Feb 26, 2010
Rhee's Motto: Speak No Evil
The DC Schools Insider blog features a story about DCPS lining up support for the upcoming Council annual performance oversight hearing on March 15. Turque who writes for the Insider blog wrote "Testimony at these events tends to become an open-ended infomercial for those unhappy with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. So Peggy O'Brien, Rhee's family and public engagement chief, is reaching out to those who have had kind words for DCPS and have asked what they can do to help." Talking points have been created by Rhee's staff as well as a plan to give those willing to testify favorably, a reminder call about 1 hour before their turn comes up on the council docket. In my open letter to Peggy O'Brien, I discuss what is wrong with this picture:
February 26, 2010
Dear Dr. O’Brien,
I am most concerned about your inappropriate effort to solicit positive testimony only from a group of parents who have previously expressed support for the Chancellor’s reforms. In your role as chief of Family and Public Engagement for a tax-payer supported agency, you have an obligation to appeal to all DCPS stakeholders to testify at the March 15th City Council hearing, not just to identified supporters. In the interest of all the DC residents your office represents,
I ask you to do the following:
*Post an announcement on the DCPS homepage about the hearing, inviting all family and parents of DCPS students to testify. Just announce it. Do not provide positive, unsubstantiated talking points as you did in your original email.
*Send an email to your original group of supporters acknowledging your error in using your public office to solicit positive views only.
Of course, I understand that your office would welcome positive testimony, given the chancellor’s recent controversial remarks about RIFd teachers hitting and have sex with children and her sliding poll numbers. Thus, I suggest you contact groups like DC School Reform Now, a non-profit organization founded by former Teach for America workers to support the Chancellor’s reform efforts. Interest groups such as this would see it as their mission to mobilize their members and provide talking points that are strictly supportive of the Chancellor. Unlike public agencies, they don’t have an obligation to serve all citizens, but only those who share their point of view.
CC: Katherine.Gottfredson@dc.gov; Jason.Crawford@dc.gov
February 23, 2010
Dear Parents and Friends of DC Public Schools,
"I've lived in this community for 40 years, raised two children here, sent them to DCPS. I know that more people than ever are feeling optimistic about DC Public Schools because I talk to parents and community members every day and they tell me so.
And for good reason. Test scores and graduation rates are up, facilities have been modernized, our teachers are more qualified, more effective, and better supported, access to technology is system wide, early education is expanding and improving, and programs to address reading and learning problems are proliferating.
I am reaching out to you because you have expressed your support of DCPS reforms at some point during the past year, either to the Chancellor or to me directly--and we are coming up to a time when expressions of support would be most helpful.
The DC Council will hold a DCPS Agency Performance Oversight Hearing on Monday, March 15, starting at 10 a.m. at the Wilson Building. These hearings are opened with public testimony. People sign up in advance, and then testify in the order in which they have done so. If you are willing to share your story at the hearing, please contact Aretha Latta at 202-724-8196, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on the list. Once you are on the list, we would be happy to call you an hour in advance of when you would be expected to testify if you are not able to attend the entire hearing. Just let us know if you've signed up. You can also submit written testimony if you cannot attend the hearing.
The District of Columbia deserves a more complete picture of the school reform efforts underway. Your testimony can help provide that. Thank you for considering this."
Peggy O'Brien, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Family and Public Engagement
Office of the Chancellor
District of Columbia Public Schools
Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, email courtesy of DC Schools Insider blog.