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: