Apr 28, 2010

New contract for D.C. teachers won't be certified - wtop.com

This just in from WTOP news desk.
New contract for D.C. teachers won't be certified - wtop.com
April 27, 2010 - 8:47pm
WASHINGTON - Sources inside D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's office tell WTOP that the Chief Financial Officer for the District will not certify the new D.C. teachers' contract, which puts the deal in serious jeopardy.The decision comes after D.C. CFO Natwar Gandhi examined the stipulations attached to $64 million being pledged by private foundations for teacher salaries and bonuses over the course of the contract.
The contract, which followed more than two years of negotiations, includes a 21.6 percent raise in base pay over five years for teachers, as well as an option for teachers to participate in "performance pay" plans.
The money for the pay raises was to come from four different private foundations. Those foundations established a set of benchmarks that, if not followed, would allow them to stop funding the raises.
The benchmarks say the foundations could pull their donations if certain schools fail to meet certain performance criteria or if D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee leaves her position.
The four foundations have reserved the right to pull their funding at their own discretion, and if one foundation stops funding the contract, the others may also pull their money.
In order for the contract to be ratified, Gandhi would have to certify the contract, effectively allowing the D.C. Council to ability to approve the deal.
Members of the Washington Teachers Union also would have to ratify the contract.
Gandhi will a formal announcement about the contract on Friday during his scheduled appearance in front of the City Council.

Posted by The Washington Teacher, news clip courtesy of WTOP, Mark Segraves contributed to report.

Apr 26, 2010

Open Letter To DC City Council Chairman Vincent Gray

Featured In The Washington Afro Newpaper
April 26, 2010
Dear Chairman Vincent Gray:
I wanted to make you aware that the Washington Teachers' Union Tentative Agreement will provide retroactive pay raises dating back to 2007 only to 'active teachers' and 'laid off teachers'. There are concerns that this tentative agreement was negotiated in bad faith by Chancellor Rhee, AFT President Randi Weingarten and WTU President George Parker and intentionally excludes recently retired teachers and school personnel.
What is troubling is that teachers and related school personnel who worked during the terms of this contract period (2007-2012) should be eligible for retroactive raises for the time that they worked. No collective bargaining agent nor the District of Columbia government should enter into an agreement that extends rights and benefits to only some union members while excluding other eligible union members. This is tantamount to cheating people out of raises that they are entitled to and subsequently shortchanging their retirement benefits.
I ask that as the DC City Council approaches an upcoming hearing to discuss the feasibility of funding the WTU Tentative Agreement, that the exclusion of providing retroactive pay raises to eligible members be addressed with Dr. Gandhi and Chancellor Rhee. Certainly excluding entitled union members under this Tentative Agreement could pose a liability for the District of Columbia government and is not consistent with past practices. This matter needs to be explored further by the Committee of the Whole. I have utmost faith in your willingness to investigate this matter. If you require further information, please feel free to contact me. Thanks for your attention. I remain
Candi Peterson
Washington Teachers' Union Board of Trustee member

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

Apr 24, 2010

Telling Lies To Attack Teachers In DC

Brian Tierney looks at the furor over the attempts of Washington, D.C., school officials to hide a budget surplus in order to cut teacher jobs and push a union-busting contract. This article is a must read for all DCPS teachers and related school personnel. Tierney offers an insightful analysis of the Washington Teachers Union and WTU's Tentative Agreement as negotiated by union president George Parker and AFT President Randi Weingarten. Tierney writes: "....THE WTU and AFT are again focusing on a court challenge of the layoffs. But a bolder fight needs to be waged, one that mobilizes rank-and-file teachers and couples militant action with legal battles in the courtroom.

Rhee is not invincible: despite her powerful backers, among D.C. residents, her approval ratings have plunged considerably over the past year.

But Fenty and Rhee are unlikely to be stopped as long as they continue to enjoy a docile WTU leadership in Parker's presidency. Parker has given Rhee a free hand to attack the union, push for charters and resegregate D.C. schools. In 2008, Rhee went so far as to praise Parker as "a great union leader" and a "a great union president."

