Nov 29, 2009

Shining The Light On Kevin Johnson

I received an email below announcing a new blog in Sacramento, California known as SAC Chartergate . It seems this blog was created by a group of Sacramento citizens who are interested in shining the light on Kevin Johnson, St Hope and the takeover of Sacramento High School.

Who is SAC Chartergate: According to their blog they value the public trust and true accountability from their elected and appointed leaders. They represent parents, neighbors and community members who still believe in Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ words about governance and public policy making: “sunlight is the best disinfectant ." Well who better to shine the light on the Kevin Johnson/Michelle Rhee story then citizens from Sacramento. Here is their email as well as Sac Chartergate’s first entry titled: Making The Grades With Kevin Johnson.

Hi Candi:

"Just a quick note to send you this link to our new blog in Sacramento: http://sacchartergate.blogspot.com/ The point of this is to get out there any and all information we can find regarding the sad saga of the Sacramento High School give away in the service of Kevin Johnson’s (and Michelle Rhee’s) rise to power.  Take a look and spread the link around your neck of the woods.  More to come from us. "- L. Jablonski and all the outraged citizens here in Sac Town

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2009

Making the Grades with Kevin Johnson

 New allegations that mayor Kevin Johnson offered hush money to a young Hood Corps volunteer who complained of his unwanted sexual advances splashed across media outlets around the country last week.  The story has national legs given the zeal of congressional Republicans to underscore the involvement of Obama Administration officials in the dismissal of Inspector General Gerald Walpin, whose findings related to the illegal use of federal funds by St. Hope included the revelations.

 Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of Washington DC schools and Kevin Johnson's fiance, also has a role in the latest saga due to allegations she mishandled the Hood Corps volunteer's complaint while serving as a St. Hope official and also intervened with Inspector General Walpin on behalf of Johnson.  We will have questions about Rhee in a later post. 

 All of this plays out in the broader context of Johnson's controversial "strong mayor" proposal to change the city charter.    The bloggers at BossMayor.com   believe this latest revelation underscores Mayor Johnson's lack of judgment and "outright creepiness," given that reports of inappropriate sexual contact with girls date back to Johnson's basketball days in Phoenix in the mid-1990s.

 While we certainly agree with the creepiness factor, we can't just stop there.  The willingness of so many people in Sacramento to ignore or explain away for so long this alleged pattern of behavior is supremely troubling, especially since Johnson was handed over a public high school with young girls in his charge.  More on this later too.

 For now, we would like to take this in a different direction. Walpin's investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct includes the following:

"One Member, (redacted) reported that, in the February/March 2007 time frame, she was entering grades into the SAC High database system per Mr. Johnson's instructions at the St. Hope office at night, purportedly as part of her Americorps service.  (Redacted) contacted Mr. Johnson to inform him that she had completed the grades and wanted him to review them.   About 11:00 pm, Mr. Johnson arrived at St. Hope and instructed (redacted) to gather her things and come with him.  Mr. Johnson drove to (redacted) apartment, in which another Americorps Member had a separate bedroom, Mr. Johnson laid down on (redacted) bed.  (Redacted) sat on the edge of the bed to show him the grades..."

Our Questions:  

Why was an Americorps (Hoodcorps) volunteer entering grades into the Sac High database alone late at night, without oversight by teachers or registrar?*

Whose grades? And for what class or classes?   

Why would Mr. Johnson, who does not have a teaching or administrative credential, be instructing an Americorps volunteer to enter grades and then be reviewing the grades the volunteer entered?   

Did Mr. Johnson regularly "touch" the grades at Sacramento Charter High School? 

Who, other than teachers and the registrar, are able to "touch" the grades at Sacramento Charter High School?

 *State Education Code Regarding Grades

49066. (a) When grades are given for any course of instruction taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the determination of the pupil's grade by the teacher, in the absence of clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency, shall be final.

(b) The governing board of the school district and the superintendent of such district shall not order a pupil's grade to be changed unless the teacher who determined such grade is, to the extent practicable, given an opportunity to state orally, in writing, or both, the reasons for which such grade was given and is, to the extent practicable, included in all discussions relating to the changing of such grade.

Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson, Blogger in residence, story courtesy of SAC CHARTERGATE blog

Nov 25, 2009

Divided We Fall: Someone Must Take A Stand For DC Teachers

"When law is without order and  justice is far from just, someone must take a stand !"
 
