plan teachers

8. Registrars

9. Attendance clerks

10. Administrative assistants

11. Librarians

12. Music and art teachers

13. Service Providers

14. Central Office staff

Who will be next?



Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson - blogger in residence, Celeste Jones - graphics

Oct 25, 2009

The World According To: Principal David Pinder Of DC's McKinley Senior High School


On October 16, 2009 there were parents, teachers and school staff who testified about the recent DC Public Schools layoff fiasco. What topped the list was the testimony by McKinley students, staff and parents about the infamous Principal David Pinder , new leader from Baltimore, Maryland. The October 16 council hearing was shown as recently as yesterday evening on DC television and also is available on the DC city council website. The council hearing set a record and lasted from 10:00 am on Friday and went until 4:00 am on Saturday. 

The top story according to RIF'd McKinley High School 12th grade counselor, Rhonda Robinson was her allegation that David Pinder created false transcripts of classes for certain McKinley High School students. Robinson reported that these students never took the classes that appeared on their transcripts and actually received high school credits and grades. Robinson shared with Chairman Vincent Gray that she has evidence of these acts by Principal Pinder and plans to submit proof to the city council chair.

Other acts reported by various students, staff and parents who testified before the council ranged from bribery of students and staff with money and other favors , failure to report drugs and guns on the school premises, an illegal audit, an OAG investigation, inappropriate behavior on the part of  the principal with McKinley SH students on Face Book social network, Pinder disinvited students to attend McKinley High School without cause, intentionally reduced the enrollment of the student population, illegally suspends students or threatens to suspend students without cause, fails to consult with Local School restructuring Team, targeted certain staff members for termination, made the school top heavy by hiring numerous administrators,  and discussed staff members in a derogatory manner in the presence of students, etc.

I strongly encourage you to look at the October 16 hearings if you live in DC. They are scheduled to appear on DC TV. If you do not live in DC go to the  DC Council website and click on watch live where you can view the October 16 hearing on scheduled dates. 

There were many horror stories from various credible sources of the atrocities that are occuring within our schools that are going unchecked . After listening and seeing some of the testimony first hand, I literally felt sick to my stomach and wondered what the DC City Council who has oversight management of school governance will ultimately do. It is obvious that this unchecked abuse of power that seems to be rampant in many schools can't help but have an adverse impact on our students, staff and community. 

If you are concerned about what is happening in our schools then encourage parents, community residents, labor representatives, RIF'd and terminated teachers, principals, vice principals, school staff, retired teachers, administrators and concerned others to show up on October 29, 2009 @ 10:00 am to the Wilson Building located at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Chancellor Rhee will testify before the council on the DCPS budget, equalization and the controversial RIF (reduction in force) in what many believe was fabricated in order to rid the system of a significant share of our educational workforce particularly veteran teachers.


Posted by The Wash. Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence. Graphics by Celeste Jones.
 

Oct 23, 2009

Join DC Teachers And Others Fighting To Save Our Jobs

Updated Message! 

 

 

Affected teachers and other DCPS employees can retain the law firm of

Joseph, Greenwald and Laake, P.A.

to file for a temporary retraining order against their pending termination

from DCPS due to an alleged RIF

 

 

Three hundred eighty-eight (388) affected DCPS teachers and other employees will no longer be employees of DCPS as of November 2, 2009. Unbeknownst to teachers, the legal filings of their representative, the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU), did not request a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). WTU President, George Parker reported that a preliminary injunction has been scheduled for November 5, 2009 at our most recent Thursday, WTU executive board meeting on October 22. Also see DC Wire link on the WTU amended lawsuit:  http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dc/2009/10/wtu_amends_suit_district_holds.html


The purpose of seeking legal representation is to attempt to obtain a TRO The WTU’s court case filed promises a hearing after the affected teachers’ date of termination in 2010.  This strategy ensures one fact: teachers and other DCPS employees will be fired effective November 2, 2009 and will be fighting to get their jobs back.  Some legal experts consider “fighting from the bottom” a disadvantage in this type of case as courts often are more reluctant to reinstate individuals than to provide them legal relief if they are still in their positions. 

 

Nathan Saunders, WTU General Vice President, Candi Peterson, Blogger in residence at The Washington Teacher and rank and file union members make no statements concerning the WTU’s actions other than the facts herein.  Approximately sixty affected teachers and other affected employees had an exhaustive meeting with Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A. to discuss legal options this past week. It is paramount that affected employees assist in the success of this endeavor by ensuring maximum participation of affected employees. Time is of essence, as failure to participate and not enough preparation time ensures that nothing will happen.


Interested parties are encouraged to visit the website of the law firm to explore its history, experience and activities particularly in employment law at jgllaw.com.   Should you need to discuss this matter further, please contact Nathan Saunders on 202-213-7081 or Candi Peterson at 301-613-6092.  You may also email me c/o saveourcounselors@gmail.com  with your name and telephone contact information if you are desirous of getting additional information. This TRO is available to other RIF'd employees. Feel free to spread the word.


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

Mayor Fenty/Chancellor Rhee: AKA The Gate Keepers Of Terminated Workers

In the Fenty/Rhee graveyard lies the bones of many terminated employees including competent DC teachers. Will you be next ?


Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, Picture courtesy of Celeste Jones

Oct 21, 2009

Last Chance, Last Show Down: Chairman Gray vs. Chancellor Rhee


A picture is worth a thousand words. Stay tuned for the October 29 hearing where Chancellor Michelle Rhee is scheduled to appear before the DC City Council of the whole. Stay tuned for more as protests of the October 29 hearing are planned by parents, teachers and community residents.

October 29, 2009 @ 10:00 am
Committee of the Whole Round Table
The District of Columbia Public Schools 2009-10 Equalization Process
Budget Reductions and Reduction in Force (RIF)
Location: John Wilson Building, Room 500

Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson- blogger in residence. Graphics by Celeste Jones.

Oct 20, 2009

Free Legal Consult For All DCPS RIF'd Teachers and School Counselors

You are invited to a special meeting with the law firm of

Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A.

A free, two hour consultation has been arranged for DCPS Reduction In Force (RIF) teachers, school counselors and service providers who will be terminated effective November 2, 2009 only. This closed session is for informational purposes only and is being held to ensure that you have an opportunity to discuss your legal rights. Your participation in this legal consultation does not impede representation elsewhere.

When: Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Time: 4:45 p.m. - 6:45 p.m.
Where: 6404 Ivy Lane
Suite 400
Greenbelt, MD 20770-1417

This is a closed meeting organized by the rank and file union members. An RSVP is required. You may also visit the firms website at
http://www.jgllaw.com/

Many teachers/school counselors have wisely sought outside legal counsel to protect their valuable employment rights in addition to their union. You might want to also. Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA has an excellent reputation for handling similar matters.

Feel free to contact Nathan Saunders, WTU General Vice President @ 202-213-7081 or email The Washington Teacher c/o thewashingtonteacher@gmail.com Contact us if we can further assist in this matter.

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

Oct 19, 2009

DC Parents Task Force Invites Parents To A City-Wide Meeting

Save The Children
All wards and all schools are invited to attend a DC parent task force meeting tonight. DC Parents are coming together due to their concerns about public education.

Location: 
Israel Baptist Church
1251 Saratogoa Ave NE
Washington, DC (Rhode Island metro & plenty of parking)
Meeting Date: October 19, 2009
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.


email: parentstaskforce@gmail.com
contact information: 202-903-6197 or 202-669-7006


PTA and LSRT members will be in attendance.

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

Oct 18, 2009

A Dark Day In Public Education: DC Teachers Slam Rhee

I have posted The Washington Times October 17 article by David C. Lipscomb below. Lipscomb writes about the October 16 DC city council hearings in which many testified about Michelle 'Teacher Terminator" Rhee and the adverse impact of her management decisions on DC students. There were 103 people slated to testify including myself and many parents, labor leaders, teachers and school counselors. Teachers came out in droves and among those present were not only teachers and school counselors who had been terminated but many still among the rank and file. It was a dark day at the DC Council hearing where reports of inappropriate conduct, fear, intimidation, threats, terror, bribery, violence, discrimination and racism topped the list.