Thus, the May union election will likely be a referendum on Parker's record in dealing with Rhee. Parker's main challenger is Nathan Saunders, the current WTU vice president.

Saunders, who ran on the same slate as Parker in the last union election, broke with his former ally when Parker failed to stand up to Rhee. Saunders charges Parker with being an ineffective union president who has allowed teachers to lose job security, pay raises and benefits.

"I am not campaigning against an individual," Saunders wrote on his Web site. "Rather [I'm campaigning] against reactionary and political responses which continue to unnecessarily burden teachers and yield minimal gains toward a positive public education experience for our children." Saunders continued: "Teachers must be committed to reclaiming our voice in the 'reform' debate as the experts in public education."

A great deal is at stake in both the coming union election and the contract vote--which, depending on the outcome of the budget debate, could be many weeks away. The choice that WTU members make in both will have a major impact on the ongoing war over the future of D.C. public schools."

Continue reading this article in its entirety by clicking on this link.

Posted by The Washington Teacher, article courtesy of Socialistworker.org

Apr 20, 2010

Honor Brian Betts-Stay Honest On Student Success

This submision by guest blogger, Efavorite is timely in light of the recent death last week of Principal Brian Betts of Shaw Middle School at Garnett Patterson in Washington, D.C.
"The front page Washington Post article on the tragic death of Shaw Middle School Principal Brian Betts accurately states, “Rhee held Betts up as her model principal, but it created expectations that he had trouble fulfilling. Math and reading proficiency rates on the school's 2009 DC-CAS assessments, already low, declined again.” But then it goes on to quote Rhee saying just yesterday that back in ’09 when the Shaw scores came in, Rhee, impressed with cultural changes in the school, told Betts, "We'll take care of the academics later."
She may have said that to him then, but this is the first time it’s gone on public record. In the summer of ‘09, Rhee publicly lied about the scores at Shaw, saying that they stayed “about the same.” She even mentioned non-traceable statistics showing an increase, when in fact the public records show that Shaw’s scores decreased. I’m gratified that the Post is now reporting that accurately. However, at the time, it published Rhee’s lie, and it was only after I protested and showed the proof that Jay Mathews of the Post corrected the information. Rhee had already lied about the Shaw scores to PBS, who also published a correction on its website after I directed them to the official records.
Only in the wake of Mr. Betts’ death does Chancellor Rhee admit that academics can be taken care of “later” – that it’s possible to be an admirable, beloved and acclaimed educator, worthy of working in an improved DCPS, even in the absence of increasing academic achievement. Unfortunately, she does not apply such a sane approach to the rest of the educators in DCPS. Instead, teachers can be rated down on the minutest of details of their classroom instruction, and if the new contract is passed, teachers can be rated down or dismissed if their kids’ scores don’t rise in a year’s time.
Perhaps in honor of Brian Betts, Chancellor Rhee and union officials will change course to officially accept the Chancellor’s newly stated and perfectly logical, research-based position that “academics can come later” after cultural changes. And let’s remember that cultural changes – not only in the school, but also in the home – don’t happen overnight and do require much more than effective teaching."

Posted by The Washington Teacher, Candi Peterson - blogger in residence with guest post courtesy of Efavorite, picture courtesy of WaPo.com

Apr 15, 2010

No Money For You DC Teachers !