I decided to post this entry after reading articles by Leah Fabel of the DC Examiner and Bill Turque of the WaPo this morning. Seems like the Washington Teachers' Union got brutalized yesterday by Judge Judith Bartnoff in her 23 page ruling . Many argue that the WTU's legal strategy was flawed right from the start. I knew we were in trouble when our WTU Prez George Parker indicated that the union's legal strategy was a secret so as not to tip off the other side. I was concerned that at no time was there a consultation with our laid off teachers and our union lawyers about our various legal strategies. Further there seemed to be little effort made to get affadavits' from teachers under oath and/or collect evidence for our legal case. I like many others worried when the WTU didn't file a TRO (temporary restraining order) as union members had been advised would happen right from the start. The TRO was filed after the preliminary injunction in late October.

Not until our WTU General Vice president, Nathan Saunders and I arranged for a free legal consultation with Joseph, Greenwald and Laake, P.A.- did the WTU decide to file a TRO, some say too little too late and well after the filing of the preliminary injunction. As Peter Nickles has been quoted this is a slam dunk for the Rhee administration. As much as I hate to admit it I have to agree with Nickles this time. 

Having been laid off, I know what it feels like to be laid off unfairly. I have recounted my story on this very blog about an experience when a principal, Dr. Margaret Labat illegally gave me all zero's on my competitive level documentation form in 1996 because in her words she was angry with me for going to the union to pursue getting approval for my permanent status.  My heart goes out to our laid off teachers and their families especially during this season of thanksgiving. I know how they feel today because I have walked a mile in their shoes. I have empathy for what they must be experiencing.

I am troubled by some teachers' reactions in a Tuesday WTU representative assembly meeting to be more focused on their own plight than that of their laid off teacher colleagues . While looking out for ourselves is a basic instinct of self-preservation/survival, someone has to fight and take a stand . I implore all of us to stop looking for cover and ducking our heads in the sand because it hasn't impacted in our little corner of the world yet. Give IMPACT sufficient time and there will be more of us fired by years' end. Isn't that the intent ?

 I recently watched a moving titled: "American Violet" which is a true story about racial injustices by a corrupt District Attorney against many poor black citizens in the state of Texas. How ironic, I thought to myself that I had picked such a movie with many parallels to the DC story. I couldn't help but wonder that maybe it wasn't just coincidence that I had selected this movie as I desperately needed some motivation. The injustices in this movie had been imposed by those in power for some time and many citizens felt powerless to do anything. Had it not been for the perseverence of the main character known as 'Dee" who decided to fight for not only for herself but many others who had been wronged- I imagine that many of those attrocities in Texas would still be going on today . I am inspired by the words in the movie American Violet :

When law is without order and justice is far from just, someone must take a stand ! 

Here's an anonymous comment about the goings on at our union representative meeting. What happened at Tuesday's union representative assembly can't continue to happen or we will all loose. 

"I went to the representative assembly meeting tonight. Saunders gave Parker the "business" about Parker's sorry advocacy of union members. I wish those RIF'd teachers had listened. Nathan did say very early in the ballgame teachers needed a different law firm. He knew something and now we have experienced it. In the future, trust legal recommendations from Saunders.

I am afraid Rhee will really think she is superwoman in her ease at running over Parker and those of us who depend on this union. I cannot imagine why she would not want to have another RIF next week. Teachers are terrified only 12 to 15 showed up tonight. A sad day for us but George Parker seemed to think nothing of this terrible loss of teacher jobs. He kept saying he never expected to win implying we should just move on.

Oh yeah, some teachers acted like they did not want to discuss the RIF'd teachers only IMPACT. We are so quick to forget one another. I have figured it out- The RIF'd teachers are no longer union members after being fired and their letters ban them from DCPS property that is why they are sight unseen at union meetings. This explains the church meeting locations for them."- signed anonymous


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

Nov 24, 2009

WTU Loses Court Case For RIF'd Teachers

Judge Bartnoff made her court ruling this afternoon on the RID'd teachers law suit. WTU lost this court case . Bill Turque covered this story on the DC Wire this afternoon and I am sure there will be even more coverage tonight and tomorrow. Until we get a copy of the actual court ruling, read Turque's analysis of Bratnoff's decision.