Council, Teachers Rap Rhee Over Firings

"D.C. Council members on Friday voiced their frustrations with recent firings by schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, which she has blamed in part on school budget cuts by the council. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray denied that he and other members were responsible for the Oct. 2 layoffs of nearly 400 school employees, saying he suspects they were an intended consequence of overhiring earlier this year by the school system.

"So much of this makes absolutely no sense," Mr. Gray said during a hearing, which drew more than 150 public witnesses. "This is about getting rid of people they wanted to get rid of." Mr. Gray questioned why the school system hired more than 900 teachers earlier this year, only to cut teachers six weeks into the school year. No one from the mayor's office testified Friday, but Ms. Rhee is scheduled to appear at a hearing on Oct. 29. Friday's hearing was the second of three hearings on the subject, the first of which was held Oct. 10 and heard testimony from D.C. schools students. Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said the school system would not comment before the next hearing and referred The Washington Times to an online fact sheet about the reduction in force.

More than 260 teachers, counselors, custodians and librarians, many of whom were escorted out of schools by police, were given notice of layoff. The document blamed the layoffs on a $42.9 million budget shortfall for this fiscal year. It attributed the shortfall to $20.5 million in budget cuts by the council, a $20.5 million reorganization of the school system's administrative budget, and $3 million in leave and severance pay to school system employees.

Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker voiced concerns similar to Mr. Gray's and also noted that grievances by teachers have doubled since Ms. Rhee took over. Mr. Parker said preliminary numbers seem to indicate the school system was targeting teachers 40 and older. The numbers could not be immediately verified.

Testifying teachers agreed that many of the firings appeared to be motivated by age, but some said they also thought Ms. Rhee was targeting outspoken teachers. Willie Brewer, a teacher for 25 years and a member of the union's executive board, said he thinks he was terminated from McKinley Technology High School for both reasons. "[I have] gray hair, and I'm getting old, and I'm an advocate for the union," Mr. Brewer, 53, said. "Today you cannot raise your hand and ask questions. You're setting yourself up for termination."

Agnes Dyson, who taught special education at H.D. Woodson Senior High School, said she doesn't know why she was terminated but thinks her opposition to one of Ms. Rhee's compensation policies for teachers may have been a factor. "I was outspoken against the red tier and green tier," Miss Dyson, 40, said, referring to the plan that would allow teachers to choose a standard pay schedule or a performance-based pay system with bigger potential payoffs. "I stand for what's right for teachers."

Council member Kwame Brown, at-large Democrat, said the elimination of teachers is another example of a pattern of callous behavior on the part of the mayor. "There's no good way to get rid of people, but I can't understand why they always pick the bad way," Mr. Brown said.

Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO President Joslyn Williams said Ms. Rhee should be fired, claiming unionized school workers have lost faith in her ability to cooperate with stakeholders. "I don't think there's hope for change with this chancellor," Mr. Williams said outside the hearing. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration "gave her a blank check. She went out, and she wreaked havoc on our system." Mr. Gray said he has concerns about the chancellor's ability to work effectively with parents, teachers and others and does not expect to get many answers at the next hearing. "I guess I can remain hopeful, but if history is any guide, I am not very optimistic, to tell you the truth," Mr. Gray said."

Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson- blogger in residence, story courtesy of The Wash. Times, graphics courtesy of Celeste Jones

Oct 17, 2009

Another New DC Principal Bites The Dust !

Mr. William P. Lee who just started in summer 2009 resigned last week as the new principal of Patterson elementary school which is located at 4399 So. Capitol Terrace SW.  It is reported that Mr. Lee lacked experience as a principal and worked last in a non-management capacity in Montgomery Co. , Maryland. As a new principal, Lee reportedly had strained relationships with parents in his school community and would frequently deny them entrance to the school. Teachers have reported that this school year alone Mr. Lee made multiple changes to their grade level assignments which resulted in students being confused about who their teacher actually was . Mr. Lee reportedly removed new playground equipment from the modernized school despite the chagrin of parents, teachers and the community. 