This just came in. Gandhi to Rhee: "Surplus does not exist."
Bill Turque of DC Schools Insiders blog reported "that District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi just released a letter he sent to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee saying that the $34 million surplus she cited Tuesday as a basis for helping to finance teacher salaries under the proposed new labor contract "does not exist." Gandhi's finding could throw the status of the tentative agreement with the Washington teachers' Union into serious doubt."
According to Turque: "Gandhi's finding, conveyed to Rhee in a stinging letter late Thursday is likely to open up a whole new chapter of contention in tortured history of the contract, which has been in the works since the end of 2007. While his (Gandhi) assessment appears to defuse charges that Rhee opted to sock away money for a new contract rather re-hire teachers laid off in October, it clearly undermines the financial foundation of the $140 million deal. Gandhi told Rhee that while there is a projected $34 million of under-spending in the school operations sector of the current budget, that is offset by an estimated $30 million in over spending in the system's central office operation. In unusually blunt language, Gandhi also took Rhee to task for what he called a failure to adequately consult his office before revealing the surplus at a meeting with D.C. Council members. "I was incredulous to learn that in your April 13, 2010 presentation to the Council on the contract you asserted that a surplus is available to fund the proposed salary increases based on preliminary information," he wrote."
For more on this story click this link.

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

Apr 14, 2010

Channeling Chancellor Rhee

Guest post featuring Efavorite with Celeste Jones, graphic artist

Earlier tonight, I was writing a comment on Bill Turque’s latest article about Rhee’s spurious budget surplus, when something came over me. Suddenly I was shaking uncontrollably. I was possessed by Michelle Rhee! This is what she said, through me: HELP!!! Please help me before I screw up another budget. I have no choice. I have no idea how to balance a budget; I can only lie and cheat and screw it up. H-E-E-L-L-P-P! PLEASE!! Someone stop me before I fire more innocent teachers and upset kids in the middle of a school year. I can’t do it by myself. I need help. H-E-E-L-L-P-P! Can’t you hear me screaming out?? Please, oh Please, Washington Post Editorial Board – don’t defend me again against the indefensible. I can’t stand to see you do it another time. I cry and scream whenever I see an editorial supporting my latest horrid exploit. Can’t you see through me?? What is it with you people? Don’t you read your own newspaper? When I come to tell you all my latest stupid, crazy, lies, I’m sure you’ll throw me out on my petite behind. But NO! You twist yourselves into a pretzel covering for me, forcing me to go out and screw up again. Please, I want it to end --- end --- end.

Then, suddenly, my body convulsed again, and I found myself sitting quietly at my computer, breathing normally and looking out the window at the comforting “Vince Gray for Mayor” sign. My ordeal was finally over.

Posted by The Washington Teacher

Rhee Says 'BAD MATH Lead' To Teacher Firings !

A serious budget shortfall mysteriously disappears and now more than 260 D.C. teachers want their jobs back. They are outraged over the math error within DC Public Schools reported by Chancellor Rhee that has led to a new revelation of a $34 million surplus. Yesterday a number of DC City Council member issued press releases expressing their outrage that this math error led to the wrongful terminations of 266 DC teachers and approximately 120 other employees. What is curious to many is that Rhee who knew about this supposed math error much earlier this year was not transparent and did not provide this information to the DC Council until yesterday. When Rhee was asked if she will reinstate the wrongfully terminated teachers back to work, she said no.