WTU Loses Court Challenge To Layoffs

A D.C. Superior Court judge has ruled against a bid by the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) to roll back the Oct. 2 layoffs of 266 DCPS teachers and staff.
In an opinion issued late Tuesday morning, Judge Judith Bartnoff said WTU had failed to prove any of its core arguments against Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's decision to conduct a RIF (reduction in force) due to a $43.9 million budget shortfall. She said that given the District's financial situation, a reversal of the layoffs would force Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty to make other cuts in the DCPS, harming the public interest.
"The District asserts, and the plaintiff has not disputed, that in that event, other staff would be subject to a RIF--even further into the school year--or programs that have been deemed essential would have to be cut," Bartnoff wrote. "Such an action would not benefit DCPS, its teachers, students or staff, or the wider District of Columbia community."
No word yet on whether WTU plans to appeal.
The union argued that the RIF was not a budget-driven layoff but an illegal mass firing, and that the shortfall cited by Rhee was a sham and a pretext for dumping older teachers. As a mass firing, WTU contended, the action was subject to arbitration under the District's collective bargaining agreement with the WTU.
The union charged that Rhee, in essence, went on an illegal hiring spree over the spring and summer, bringing more 900 new teachers on board knowing that she would need to make cuts later.
But Bartnoff said the union failed to provide any substantive evidence that DCPS packed the system with teachers it could not pay for until the D.C. Council cut its 2010 budget by $21 million on July 31. In contrast, she singled out Rhee's chief of staff, Lisa Ruda, as "a very credible witness" in her testimony on DCPS' budget problems after the council cut. -
Bill Turque

Posted by The Wash. Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, article courtesy of the DC WIre

Rhee-Gate 2009: I Am Not A Crook !


Just poking a little fun here !
This brings to mind the departing words of our 37th U.S. President, Richard M. Nixon - "I am not a crook." A person's got to know whether their chancellor, (I mean president) is a crook.

Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson blogger in residence, graphics courtesy of Ed-Notes on line.

Nov 23, 2009

Due Diligence Has Been A Long Time Coming For Some In DC Schools

This is a reprint from an education blog titled conducting the inner light (below). Even though it was posted on November 21, I think it deserves a' look see' by my readers as it provides yet another perspective into the Michelle Rhee, Kevin Johnson and St Hope story. Many DC parents thank their lucky stars that KJ didn't get to take over DC's Eastern Senior High School here as Rhee might have liked due to their own due diligence .  Here's to DC parents who were pro-active in protecting their community.

As critical thinkers, it is imperative that we review the Inspector General's report and transcripts and not simply take the word of Rhee's spokesperson or others who want to sweep the details of this story under the rug. Conducting the inner light blogger has done an excellent analysis of what's wrong with this story as it more than just a sex scandal. I implore you to judge for yourselves by reviewing the Inspector General's report, transcripts and other links from the Sacramento Bee in detail by clicking on the respective names within the body of this story below. After all, isn't it time for all of us to exercise due diligence ? It's been a long time coming.

Definition of due diligence: 
1. An investigation or audit of a potential investment. Due diligence serves to confirm all material facts in regards to a sale. 
2. Generally, due diligence refers to the care a reasonable person should take before entering in an agreement or transaction with another party. 
Investopedia Commentary
Due diligence is essentially a way of preventing unnecessary harm to either party involved in a transaction. 
Reprinted from education blog conducting the inner light

"It is interesting to me how the Michelle Rhee/Kevin Johnson situation is playing out in the newspapers and blogs.  For those of you not keeping up suffice it to say that in a congressional investigation it has been revealed that Michelle Rhee acted as a fixer/damage controller for her fiance when he was accused by three girls of inappropriate touching.  I won’t go into the allegations but refer you to the articles via The Washington Teacher’s Blog. Candi Peterson has aggregated all the newsources beautifully and this allows you to read each and come to your own conclusion.

Personally, I think the sex part of this scandal is somewhat of a misdirection.  Not that I think the charges are groundless – read not only the Inspector General’s report but also the transcripts, as reported by The Sacramento News and Review , of Johnson’s phone conversation with another girl (not one of the accusers but a girl from 10 years before when Johnson was still a player on the Suns) and it will be hard to avert your eyes or find any excuse for him – but I think that there is much more damning evidence in the IG report than sex.

I cannot recommend enough reading the entire report right down to the interview of Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez, the former employee of St. Hope Academy Charter Schools.  Your jaw will drop, your eyes will pop out of your head.  No matter how you try to play this report it looks stinky.  Just a for instance: Michelle Rhee was listed as a board member of St. Hope. Simultaneously she was listed as: the consultant for the New Teacher Project, the consultant for the reconstruction bridge span, the consultant for the reconstruction of the HR department, while on another memo she was listed as the COO. In yet another letter she was listed as the President and Johnson as the CEO. So many hats for one person and absolutely no conflict of interest, is there, in being both a board member and a consultant for the very board of which you are a member. Sarcasm in that last sentence.