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

Oct 15, 2009

Cornell Students Protested Rhee's Speech On Campus

This opinion article appeared in the Cornell Daily Sun and explains why students from Cornell University protested Rhee's speech.  

Cornell Students Explain Why They Protested Rhee's Speech on Campus

link: http://www.cornellsun.com/

Teachers Unions Protect Teachers: Will Chancellor Rhee '92 Listen?
October 14, 2009 
By Andrew Wolf

"Everyone remembers that special teacher who touched his or her life. We all have had that teacher who would go the extra mile to help usindividually - a teacher who dug into his or her own pocket book to buy colored pencils for our art projects.

We remember this teacher because he or she did not just make us feel cared for, but also made us feel capable. Due to his or her skill, we were empowered; we were motivated. This teacher clearly did not become a teacher for fame, for glory and certainly not for fortune. This special teacher picked his or her profession because of a desire to help our
country reach its full future potential.

In public schools in most states that special teacher was probably in a union. Furthermore, I bet that special teacher of yours loves his or her union because it empowers him or her to fight to improve the quality of your education. Teachers unions are democratic expressions of teachers and their values. Each teachers union is not comprised of external forces but is instead comprised of the teachers themselves. As such, the goals of teachers unions are the goals of teachers. That special teacher used his or her voice in his or her union to fight for you; teacher unions fight for small class sizes, for more computers and for the right of every American to receive a high quality education.

What does that teacher expect in return? As we all know, teachers have never been paid at a level that matches the amount and quality of their of work, so clearly pay is not their motivation. Basically, in return for their service, teachers ask for a basic degree of fairness. They ask that if they are laid off or fired, that it be for a just cause and not because of discrimination.

Above all, they ask for respect and the right to be included the shaping of their classroom. Who would know better how to improve the delivery of education than those who do just that day in and day out? People become teachers because they want to improve students' lives and they use their unions to help them accomplish this goal.

The Cornell Organization for Labor Action, of which I am a member, protested Michelle Rhee's '92 talk last week because it does not believe she respects the important role teachers and their unions play in shaping the future of education in this country. We feel that Chancellor Rhee, instead of working with teachers to fix the problems afflicting our education system, has presupposed that the problem is teachers themselves. Our quarter card, which was criticized in The Sun last week in both a column and editorial, outlined the ways in which Chancellor Rhee denies teachers the right to participate in the education reform debate.

First, my fellow members of COLA and I take issue with the fact that Rhee wields layoffs as a key component to education reform. While layoffs are an unfortunate result of our current economy, Rhee often uses layoffs to fire experienced teachers based on the unfortunate assumption that youth and vigor is always better than experience.

Second, COLA disagrees with Chancellor Rhee's belief that standardized tests hold the key to education reform. Furthermore, we disagree with Rhee's attempts to evaluate teachers based on these standardized scores. In a 2008 report "Grading Education" by the Economic Policy Institute found that measuring teacher and school performance by these tests was an utter failure. The study found that these tests forced teachers to "teach to the test," stifling creativity and vastly under serving top-performing students. It found that such programs result in teachers fighting with each other to keep successful techniques hidden instead of encouraging cooperation. Overall, the study found that these tests narrowly focused on reading and math, while ignoring the whole growth we should expect from our students. Perhaps most horrifying, though, the EPI report found that schools, fearing that under-performing children would drag their schools funding down, often stuffed these children into special education classes or falsely suspended them on the day of the standardized test. The EPI report concluded that measuring performance solely on standardized test scores can in no way properly evaluate the success or failure of schools or their teachers. Yet, Chancellor Rhee wanted to institute this type of policy and she tried to do it unilaterally without anyone else's input. COLA disagrees with these actions.

Third, COLA, myself included, disagrees with the arbitrary nature of Rhee's policies. In 2008, the US Congress, worried about Rhee's approach, asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate her practices. The Government Accountability Office found Rhee at fault and criticized her for instituting policies without clear guidelines and without consulting teachers, parents or the community. COLA joins in this criticism as we find the exclusion of teachers, parents and the community in shaping education reform counter-productive.