Posted by The Washington Teacher

Apr 11, 2010

WTU Tentative Agreement = 1000 Ways To Kill DC Teachers

Featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence with Celeste Jones, graphic artist
Given that DC public schools excessed approximately 600 plus teachers last school year, there is reason to believe as many DC teachers will be excessed in June 2010 due to impending school system budget cuts and school restructuring slated to take place. According to the Washington Teachers' Union Tentative Agreement (T.A.) by definition, "excess is an elimination of a teacher’s position at a particular school due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring or a change in the local school program when such an elimination is not a reduction in force (RIF) or abolishment.” (page 5 of WTU T.A.) Should DC teachers be excessed under the proposed agreement, there is a great likelihood that excessing would lead to termination as there would no longer be a requirement for placement according to system seniority.
Rather than have the central office place teachers into existing teacher vacancies, principals would now be able to hand pick who they want (aka mutual consent) under the WTU Tentative Agreement negotiated by WTU President and chief negotiator George Parker and AFT President Randi Weingarten. NYC Educator, a NY public school teacher turned blogger wrote that mutual consent “is a misleading term. What it actually indicates is that principals get a veto on any incoming transfers." By definition in WTU’s T.A., mutual consent means no teacher shall be placed without the teacher’s and supervisor’s consent (page 27).
Mutual consent has been negotiated in other teacher union contracts in places like New York where Randi Weingarten, now AFT President negotiated this clause as the former United Federation of Teachers Union (UFT) president. Many New York public school teachers believe that the mutual consent provision led to the explosion of what is now known as the absent teacher reserves (ATR) in their state. In New York, teachers are part of an pool of teachers and continue to draw salaries while awaiting job placement. Some work as substitutes while others seek employment opportunities daily as they wait to be hired. This has led to thousands of teachers being paid and has contributed to an 81 million dollar growing debt.
So it seems that teachers and related school personnel in DC could suffer an even worse fate than our New York counterparts. While the WTU T.A. does not specifically address the absent teacher reserves like in New York, it does suggest that eligible permanent teachers with effective or higher ratings have the option of being placed into what amounts to a teacher reserve for one year if they cannot find a mutual consent placement. For all other teachers, the WTU T.A. implies that probationary teachers regardless of annual performance ratings, teachers who opt in for individual performance based pay regardless of annual performance ratings and permanent teachers with less than effective ratings will be terminated within a two month time frame if they cannot find a mutual consent placement after excessing.
Permanent teachers with an effective rating or higher will face a number of obstacles in securing the three options available to them under this agreement if they are excessed. While they can select a $25,000 buy out or an early retirement with 20 years or more of creditable service, the catch is these options would be subject to government and budgetary approval. The Tentative Agreement clearly states in Article 40, on page 103, that “Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as a promise that Congress, the DC Council, or any other organization shall appropriate sufficient funds to meet the obligations set forth in this Agreement.”
In addition, should eligible teachers select to work an additional year, they must make a substantial effort to interview at a minimum of five schools or interview for all vacant positions for which they are qualified if the total number is less than five. Teachers assigned the one year extension would be assigned in one or more capacities to include one on one tutoring, small group instruction, class coverage, long term teacher replacement or central office support. If at the end of the calendar year, teachers had not secured a mutual consent placement, they would be terminated as well.
Given the WTU Tentative Agreement includes undisclosed side letters which were crafted in part by mediator Kurt Schmoke, Washington Teachers' Union members, as well as the DC City Council and DC residents must demand that these written documents be made readily available for review to union members and the DC City Council. Although previously promised, WTU members are still awaiting receipt of the WTU Tentative Agreement in the mail. I strongly encourage all WTU members to read the 103 page Tentative Agreement in its entirety and request a written legal opinion from our WTU Legal Counsel, Lee W. Jackson of O'Donnell, Schwartz and Anderson. As always the devil is in the details.
Posted by The Washington Teacher

Apr 8, 2010

April 10 Rally To Defend Public Education

…join teachers from Detroit, Virginia, Washington, DC, Connecticut, California and others!

Ø Demand Chancellor Michelle Rhee stop toying with our students’ lives!

Ø Demand An End To the IMPACT Evaluation Scheme Now!

Ø Release All Federal Education Funds to the States Based on Need Not Promises!



U.S. 400 Maryland Ave., S.W. (closest to L’Enfant Plaza)

End the Attacks Against Teachers

Stop Privatization of Public Education

Stop Wrongful Termination of Teachers

Aggressively Challenge Unfair Teacher Evaluation Systems

Endorsed by: Votesaunders2010.com, Nathan Saunders, WTU Gen. V.P., The Washington Teacher blog, John Burroughs PTA, Fight 4 Fired DC Personnel, Detroit Federation of Teachers, Detroit School Board, California Federation of Teachers, Defend Public Education, Save Our Students Caucus, Illinois Latino Council, Oakland Education Association (truncated list of endorsers)