The discrepencies are legion in this report.  Just read the summary of charges.  According to these charges Johnson used Americorps money and Americorps volunteers in complete violation of the government contract and volunteer contract.  These volunteers are supposed to be used for the community and as tutors for students in schools. According to the report none of the volunteers did a single hour of tuturing for their time at St. Hope.  What they did do was wash KJ’s car, clean his place (Johnson told one employee that the Americorps volunteers were there for “grunt work”), worked as clerks in the St. Hope store, canvassed the neighborhoods for candidates for local political offices, used them to solicit funds for St. Hope – even traveling to NYC on the Americorps money to do so.  Johnson also misappropriated Americorps funds to pay SHA staff.

Here was one of the most incredible things I found in this report: the volunteers, who were on a stipend of around $4000 plus dollars, were charged rent for their housing.  The housing was owned by (wait for the drumroll please) The St. Hope Development Corporation – they were charged $300-$350 a month.  SHA never revealed to federal authorities their relationship to SHD (you would think, though, that they would change the name of their corporation just a tad so that no one would notice – you know, like Enron).

The sex allegations are here, as well.  I don’t see how anyone can dismiss them as groundless nor as the accusations of people who hold a political motive.  It is obvious throughout this report that there was a culture of abuse. The culture of power that Johnson practiced (one person describes him as micromanaging every thing right down to the position of all the office furniture) is one in which abuse is the predominate factor.

Here is what disturbs me after reading this report: Michelle Rhee tried to bring St. Hope Charter schools into our school system to take over some schools.  She tried to do this AFTER this report had been filed.  It was only due to the due diligence on the part of the parents of those schools that would have been overtaken (deliberate use of word here) and their objection to SHA coming in because of what they found out in their own investigations.

Due diligence in regards to Ms. Rhee has been missing in DC from the very beginning.  From the vetting process on down she has been given a free ride by Adrian Fenty,  the Washington Post, many on the city council, and a host of other people who believe she is “doing what has to be done.”  Discrepencies in what she says and does have been ignored or explained away at almost every turn. She contradicts herself, denies, changes facts to suit her need and all of this is dismissed as quibbles on the part of those of us who have had worries about her methods and the true nature of her plans.  OK, fine, than read this report and explain to me how anyone could think to bring in this corrupt, unethicial organization to run any of our schools? She knew about the charges in that report. Given her status as one of the three main operators of St. Hope – again read the report and Ms. Wong-Hernandez’ interview to see the number of titles Rhee held – there is no way she can claim ignorance to these charges.

That is the real scandal that should be on the front page of every paper.  Diligence is now due."

Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, story courtesy of conducting the inner light, definition/commentary courtesy of dictionary.com

Nov 22, 2009

Is Rhee's Education Reform Ship Sinking ?

In today's Washington Examiner article,  Leah Fabel discusses Rhee's  interference in a federal probe involving sex charges against her now fiance' Kevin Johnson, former St. Hope administrator and now mayor of Sacramento. In this article, I am quoted as saying Rhee's ship is sinking. Fabel also labels those who criticize Rhee as detractors including me. While I have been called worse names than a detractor, what gets under the skin of some on this educational reform scene are the often misquotes of student achievement by our mainstream press. 
Many of you who read local blogs are familiar with efavorite who posts rather frequently on a variety of websites. Our very own efavorite took the opportunity to set DC Examiner reporter Leah Fabel straight on her misquotes of NAEP student achievement math scores attributed to Rhee in today's Examiner article. I have taken this opportunity to post both Leah Fabel's article and efavorites comments. You tell me is Rhee's ship sinking ?

"Candi: Thanks for posting this. I sent Leah Fabel this email to set her straight on the NAEP scores."Good morning Ms. Fabel. Below is the official referenced information about the NAEP scores that you should be aware f before you misstate them again. Please check out the following websites: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/profile.asp and
You will see that Michael Petrilli of "Education Next" and the Fordham Foundation backed off his claim of Rhee's success once presented with the facts, which of course, he should have checked before publishing his story giving Rhee all the credit. 
Update from efavorite: Since posting the scores, I've been advised that the scores include charter schools as well as regular DC public schools. I rechecked the NAEP site and this is accurate. I don't know of a way to separate out the scores, but I am guessing, based on other comparisons between DCPS and the charters, that differences would not significantly change NAEP results. However, I can't be sure.
Here are the scores:

DC's NAEP math Scores, 200-2009
DC 4th grade math
2000- 192
2003- 205
2005- 211
2007- 214
2009-219
DC 8th grade math
2000- 235
2003- 243
2005- 245
2007- 248
2009- 254
 
While there had been a steady increase in DC math scores over the last nine years, as you can see from the chart above, the increase was often greater in the years before Rhee came. Also considering that her reform of firing teachers didn't begin until May 2009, after the latest NAEP testing had been completed, she can hardly take credit- that would logically go to the teachers she's been intent on firing." - efavorite

Report may jeopardize Rhee, school reform

By: LEAH FABEL 
Examiner Staff Writer
November 22, 2009


By Leah Fabel Examiner Staff Writer The future of dramatic school reform begun by D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee could be in jeopardy, not from the teachers union or the city council members with whom she has tangled, but because of past personal relations. Already embroiled in fierce local battles over a recent round of teacher firings, Rhee is now facing allegations that she helped cover up charges of sexual misconduct against her now-fianc? Kevin Johnson, mayor of Sacramento, Calif. A congressional Joint Staff Report by two ranking Republicans, which details Rhee's involvement in the matter, was first reported by The Washington Examiner Friday morning. 

And just as anger and protest over the school layoffs was beginning to subside, some of her detractors saw a new opportunity to pounce. "It'll be the elephant in the room," said Councilman Harry Thomas, D-Ward 5, one of Rhee's most vitriolic opponents in recent weeks. "It'll put questions in people's minds about her credibility and her ethics in general." Rhee, speaking through a spokeswoman, said that the report "rehashes old allegations that have long since been dismissed and deemed meritless by local and federal law enforcement officials." But Candi Peterson, who sits on the board of trustees for the Washington Teachers Union and who helped organize multiple protests against Rhee over recent teacher firings, said that Rhee's "ship is sinking." "If this had come up by itself, people might have said "what the hell," Peterson said. "But because it's coming on the tail of everything else - the layoffs, the mayor's contract issues, it's starting to paint another picture." 
The question now is what picture will become the dominant image in the mind of D.C. voters - that of an autocrat tainted by scandal, or that of an uncompromising reformer with results to stand by. That picture is clouded by the new revelations. The congressional report examined the White House's June firing of Gerald Walpin, U.S. inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. In August 2008, Walpin called for "criminal and civil prosecution" of Johnson and his partner at their Sacramento community organization, St. HOPE Academy. Johnson, an ally of President Obama, was suspected of misusing Americorps dollars - and volunteers. Walpin was fired in the spring of 2009, prompting the congressional inquiry into whether his dismissal was politically motivated. No charges have been filed related to allegations against Johnson, his colleagues, or Rhee. St. HOPE employee Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez told IG office investigators that Rhee, who also worked with St. HOPE at the time, was informed that Johnson had made sexual advances toward an employee. Rhee said she was "making this her number one priority, and she would take care of the situation," Wong-Hernandez said. Soon afterward, Wong-Hernandez said that Johnson's lawyer had contacted the victim and that all was smoothed out. Wong-Hernandez retired over the school's handling of the incident, according to the report. The congressional report quotes the young woman as saying the attorney "basically asked me to keep quiet," and that Johnson offered her $1,000 a month for the duration of her time with St. Hope. Once investigators learned about that, the report says, they had "reasonable suspicions about potential hush money payments and witness tampering at a federally funded entity." 
In Rhee's two and a half years at the helm, standardized test scores have gone up all over the city, including on the NAEP, or Nation's Report Card, where D.C. public school students made more progress in math last year than students in any other state. Her "detractors may use [the allegations] as another part of their case for why she's unfair, but I don't see it as having relevance on her philosophy or approach or management of the school system," said Jeff Smith, executive director of community advocacy group D.C. Voice. "Reform is not always analogous with positivity," Smith said, adding that whatever happens with Rhee, city residents are the ones who own the changes, good or bad.