Fourth and finally, I demand more accountability from Rhee in regard to her policies. Last year, Rhee fired numerous principals without explaining her criteria or evaluation process. This was troubling because many of these principals were from the District's top-performing schools including the Oyster-Adams Bilingual Elementary School where Rhee's children attended. My fellow members of COLA and I worry that without transparency, Rhee abuses her authority to silence her critics.

These were the four points outlined on COLA's quarter card, which I helped to compose last week. COLA believes these issues directly relate to the future of education reform. We believe that Rhee denies teachers their right to participate in the process of reform where their voices and commitment are so deeply needed. Instead, she silences them and vilifies them through firings. COLA believes this is counter-productive and we again ask Chancellor Rhee to include teachers in the process of education reform.

Every year, Cornell sends more students to Teach for America than any other university, often including a COLA member. These students enter TFA excited at the prospect of making a difference in young peoples' lives. Hopefully, many of you who join Teach for America will become teachers in the long term. I know that those same values that drove you to service will drive your efforts in your union and in reforming our education system. The only question, then, is: Will Rhee listen?

Andrew Wolf '10, a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, is a member of COLA."

Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, opinion article courtesy of Cornell Daily Sun, picture courtesy of Education Next

Oct 14, 2009

The WTU Throws In The Towel On DC's Laid Off Teachers And School Counselors


A WTU Executive board member, Sheila Gill wrote to the WTU President George Parker and members of the WTU Executive Board and Board of Trustees expressing concerns about the direction the Washington Teachers Union is taking by scheduling a meeting with laid off teachers to discuss retirement benefits (see email from M Lenoir below). What is concerning is that the decision to host a retirement seminar was done so without even notifying members of the executive board and board of trustees. I too am disappointed that the WTU under the helm of Parker is ready to throw in the towel on DC laid off teachers. It seems that we are in desperately in need of a strategy to combat these teacher and staff lay-offs. Don't you agree ?

 Most of you have written what's next ? Your guess is as good as mine. From where I sit- it looks like the WTU's strategy after the rally for respect is to encourage laid off teachers to go ahead and retire.

Good morning Mr. Parker and WTU Executive Board members:

"I'm confused. What are you doing about getting the RIF'd employees their jobs back ASAP? Who doesn't know how to retire? We are educators, we can read or do research on how to retire. The question to you again, "What are you doing about getting the RIF'd employees jobs back today ? I'm disappointed in your direction of resolving the reduction in force issue,if your intent is to discuss retirement benefits/process. Please be a part of the solution and not the problem. I am very concerned about the purpose of the meeting scheduled for Thursday, October 15 from 
10:00 AM- 12:00 Noon at the Peoples' Congressional United Church of Christ."

Sheila H. Gill
Laid Off School Counselor
 
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2009
From: M Lenoir
To: WTU Members
Subject: Personal Emails, Emergency Meeting-RIF'd Teachers

WTU Members:
The Washington Teachers' Union will be holding an emergency meeting for all RIF'd teachers on Thursday, October 15th from 10 am-12pm. The purpose of this meeting is to provide information on the retirement benefits of DCPS Benefits/Process and also the AFT Benefits/Process. Representatives from the Washington Teachers' Union, the American Federation of Teachers and DC Public Schools will be in attendance.

Monique LeNoir
Director of Communications
The Washington Teachers' Union
1825 K Street, NW #1050
Washington, DC 20006

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

Oct 13, 2009

McKinley High Student Ike Challenges DC Teacher Layoffs



The highlight of the rally for respect was the speech given by a McKinley high school student known as Ike (pronounced EK) who was a co-leader in organizing the student protests against DC teacher layoffs. His speech was awesome as he encouraged the audience to resist the forces of tyranny. E.K. was articulate, self-confident and inspiring to what turned out to be a mostly adult crowd. The crowd at Freedom plaza let out a roar in response to E.K.'s  comments about the student meeting with the McKinley Tech. high school principal, David Pinder. 

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

DC Teachers Request Your Personnel File Today !


Let a word to the wise be sufficient. This is an email that I received that I think is important and worth sharing especially for recently laid off teachers. 

Dear Candi:
"A note to other recently terminated individuals.  Using a reduction-in-force  (RIF) event and a CDLF procedure gives the employer practically all the options and impression of fairness in the process but with such wide latitude in assigning scores to the categories,  much capriciousness could be involved.  The veil of privacy in invoked by employer.  However, every terminated or RIF'ed employee is entitled to a complete copy of their own personnel record including all of the CLDF forms just recently used to "justify" each termination.  This should includes all evaluations and all paperwork regarding employment even including everything associated with a "90 day improvement plan".  

Terminated employees should ask for a copy of their complete file when terminated or as soon thereafter as possible.  The individual can then decide what to do with this information.  Possibilities include an individual lawsuit, joining others in a combined law suit,  sharing some or all of the documents outright to the public or news media, writing up a paraphrased versions for larger consumption or none of these possibilities and just file it away for when one decides to write one's memoirs.  Possibly some parts could be used to apply for other positions.  At any rate, the paramount action is to ask and get this file to preserve one's options.  Without it, the options are greatly limited.  I know!  I have mine! "

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

Oct 12, 2009

The DCPS Crisis: A Call To Action For All Because We Care About DCPS Students



The video above was taken at September 30, 2009 'The Fenty File: The truth about Adrian Fenty's attacks on DC residents and government workers gathering which was hosted by Empower DC at the Sumner School as well as a rally held at the DCPS Central Office. Autumn Jones, A DCPS high school student speaks out from a student perspective.

Posted by The Wash. Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence

Oct 11, 2009

Rhee's Legacy Of No Accountability

There is a double standard within Chancellor Michelle Rhee's administration. What we are seeing is a chancellor who is not being accountable when it matters most to be accountable. Most of us can agree with the Post writer who said that Rhee overplayed her hand this time in laying off hundreds of teachers. News releases show teachers recounting horror stories of their dismissals despite years of positive performance evaluations. Most have yet to be informed about the real reasons for their imminent layoffs. Students following the lead of their teachers and school counselors report that these untimely dismissals have led to changes in class schedules, dropped classes and worries about their education. Despite unending news coverage of recent layoffs, Rhee digs her heels in and refuses to provide data to substantiate her claims of an education budget shortfall now down to 12 million dollars from earlier reports of 40 million.


I wanted to share an email that I received from a newly hired DC teacher on her dismissal from DC public schools. Her words illustrate better than I can how DC students are the real victims in this tragedy.


“After devoting the past six years of my life earning a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, I applied to the DC Public School System (DCPS), hoping to make a difference in the lives of students living in urban areas. I was especially interested in DCPS given its efforts to implement an IMPACT program throughout each school to maximize the educational experience and better students’ test scores. Being a recent graduate, I was fortunate to have the IMPACT program implemented in my own curriculum.

I was delighted to receive a call from offering me the position of 3rd grade teacher. I eagerly signed my contract and retracted all other outstanding applications. I quickly set forth preparing myself for this fantastic opportunity, which involved a number of major investments including signing a new lease, moving into my apartment, and purchasing a car. Readying myself for the start of classes, I also acquired my DC teaching license, school supplies, “extras” to help incentivize my students, and all the bells and whistles needed to create a welcoming classroom environment.


Of course, no amount of effort fully prepares oneself for a new life experience. Indeed, the past five weeks of teaching have been eye-opening for me. I quickly realized that the students in my class needed tremendous support to ensure that they were emotionally and intellectually ready for the challenges of third grade. I saw this as an exciting opportunity– one that I felt well qualified to fulfill with the academic and hands-on experience I have immersed myself in for the past six years. Translating my knowledge to meet the needs of these students – children who have lived difficult lives – required nothing short of complete dedication. This has meant starting early each day and working into the evening hours to write and review lesson plans, focusing on the needs of the entire class and the individual needs of each student.