Posted by The Washington Teacher blog

Apr 6, 2010

City Paper Unveils DC Teachers Contract Proposal

Parker Dumps On DC Teachers
Mike Debonis (Also known as Loose Lips) of the Washington City Paper's City Desk unveiled the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) internal questions and answers about the tentative agreement which is scheduled to be released this week. Today at 12 noon, WTU Representative Assembly members were sent emails on short notice of a meeting scheduled for April 7, 2010 from 4:30- 6:00 p.m. at McKinley Senior High School. Later in the afternoon around 3:30 p.m. today, WTU Executive Board members were notified via email that a WTU Executive Board meeting will be held at the union office at 7 p.m. at 1825 K street NW office immediately following the WTU Rep. Assembly meeting.
Read this article in its entirety as well as the question and answer document obtained by Debonis. Some say this proposal sounds similar to the red and green tier proposal in many ways. I encourage all to read this document very, very carefully and be prepared to ask questions at tomorrow's meeting. Here is Mike Debonis' article courtesy of the Washington City Paper:
DCPS Teacher Contract to Be Unveiled; Big Raises Funded By $65M in Private Money Posted by Mike DeBonis on Apr. 6, 2010 at 05:44 pm
The D.C. Public Schools and the Washington Teachers' Union are set to unveil their long-awaited contract proposal, bringing to a close negotiations that have dragged on for the duration of Chancellor Michelle Rhee's tenure.

An announcement could come as soon as tomorrow, debuting an agreement that would offer city teachers significant raises plus the option to participate in novel "performance pay" plans, all funded in part with $64.5 million in private funds.

Preliminary details on the proposal come from draft internal documents obtained by LL; sources indicate that the outlines of the proposal are in place, though some details remain in flux.

The five-year contract, which would be retroactive to October 2007 and continue through September 2012, would mean an overall 21.6 percent rise in teachers' base salary rates. But the most discussed parts of the proposal stand to be performance pay and the process for "excessed" teachers (i.e., those laid off from an overstaffed school), as well as the novel funding stream.

Not all teachers would be eligible for performance pay. Those seeking to participate would have to "qualify in" using an teaching evaluation process that is yet to be finalized. Unlike the ill-fated "green tier" proposal, teachers who participate in performance pay would not lose tenure protections; however, they would lose some rights should they be excessed by DCPS.

As for those teachers not in the performance pay program, those rated "effective" or better under the IMPACT evaluation system would have three options if excessed and unable to immediately find a new DCPS position: take a $25,000 cash buyout; retire with full benefits if a teacher has 20 years experience; or take an additional year to find a placement with DCPS assistance, after which they would be fired.

Due process rights would be "streamlined" under the proposal but not ditched entirely. According to the documents, "teachers are entitled to due process that is fair, transparent, and expedient." The documents refer to a "system of checks and balances on the authority of school administrators."

Teachers who have moved past probationary status (i.e., in their third year at DCPS) will be protected from firing without "just cause." Those still on probationary status can be terminated for reasons "not arbitrary and capricious." The documents emphasize that those terms have "strong meaning in labor arbitration."

The base salary raises and performance pay initiative are funded via nearly $65 million in private donations gathered by the D.C. Public Education Fund---$10 million from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation; $10 million from the Broad Foundation; $19.5 million from the Robertson Foundation, and $25 million from the Walton Family Foundation. The money, according to documents, is devoted to the "recruitment, retention and rewarding of quality teachers."

Notably absent from that list is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has taken a keen interest in urban school reform and has developed ties with Rhee. One of the documents obtained by LL addresses its absence thusly: "The Gates Foundation has been incredibly generous, and, like all other funders, is donating substantial resources to a singular effort. The Gates Foundation is currently supporting innovations in teacher professional development such as the online platform, which is currently being planned, that will allow for personalized training for individual teachers."

As yet unaddressed: what happens in 2012, when the contract expires. Do the foundations have any ongoing commitment to funding DCPS, or would the city have to make up the difference, or would teachers face the possibility of a pay cut?

The contract proposal does address two extremely sticky areas of labor-management relations of late. One is the IMPACT teacher evaluation system, which is the foundation for much of what the contract proposes; the teachers union can have no direct say on evaluations under city law, but DCPS has agreed, according to the documents, to form a working group with WTU reps to "review teachers' concerns and suggestions regarding implementation of IMPACT....and to make recommendations to resolve issues and make improvements." IMPACT, additionally, will be subject to an outside review.