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

Nov 21, 2009

Michelle Rhee, The Fixer Did Damage Control After Sex Charges Against Kevin Johnson

The Story The Wash. Post Won't Report

If you haven't read this already it is a 'must read' Examiner Exclusive by Byron York with Bill Myers contributing to the report. It reads like an episode from Dominick Dunne's TV show Power, Privilege and Justice. It confirms my belief that no 'reign of terror' lasts forever. I'd be interested to hear how you think this drama will play out. The Wash. Post has not covered this story in their newspaper not surprisingly to most of us. The story is only featured in their online blog while all other major newspapers worth their salt across the US are featuring this story as a head liner. I have posted the Examiner story in its entirety as well as links (below) from an article on this same subject by David Lipscomb of The Washington Times newspaper, Mike Debonis of the Washington City Paper, The Hill News, The NY Times, Sacramento news, Sacramento Bee, SCUSD Observer and L.A. Times

Wash. Times link
Wash.City Paper link
The Hill news

Exclusive: Congressional Report: Rhee did 'damage control' after sex charges against fiancee Kevin Johnson

By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
November 20, 2009

A congressional investigation of the volunteer organization AmeriCorps contains charges that D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee handled "damage control" after allegations of sexual misconduct against her now fiancee, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star and a prominent ally of President Obama, The Washington Examiner learned Friday morning.

The charges are contained in a report prepared by Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The investigation began after the AmeriCorps inspector general, Gerald Walpin, received reports that Johnson had misused some of the $800,000 in federal AmeriCorps money provided to St. Hope, a non-profit school that Johnson headed for several years.


Walpin was looking into charges that AmeriCorps-paid volunteers ran personal errands for him, washed his car, and took part in political activities.  In the course of investigating those allegations, the congressional report says, Walpin's investigators were told that Johnson had made inappropriate advances toward three young women involved in the St. Hope program -- and that Johnson offered at least one of those young women money to keep quiet.

Johnson's office did not respond to calls for comment Friday morning.

At the time, Rhee was on the board of St. Hope. A former St. Hope employee who reported one of the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Johnson told Walpin's investigators that Rhee "learned of the allegations and played the role of a fixer, doing 'damage control,'" the congressional report says.


The employee told investigators that Rhee told her that "she was making this her number one priority, and she would take care of the situation."  A short time later, the employee learned that the girl who had complained about Johnson had received a visit from Johnson's personal attorney.


The congressional report quotes the girl as saying the attorney "basically asked me to keep quiet," and Johnson offered her $1,000 a month for the duration of her time with St. Hope.  Once investigators learned about that, the report says, they had "reasonable suspicions about potential hush money payments and witness tampering at a federally funded entity."

Rhee did not respond to calls for comment Friday.


Walpin included the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct, along with evidence of misuse of federal money, in a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacr
amento.  The acting U.S. Attorney, Lawrence Brown, reached a settlement with Johnson under which St. Hope was obligated to pay back some of the money, but took no action on the other matters.

The White House fired Walpin on June 10. The sexual misconduct allegations he was investigating have been secret until now.

A White House spokesman said he had not seen the report yet, and declined comment.

In the spring of 2008, Walpin's office received a tip that Johnson had misused AmeriCorps money.  Walpin sent two investigators to Sacramento to check the story out.  They discovered that money had in fact been misused, and also learned of the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Johnson.


In August 2008, at the time Walpin referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney, he also presented the evidence of misuse of federal money to officials at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps.  In September 2008, those officials barred Johnson from receiving any more federal money.


All this was happening as Johnson was running for mayor of Sacramento, a race he won in November 2008.  Johnson's suspension from receiving federal money became a hot issue in early 2009 after Congress passed the $787 billion stimulus bill.  Many people in Sacramento worried that the city would not be able to get its share of that money if the mayor was banned from receiving federal dollars.

Amid that atmosphere of anxiety, in April of this year, the U.S. Attorney's office announced a deal under which St. Hope would pay back about half of the money it received from AmeriCorps and, in return, Johnson would no longer be banned from receiving federal money.  Brown released a statement saying the settlement "removes any cloud whether the City of Sacramento will be prevented from receiving much-needed federal stimulus funds."

The deal was made by Brown and top officials at the Corporation for National and Community Service -- Walpin was cut out of the process.  He strongly disagreed with the arrangement, suspecting that it came about more for political reasons than prosecutorial ones.  The new report takes his side, saying Brown's "motivation to reach a settlement was not to protect the financial interests of the United States, but rather to remove Johnson from the suspended parties list in order to ensure Sacramento's eligibility to receive stimulus funds."  Neither Brown nor the U.S. Attorney's office cooperated with the Grassley/Issa investigation.


After the settlement, Walpin wanted to continue probing the St. Hope affair, particularly a new allegation that St. Hope employees might have destroyed evidence. Walpin made his case to the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service at a meeting on May 20.  He also strongly criticized the board for making what he felt was a bad settlement and for failing to exercise sufficient oversight of the matter.