On Friday afternoon, I learned that I had been laid off. Apparently in a last-minute attempt to balance the budget, Michelle Rhee and the District of Columbia opted to lay off 200 or so teachers during the most critical period of the academic year – just when students are becoming acclimated to their new environment. My immediate concern was what would happen with my students because I was the only third grade teacher at my school. My principal has informed me that some students will move up to fourth grade and some will move down to second grade. In these tough economic times, the solution should not be to provide a poor educational experience for these children who, arguably, need extra attention. Simply assigning them to another grade greatly degrades the educational opportunity for my third grade students and the classes into which they are integrated. While I am obviously upset with losing my job, many more individuals will suffer due to this shortsighted decision.

We live in a great city in a wonderful country. We must remain competitive and teach our students at the highest standards. The decision to lay teachers off weeks into the school year is disruptive to the lives of the children and dishonest to the teachers who made a commitment to DC Public Schools. I am floored by this decision, and I cannot help but to draw conclusions about the long string of mishandlings that must have led to this situation. I have to ask, what is Ms. Rhee’s accountability in the situation? "

Posted by The Wash. Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence

No WTU Executive Board Meeting For You !


An email came from the WTU on Friday, October 9th @ 5:30 pm with the following message:
"The Executive Board meeting scheduled for Saturday, October 10, 2009, has been cancelled. President Parker has been prescribed bed rest for the next few days so that he may fully recover from an untimely, temporary medical condition. Upon his return, you will be notified when the Executive Board will convene the next meeting. Meanwhile, we are wishing President Parker a speedy recovery. Our apologies for the delay of notification and any inconvenience this may have caused."

This is not how the Washington Teachers' Union is suppose to work according to our constitution. Even in the absence of the WTU president, business is suppose to continue as usual with the WTU General Vice President assuming the union president's responsibilities. During these critical times, it is a travesty that the elected members of the WTU Executive board are unable to carry on in spite of George Parker's illness. It is most unfortunate that this has been a practice of our union under the helm of Parker. When things get tough, Parker cancels meetings on short notice and without input from WTU Executive Board members.

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



Oct 10, 2009

21 Teachers Laid Off From DC's Ballou Senior High School

Where is our WTU President when we need him ?






Pictures are two of a series of photos taken at Ballou Senior High School to document OSHA complaint. As I have stated four of our Washington Teachers Union (WTU) board members were laid off in this recent reduction in force. One of them is Robert Willis who was not only a WTU Executive Board member but also a WTU Building Representative for Ballou Senior High School teachers and related school personnel. My understanding is that Robert and Ballou teachers were instrumental in filing an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaint about the hazardous conditions at Ballou. Perhaps advocacy of these Ballou teachers contributed to their recent layoffs . Certainly from where I sit these layoffs had nothing to do with performance as Mayor Fenty suggested but more to do with teachers who were outspoken and advocates for students, teachers and schools. Here's to you Robert and Ballou teaching staff as well as former union reps. for working to make Ballou a better school over the years!

Here  is an October 10 email that I received from a teacher colleague from Ballou who recently was laid off.Candi: I just wanted you to know that DCPS is still RIF'ing teachers at Ballou SHS. I heard from one of my colleagues yesterday that she also was RIF'd. The count is now 21. " Anonymous Teacher- Ballou SHS

I am gravely concerned that the WTU lawsuit that has been filed on behalf of laid off teachers by WTU Prez George Parker has not been made available for review. Unfortunately to add insult to injury our October 10th WTU Executive Board meeting has been cancelled by Parker. It is also troubling that in the October 8 WaPo article, Parker does not present as a strong leader who is transparent and forthcoming about what has happened to DC teachers. It is hard for our members to have faith in Parker when the press quotes him as saying: "Parker was not completely conversant with its contents when he spoke to reporters after briefing teachers at Metropolitan AME Church on M Street NW. He first claimed that "at least half'" of the fired teachers are 45 or over" but minutes later said that they might be 35 or older." Now is not the time for Parker to continue back peddling and seem unclear about the facts. The WTU has to be ready go into attack mode or risk losing a significant share of its membership. I like a lot of other union members are wondering whether Parker is up for the job.

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

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