And then there's reductions-in-force, or RIFs---which occur when teachers are laid off to close a budget shortfall. Last fall, a DCPS RIF set off a political firestorm, with teachers, union officials, and politicians complaining about an opaque and arbitrary process that led to the firings of 266 teachers.

Under the contract proposal, new "checks and balances" would be instituted "to help members and the WTU deal with difficult personnel decisions and quickly challenge any arbitrary actions either at the building or district level." Specifically, there would be "consultation with WTU to discuss other possible options" prior to a RIF; "stronger language on the role of [local school restructuring teams]," which were supposed to play a crucial role in the fall RIF but in many cases did not; and "multiple hiring opportunities" for RIF'd teachers.

The contract proposal will be presented to teachers for a ratification vote; the contract would then go to the D.C. Council for final approval. A meeting of the WTU Representative Assembly has been called for tomorrow evening at McKinley Technology High School to discuss the proposal; expected to attend is Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, WTU's parent union, who has taken an key role in the negotiations.

The proposal, and teachers' reaction to it, stands to have a dramatic impact on the Washington Teachers' Union election later this spring, where PresidentGeorge Parker is facing a feisty challenge from longtime nemesis Nathan Saunders. The contract is also certain to have an impact on this year's mayoral race, with combatants Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray already dueling over their approaches to education.


Here is a draft text from a Q&A prepared by DCPS and the WTU:

WTU Tentative Agreement - Questions and Answers


1. How much is my raise?

The Tentative Agreement is for five years (Oct 1, 2007 - Sept.. 30, 2012), with base salary raises of 3 percent, 3 percent, 5 percent, 4 percent and 5 percent. Upon ratification, you will receive an immediate raise of 11 percent (retroactive pay of 3 percent for 2007-2008, 3 percent for 2008-2009 and 5 percent for 2009-2010). The total increase adds up to a realized increase of 21.6 percent. In addition to these significant base salary increases, there are substantial increases in benefit payments, administrative premiums and start-up allocations.

Special Note: Teachers who were separated or retired as a result of the November 2009 reduction-in-force (RIF) also will receive retroactive pay.

2. When the contract is ratified, when do I get my raise? When do I get my retroactive pay?

The WTU will work with DCPS to ensure retroactive payments are quick and accurate. (George Parker would have add here.

3. Is performance pay included in this Agreement?

A voluntary individual performance pay provision is included in this Agreement. Teachers must "qualify in" to participate in the individual performance pay system.

4. How do I "qualify" for individual performance pay? What are the consequences of participation? Will it be based solely on test scores?

WTU and DCPS will collaborate on the development and implementation of an individual performance pay program for the fall of 2010. The exact details regarding qualifications and standards for rewards have not been developed. The individual performance-based pay system, however, shall be on a voluntary, "qualify-in" basis that includes multiple measures of teaching practice and student growth for tested and non-tested grades and subjects. Most importantly, participation does not require teachers to relinquish their tenure.

In the event of excessing, permanent status teachers who elect to participate have 60 days to secure another placement in DCPS. If they do not find a placement, participating teachers are not eligible for the three options under performance-based placement (see Question #18) and may be subject to separation from DCPS.

5. How will the school-wide TEAM awards change? How much will they be worth?

The school-wide TEAM awards will now be based on the relative growth of student performance instead of a fixed amount of student growth. This will give many more schools and staff members a realistic chance of receiving an award. The amount of the awards will depend on the availability of funds and awards. All staff members will know the approximate amount of the TEAM award before the start of each year.

6. Where does all the money for the various monetary increases in the Agreement come from? What happens if the DCPS runs out of money?

Along with the traditional funding sources, DCPS has secured letters of support from a number of private funders to pay for base salary and performance components of this Tentative Agreement. Before the WTU a asked members to vote on the proposal, DCPS and the WTU received a written certification from DC's Chief Financial Officer that assures the financial viability of the proposal.

Failure to provide the funds to meet the obligations of the Agreement -pertaining to base salary, benefits and mutual consent is a material breach of contract by DCPS. The consequences of that breach will be settled by a court or an arbitrator, unless otherwise negotiated by the Parties.

7. How much do I get for "start-up" funds? How and when will it be distributed?

Start-up funds for the 2010-2011 school year will be $175, an increase of 75 percent. It increases to $200 for the 2011-2012 school year. The WTU will work with DCPS to create an effective distribution process that allows teachers to access the funds so they have the tools they need prior to the start of school.

8. What is the "Administrative Premium?"

(I have a good idea, but George should answer this on)

9. When do the increases in benefits kick-in?

The increases in benefits will be effective immediately upon ratification of the Tentative Agreement by members and approval by the DC City Council. (Check with George)


10. Does the contract force teachers to give up tenure?

No. This Agreement preserves permanent status and due process. Though tenure often is misconstrued and vilified, no one believes tenure guarantees teachers "a job for life." Everyone agrees, however, that teachers are entitled to due process that is fair, transparent and expedient. This Agreement provides that. It also strengthens language on due process and creates a system of checks and balances on the authority of school administrators—particularly as it relates to reductions-in-force. Moreover, teachers who volunteer to participate in any of the performance pay programs do not relinquish their due process rights.

11. Does the new contract include Red and Green?

No. Unlike the red and green proposal, all teachers' base pay is calculated using the same salary structure. New teachers and veteran teachers all are paid using the same base pay system. All of the base pay salary schedules can be found on the last pages of the proposed agreement.

12. What is the difference between "just cause" and "not arbitrary and capricious?" Why was this changed?

Permanent status teachers will continue to have the protection of "just cause." Just cause is a common standard in labor arbitration, and is included in the tentative agreement as a strong form of job security. Probationary teachers will not be "at-will" as is the case in most other states, in DC probationary teachers will have the protection of "not arbitrary and capricious." -It means a clear error of judgment or an action not based upon consideration of relevant factors. Both of these terms have strong meaning in labor arbitration and afford WTU members the protect they need and deserve.

13. How has the grievance process change? How is it better than before?

It is more streamlined. By removing one step and clarifying actions within each step, the process will work better for teachers and provide quick resolutions for all grievances.


14. Does the Agreement include the support and protection from arbitrary dismissals and RIFs?

The WTU was very concerned about the lack of transparency exhibited by DCPS over the past few years regarding dismissals and RIFs. The proposal has new "checks and balances" for evaluations, excessing and reductions-in-force. These new provisions will help members and the WTU deal with difficult personnel decisions and quickly challenge any arbitrary actions either at the building or district level.

15. How does the new Agreement address the uniqueness of B.C. law as it relates to RIF? Are there provisions in the new agreement to ensure a greater degree of fairness?

Under D.C. law, the Chancellor has unfettered authority to institute a RIF. This Agreement places some checks and balances on that authority and creates a process that promotes a greater degree of transparency and fairness. Additionally, it offers teachers affected by RIF and excessing options that were not previously available. (See Question 8.)

16. How will the contract stop DCPS from using a RIF to get rid of teachers?

The proposed Agreement cannot stop DCPS from implementing a RIF. RIF and Furloughs are part of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR). The proposed Agreement, however, has several new provisions to avoid many of the issues that led to the recent RIF. These include a clear policy regarding excessing and placement, consultation with WTU to discuss other possible options, stronger language on the role of LSRTs, and multiple hiring opportunities for teachers who have been RIFed.

17. How will excessing decisions be made?

Excessing decisions will be made using the rubric found on page 28 of the proposed Agreement. The following steps will be followed when DCPS determines an excess is necessary:

• The Local School Restructuring Team (LSRT) shall make a recommendation for the area(s) of certification to be affected.
• The Building Personnel Committee shall make a recommendation to the Supervisor as to the teacher(s) to be affected.
• The Teachers in the affected area may provide evidence to the Personnel Committee for their consideration.