At one point in the meeting, which all sides describe as contentious, Walpin apparently became confused when asked a question.  Accounts differ; some who were in the room said Walpin seemed disoriented and out of it, while others said he seemed to simply lose his place for a moment.  Whatever the case, after the heated discussion of the St. Hope matter, Corporation board chairman Alan Solomont, a major Democratic donor and Obama supporter, took the unusual step of going to the White House to report the events of the just-concluded meeting and recommend that Walpin be fired.


After a cursory investigation, the White House Counsel's Office called Walpin on June 10 and told him that he had one hour to either resign or be fired.  Walpin declined to resign and was fired.  The firing was an apparent violation of a law requiring the president to give 30 days'  notice to Congress before dismissing an inspector general.  Only later did the White House inform Congress.  When lawmakers asked for an explanation of Walpin's firing, the White House said he was dismissed because he had been "confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the board to question his capacity to serve."


The new report strongly suggests that Walpin was in fact fired because of the dispute over St. Hope and concludes that the White House "orchestrated an after-the-fact smear campaign to justify" Walpin's dismissal.

The report says the allegations of sexual misconduct and a cover-up "provide important context for Walpin's insistence that the St. Hope matter should not have been settled without further inquiry."  In light of those allegations, the report says, complaints that Walpin was being too aggressive seem unfounded.  "The content of the referral tends to undermine any notion that the [inspector general's] investigation was driven by inappropriate motives on the part of Walpin," the report says.  "Rather, it appears to have been driven by non-political, career investigators simply following the facts."


There seems little doubt that Johnson's alleged conduct contributed to a sometimes troubled atmosphere at St. Hope.  In the criminal referral, Walpin wrote that the allegations "seriously impact on both the security of young [volunteers] placed in the care of [St. Hope] and, if such incidents occur, the ability of AmeriCorps to continue to attract volunteers."  The referral, which Grassley and Issa's investigators have released in its entirety along with the new report, contains the following description of one of the incidents, a description which uses the AmeriCorps terminology of referring to young volunteers as "Members."




Our investigation disclosed evidence of sexual misconduct towards young female Members by Mr. Johnson.  One Member reported that, in the February/March 2007 time frame, she was entering grades in the [school's] database system per Mr. Johnson's instructions at the St. Hope office at night, purportedly as part of her AmeriCorps service.  [The girl] contacted Mr. Johnson to inform him that she had completed the grades and wanted him to review them. 


About 11:00 p.m., Mr. Johnson arrived at St. Hope and instructed [the girl] to gather her things and come with him.  Mr. Johnson drove to [the girl's] apartment, which is managed by St. Hope Development and houses its AmeriCorps Members, purportedly so that they could review the students' grades.  While in [the girl's] apartment, in which another AmeriCorps Member had a separate bedroom, Mr. Johnson laid down on [the girl's] bed.  [The girl] sat on the edge of the bed to show him the grades, at which time Mr. Johnson "laid down behind me cupping his body around mine like the letter C.  After about 2-3 minutes or so, I felt his hand on my left side where my hip bone is." 


Further, although not detailed in her written statement, [the girl] during the interview demonstrated while explaining that Mr. Johnson's hand went under her untucked shirt and moved until his hand was on her hip.  [The girl] immediately got up and stated she was done and left the room.  When she returned, Mr. Johnson was still in her bed, but now apparently sleeping.  Only after [the girl] sought to take a blanket to sleep elsewhere did Mr. Johnson exit to the living room of the apartment.  [The girl] related that Mr. Johnson slept on the couch in her apartment living room that night and subsequently left the apartment at approximately 6 a.m. the next day.
The young woman told investigators that after she "got the courage" to tell her supervisors, she was visited by Johnson's lawyer, who, the girl said, "basically asked me to keep quiet."  Later, the girl said, Johnson himself "offered to give me $1,000 a month until the end of the program." Johnson, the girl said, said the arrangement would be confidential -- "between him and I."


Walpin is embroiled in a lawsuit against the Corporation for National and Community Service in which he is seeking to get his old job back. There have been arguments and counter-arguments filed in the case, but a final decision is likely many months away.

Examiner reporter Bill Myers contributed to this report


Posted by the Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, story courtesy of the Examiner.

