Oct 31, 2010

The 266 Deserve Quality Legal Representation

Featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence and WTU Candidate for General Vice President

On Friday, October 29 in the courtroom of Judge Judith Bartnoff- WTU lawyers appeared to challenge the reduction in force of 266 laid off teachers and school personnel. DC Schools Insider blogger, Bill Turque reported "The Washington Teachers' Union court challenge to the October 2009 layoffs effectively end this morning when a WTU attorney told a DC Superior Court judge that after scrutinizing 1,200 pages of District documents, the union could find no evidence that Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee contrived the budget crunch she said justified the job reductions."

Some of the laid-off teachers I talked to find it amazing that attorney Brenda C. Zwack said: "We didn't find anything that would warrant further briefing". While the court hearing lasted no more than 10 minutes, it left those in the audience with unanswered questions about their legal representation and the impact that this case will have on their personal lawsuits. Unfortunately, WTU's "Hold over" President Parker was not present at Friday's hearing and could not be questioned by the handful of teachers who were present. Attorney Zwack reportedly made a "mad dash" for the nearest exit as teachers attempted to question her more in depth.

While I have not seen the 1200 page documents that DCPS submitted, I know for a fact that the Rhee administration continued to hire teachers and other school personnel after the 266 were laid off last October. I followed many of the DCPS job advertisements that the Rhee administration placed on Craig’s list for teachers and school personnel. I often wondered why a freeze was never ordered in school year 2009-10 by Mayor Fenty, since DCPS was in a budget deficit. One thing is for sure — the Rhee administration continued to spend willy-nilly without any checks and balances in place. Perhaps that’s why we are in an even bigger deficit now.

If you recall more than a year ago Nathan Saunders and I arranged for a free two hour legal consultation (which turned into 3 hours) to laid off DC teachers with another law firm who later offered to represent the 266 teachers case at a significantly reduced rate. It seems that our hunch about the quality of legal representation that these teachers received was correct. I know we can and we must do better. At the very least, the 266 wrongfully terminated teachers' legal case deserves another 'look- see' by another law firm. This is why the Saunders slate needs your support to get elected in the run-off election so that we can aggressively represent the 266 who were wrongfully terminated. We owe it to them, that is if it's not too late.

I encourage all to read Bill Turque's article in the Washington Post on the legal challenge to the layoffs which appeared in Saturday's newspaper. Click on the link to see the article in its entirety:


24 comments:

Linda/RetiredTeacher said...

I have long sensed that DC teachers lack good legal representation. I hope a change is made. A good lawyer can do wonders.

Stinking Honest said...

The WTU has disgraced itself again by showing up in court with bumbling attorneys. But, to be fair, they could not muster the evidence because there was none to make a case. Courts try not to move on emotion and politics.

Understandably, the teachers want their day in court. But they have just had it.

To persist in this will only stoke the ire that parents understandably feel regarding teachers who have ignored and seem unmotivated by any moves to improve the quality of DC education.

Trying to raise this lawsuit from the grave only suggests that they want to channel their time wastefully and deflect public discussion from the real issues of the day, including how to raise the average quality of District teachers.

Some (certainly not all) teachers' obvious sense of entitlement is a real turn-off to the populace. The things some teachers get blamed for seem to be things that they, teachers, are responsible for and have done.

Here's to a new beginning in DC public education.

EFavorite said...

"The things some teachers get blamed for seem to be things that they, teachers, are responsible for and have done."

Like having bad legal representation?

Please keep in mind that part of improving instruction depends on attracting and keeping teachers and it's unlikely that teachers will want to come to a system that treats them so poorly.

Rhee often brags about how much better the kids are doing since her arrival -- of course it's the teachers who we're already here that deserve credit for that.

Scores didn't start going down until after her firing sprees started, at the end of the 08-09 school year and the beginning of the 09-10 school year (the RIF).

Here's to a new beginning to DC public education - once the Gray administration is fully in charge.

B. Cassidy said...

George Parker and the lawyers he chose to represent the 266 people cut in the RIF have effectively abandoned those people. The 266 did not get their day in court because there was invaluable testimony that WTU never put in front of Judge Bartnoff.

1. Former DCPS CFO Pamela Graham could have testified regarding her removal from DCPS for challenging Rhee's over-hiring, etc. Graham had warned Rhee of the impact it had on the budget.

2. Former DCPS CFO Noah Wepman testified one year ago on October 29th that he had deceived the District's CFO when he submitted a budget that was not a balanced budget. (a) Wepman was never asked whether Rhee knew it at the time. (b) Wepman was never asked whether Rhee directed him to do it.
WTU should have demanded that the City Council ask these questions. WTU lawyers should have asked these questions in a deposition, but they never even conducted a deposition of Wepman. WTU might have also asked about Wepman's staged resignation and quick rehiring as a consultant.

3. Wepman's successor, George Dines could have testified about his being held at arm's length on DCPS budget matters.

4. Local WDC and DCPS budget expert Kathy Levy could have testified regarding the horrible lack of transparency in Rhee's DCPS budget. The worst she had seen in many years.

5. Rhee should have been asked the same questions posed to Wepman. Rhee also should have been asked about the miscalculation of the average teacher's salary, a pivotal number in the DCPS budget. Rhee testified before the City Council that she noticed the sharp increase from the year before, but "thought it was an anomaly". WTU should have conducted a deposition of her and asked her to explain why she chose not to explore the cause of the "anomaly", and why, in the aftermath of a RIF of 300+ people was no one held accountable for the error?

Last fall, at the time of the RIF, there was money available in the DCPS budget that made the RIF unnecessary, but it was hidden by an inflated number for the average teacher's salary. This was the "discovery" Rhee revealed in the spring.

6. WTU could have hired a former white-collar crimes prosecutor as an expert to testify just how unreasonable it is to think that the miscalculation of the average teacher's salary was a mistake. If Rhee and staff chose innocently not to explore the cause of the "anomaly", they, like Wepman, were not meeting their responsibilities regarding the budget. Again, the ATS is a pivotal number in the DCPS budget, and in any school district's budget. When there is a spike, budget makers figure out why.

7. Headhunters/Recruiters could have testified that Rhee had a personal economic incentive and a political incentive to make a big splash on the national stage by making a big cut in the teacher corps in DCPS.

Discussion of the RIF and WTU's abandonment of the 266 RIFfed teachers is a discussion of a basic issue of honesty in government. Beyond that it is a discussion of the failure of the leadership of an organized labor group to represent the interests of its members. Beyond that it is a discussion of the failure of news agencies in the District to provide people with more than the most superficial accounts of news regarding DCPS matters.

This misuse of DCPS does nothing for DCPS students, and dishonesty in government is never for the benefit of kids.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps stinking honest fell and bumped his/her head. Sounds soooo much like someone who has sipped too much of the Rhee kool-aid. Here's to new beginnings with a new superintendent who is qualified.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Stinking Honest. It also gives the impression that the WTU cares only about it's dismissed teachers at the expense of it's current, dues-paying rank and file.

Anonymous said...

Candi,

Are you black or just trying to pass for white (based upon your picture on this site)?

True Racially Equal Teacher

DCNeverSleeps said...

What does this mean to the individual challenges going through the legal system? I know of two teachers who both had excellent ratings under the old PPEP, 25 and 27 respectively, and got RIFed due to maybe personal differences with the principal rather than performance. What happens to them and their legal cases? They are both fighting the RIF based on incorrect information. Any idea Candi? Anyone?

Classic said...

Well I knew a long time ago that we had been abandoned. I am fustrated and I just do not know what else to say. I know that I am not done fighting and I urge the other RIF'd teachers to continue the fight. We know that we cannot rely on the current union leadership so we first need to get on the phone and call all of our teacher friends that are still in the system and tell them to vote for the Saunders/Peterson slate. Make it clear to them that when they need the union, they will get the same treatment under Parker and company.

usereason said...

Stinking Honest said: Understandably, the teachers want their day in court. But they have just had it.

I wish I would have a lawyer hand over my case in court then walk out with so much as an explanation to me. I would deserve better or I would feel like I smell a skunk.

So why can't Zwack and Parker treat people like people and talk wtih the 266 if they have truly served to the best of their abilities?
This leads me to think that the teachers' "day in court" was not conducted in good faith.


Also, I am glad Candi is above responding to people like True Racially Ignorant Teacher.

edharris said...

Slightly off topic, Candi (and I wish you well)
Do you know where one could find a detailed analysis of who was designated "Highly Effective"?
Data like years of service, subject taught, school taught at, grade taught, race, ethnicity, gender etc?

Anonymous said...

Candi's race has nothing to do with anything. The comment about passing for white is an insult. You have my condolences Candi for having to deal with nonsense. Keep your eye on the prize, my beautiful sistah!

Stinking Honest said...

Candi,

You publish the best blog in anyone's arena of local public education. And you're not afraid of a range of views.

We'd agree on some issues and disagree on quite a few others. But I know that you are going to be great as a leader of a union that sorely needs you.

Sheila H. Gill said...

Wake Up Everybody, No More Sleeping in Bed with George Parker!!

Rhee was allowed to fired the 266 Educators with the support and guidance of George Parker. George is totally responsible for abandoning the 266 DCPS Educators who were union members over 10, 20 or 30 years in some cases. I'm confident that George sold out the WTU and the Attorney demonstrated clearly on Friday in Judge Bartnoff's courtroom.

Also, George sold out the retired DCPS educators who did not receive any retro-active paychecks for their services SY 2007-09.

On the other hand, George will sell out the "Highly Effective" teachers, if they signed their rights away for the performance base pay.

In addition, George will sell out the 737 "Minimally Effective" teachers who will receive a pink slip by June 2011, if their Impact scores declined. Remember the Rheeform is Human Capitol!!! Here today and gone tomorrow!!! It was never about the DCPS students!!

It isn't over yet!!! Keep the faith and pledge to work diligently to assist the Nathan Saunders Slate to get elected as the next WTU Administration team.

We deserve a NEW WTU President who cares about all DCPS educators, especially the Wrongfully Terminated DCPS Employees. Mail in your WTU ballot promptly and vote for Nathan Saunders!!

Check out George Parker's WTU record.
Who will be next?

The Wash. Teacher said...

Reply to edharris

I think you pose great questions. Part of the problem is that Rhee's administration has not been transparent with this type of data. To my knowledge the WTU does not have this data at their disposal. It is definitely something worth asking for.

Anonymous said...

Just when you think GP and his group of legal "Calhoun's" cannot get any worst, they make you into a liar.

This is one dumb axx group of folks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Candi, I apologize for this comment being off topic, especially given the importance of the original post but do you have any information as to why the Deputy Chief of the Office of Professional Development quit so suddenly? Many of us are wondering if it had anything to do with the meeting that George Parker held with the ICs at Logan.

Five To Go said...

The case is not over. I read in the Washington Informer-Vol.46No.53NOV.4-NOV.10, 2010. pAGE 4. Fired DC Personnel Hearing Set for 2011. People it's not over yet, remember God has the Final Word!

Anonymous said...

"Stinking Honest, You must be a Rhee supporter! Also, mind your business! Everyone is entitled to good representation in court! Go do what you do best! Continue to be an ignorant individual! Wait till this happens to you!"

Stinking Honest said...

To anonyouse at 10:18, Nov 7:

Whaddya mean: mind your own business?

Do yo think that public education is exclusively "the business" of teachers alone? That would be mistaken.

what about the parents and kids, the taxpayers and any citizen of the Nation's Capital.

Public education is too important to be left to the teachers. The "success" of the District of Columbia Public Schools and the "reputation" of this agency would suggest that the teachers need a lot of action and "help" from all the others who have an interest in the public schools.

Even the Wash. Teachers Union would like to see more parental involvement.

We pray that our new mayor will recognize that teachers should not be overly influential regarding what goes on in the Public Schools.

Anonymous said...

Well said at 8:13.

Let's get on with the show.

Anonymous said...

sure, legal rep. is great, but don't make anyone but the teachers pay for it, please.

isn't it obvious that the District Government will oppose hiring back any of these teachers? see V. Gray's statement about this suit. plain as day.

but they should certainly receive any back pay, raises, etc., that they are entitled to, by law and regulation. getting their jobs back, however, is something else again.

The Wash. Teacher said...

Stinking Honest
I have to disagree with your comment that public education is too important to be left to the teachers. I think we all agree that parents should be involved. However as an education stakeholder I am also advocating for teachers and school personnel to have our voices heard. We too are education stakeholders. Our voice is critical in the public education reform movement and debate. Im not asking for us to be overly influential-that is far from the case but rather to have a place at the table where decisions are made. Part of the problem is that far too long politicians are making decisions without the input of the public. We must put the public back in public education inclusive of teachers, school personnel, parents and community members.

Stinking Honest said...

Candi --
I agree with you regarding teachers' core participation in making improvements during renewed "reform"; my too-cute-to-be-understood comment about leaving ed. to the teachers was obviously ineffective communication.

I've been more focused on all the other stakeholders. Frankly, if teachers say they are only responsible for ten percent or so of education that occurs (recent academic research finding), they need to make generous "room" in discussions, deliberations, and planning for parents/kids, all the political officials and administrators, and all the residents and taxpayers in D.C. We all have a big stake in school success; the teachers' stake cannot be considered "first" or more important than the set of all the others.

I look forward to a collaborative environment with teachers. Though you personally will help make up for years of lousy leadership of Local 6, I hope what comes through in dialogue is "the teachers" rather than "the union."

This is a meaningful distinction to other stakeholders. The mere mention of "union" brings back bad memories of the leadership that got little respect from members, and can not even rouse the majority of teachers to vote on important matters.

I also hope that the union does not adopt a "war footing" with the DCPS/Mayor/Council. Because that amounts to war against the parents and their kids, as well as everyone else in our Nation's Capital.

Everything rides on the schools, not just our childrens' futures. Public safety, home prices, public health, tourism, etc. -- everything.

A union trying to make up for lost time by making it hard for the new management to make progress will end up losing both ground for the teachers and the respect they so desperately want.

I sense from reading your thoughts on this blog that you have the leadership skills to deal with all comers and to bring some of your outlier members into your professional mainstream. Best of luck in the upcoming runoff.