Nov 19, 2009

Some Say Rhee Hires New Teachers Despite Budget Shortfall


I have received emails confirming sightings of new 'teacher hires' beginning the second week of November, only a month after the notices of layoffs were given to 388 DC teachers and school staff. This is pretty darn amazing given the budget pressures that DC public schools is reportedly faced with. Ever wonder why Chancellor Rhee has yet to implement a freeze on hiring and spending practices given the twenty million dollar deficit DC schools is up against ? Well let me make an educated guess why this administration continues to spend willy nilly. Perhaps Rhee does not want to freeze spending so that she can continue to hire staff on the DL (down-low) to replace teachers who were unfairly laid off.

Not only have there been sightings of new teacher  hires in local DC public schools but unnamed sources report that new hires have been spotted at the DCPS central office personnel department as well. Shortly after teacher and staff layoffs, copies of an October 19 email from Morgan Gieseke, a Teach DC recruiter in the Office of The Chancellor (OOC) circulated to perspective 2009-10 DCPS teacher applicants stating the following:


If you are still interested in teaching for DCPS during the 2009-2010 school year, please let me know. We will resume the selection process next week and will only contact you if you have indicated to me that you would like to remain in the pool of applicants. If you would like to only be considered for 2010-2011 vacancies, please withdraw your application and reapply in January. If you have already found a position with DCPS and we have sent you this email in error, please submit your school information. Your response is requested by Wednesday, October 21st. If you have any questions, please let me know. DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS EMAIL. Please click on the following link to complete the two minute survey:


http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dEF0Vm5hdTRpUjhOTzNiR2VHbldXN3c6MA 

Here's what my sources are saying about the status of new teacher hires:


Dear Candi: 
"There are 25 new teaching fellows that were hired on Monday, November 9, 2009. These teaching fellows rotate to different schools daily and weekly doing their student teaching. They are being paid. They officially start teaching in classrooms beginning January 2010."
-Name deleted to protect confidentiality


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

Nov 16, 2009

No Ruling For DC's RIF'd Teachers, Yet !

Many of DC's RIF'd teachers and counselors have been waiting with bated breath to hear the decision that was promised by Judge Judith Bartnoff. Last week a written decision was supposed to be rendered on the preliminary injunction hearing that was held to request a stay to hold off lay offs of hundreds of DC teachers pending arbitration. Unfortunately, for reasons unclear that ruling did not come as promised. This is unfortunate delay for those who were unfairly laid off on October 2.

Depending on whose version you believe, many laid off teachers who attended the November 5 hearing voiced their concerns that the hearing did not go well. There were reports that there were many objections to the Washington Teachers' Union's defense. In a WTU Building Representative November 10 meeting that I attend at McKinley last week , WTU Field Representative Anita Corley stated publicly that the WTU's legal arguments appeared weak because they did not want to alert DCPS lawyers to the strategy that the WTU would ultimately use in arbitration. When I heard this as a rationale, I actually couldn't believe what I was hearing. I couldn't help but thinking what it if the judge rules that the WTU cannot go to arbitration ? Then what ?

I have received numerous E-mails and telephone calls asking me if I have heard anything about the judge's decision. Many are still awaiting this decision so that they can decide how to proceed with their lives. It is my hope that a decision will be rendered early this week by Judge Bartnoff. Stay tuned for more.

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

Nov 11, 2009

Ballou's Principal Gets A Pink Slip ?

I just received an email earlier today from a colleague stating that Rahman Branch, Principal of Ballou Senior High School was fired. Frank W. Ballou Senior High School is located at 3401 4th St. SE Washington, DC. 

While I do not have the details concerning this alleged termination of Mr. Branch, feel free to weigh in with any of the facts.



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

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

Nov 9, 2009

Noah Wepman, CFO For DCPS Fired

Memba him ?
According to a source on this blog - Noah Wepman, Cheif Financial Officer who caused a controversy after his testimony before the DC City council was fired last week. The story of Mr. Wepman's termination is courtesy of the WTOP website and has been posted here for your review.

Link:  http://www.wtop.com/?nid=25&sid=1807727

November 9, 2009 - 4:21pm
WASHINGTON - The chief financial officer of D.C. Public Schools has been fired, WTOP has learned. DCPS CFO Noah Wepman, who withheld budget numbers from the D.C. Council, was fired last Friday, sources tell WTOP. A spokesperson for D.C.'s Chief Financial Officer Nat Gandhi declined to comment on whether Wepman was still employed by the District. .Last month, Wepman told council members the $43 million budget gap that forced the firings of hundreds of D.C. teachers were not entirely due to council budget cuts. Wepman told the council the DCPS budget was certified, despite the fact that there was a multi-million dollar shortfall. 

Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, story courtesy of WTOP website.