If the Supervisor's final decision departs from the recommendations of the LSRT or the Building Personnel Committee, the Supervisor must prepare a written justification. Upon the request of the WTU President, the justification shall require the approval of the Chancellor prior to implementation of the excess at that school.

18. What happens if I am excessed? What happens if I can't find a placement? What happens if I can't find a placement after one year? Will I get help finding a placement?

When a teacher is excessed, DCPS will provide multiple hiring opportunities. If a teacher with an effective rating or higher is unable to secure a new position in 60 days they have 5 days to select from the following three options:

1. Receive a $25,000 cash buyout resulting in separation from DCPS;
2. Teachers with twenty (20) or more years of creditable service shall have the option of retiring with full benefits; or
3. An Extra Year to Secure a New Position.

Teachers who are unable to secure a placement will be provided additional hiring opportunities, professional development and temporary assignments. At the end of the year, any teacher who still has not secured a position may be separated from DCPS.

19. How do the three options work? What are the requirements?

Any teacher who receives an effective rating or higher will be eligible for the three options. Only excessed teachers with 20 or more years in DCPS have the option to select retiring with full benefits.


20. When will all this professional development and new support for teachers be available?

Immediately upon ratification, the WTU and DCPS will take steps to provide teachers with the high-quality professional develop opportunities outlined in the tentative agreement. WTU will focus on the immediate professional development needs identified by our members to ensure those needs are met as soon as possible.

21. How will the new teacher centers work? Who will staff them? What will they do?

Work will begin to launch the new WTU Professional Development Centers as soon as ratification is complete. WTU will work with the teachers of the UFT Teacher Centers in New York City to help shape our centers locally. Their experiences will prove invaluable to the teachers of DC as we embark on a new area of teacher-led professional development in our city.

22. What are the school improvement models? Who decides what model should be used?

The Tentative Agreement includes three new models for school improvement. In all of them, teachers continue to be full WTU members with all of the rights afforded by the WTU contract. The actual details of the three models can be found on pages 20 -24 of the Tentative Agreement. Teachers, administrators and community members working with each school's Local School Restructuring Team (LSRT) will decide which model is best for their students.


23. Will the new contract help improve discipline in my school? If so, how? Will I be supported?

Yes. The proposed Agreement requires that every school align its school discipline policy with Chapter 25 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR). In addition, each school will form a Student Behavior Management Committee (SBMCJ that must design a school-wide discipline and behavior management plan based on the local school's disciplinary needs, and it must be consistent with Chapter 25. To ensure every school has a comprehensive and fully operating plan, the WTU shall develop a system-wide template that will include the required components of school discipline/behavior management plans, along with models of best practices.

24. When will the WTU template for discipline be shared with my school?

The WTU already has contacted the AFT to help develop the discipline template for our schools. Working with the best discipline experts from around the country, the new template will be a step forward in ensuring our students have the safe'and orderly learning environments they deserve.


25. How will my concerns about the new teacher evaluation system be addressed?

D.C. law prohibits the union from negotiating on teacher evaluations. WTU and DCPS, however, have agreed in writing to form a working group of members and administrators to review teachers' concerns and suggestions regarding implementation of the IMPACT evaluation system and to make recommendations to resolve issues and make improvements. Additionally, the new Agreement calls for an independent evaluation and an internal review of IMPACT.

26. What additional things were agreed to or clarified in negotiations?

There four side letters attached to this tentative agreement. They cover a variety of concerns not directly addressed in the agreement:

1. A "working group" of teachers and administrators to review teachers' concerns and suggestions regarding implementation of the IMPACT evaluation system and make recommendations to the Chancellor as she/he works to resolve issues and make improvements.
2. Mutually agreed upon experts to review the IMPACT system and make recommendations to enhance and improve the system.
3. Clarification that WTU has always believed that past practice regarding progressive discipline does not apply to situations involving sexual harassment or sexual/physical abuse by a teacher.
4. Teachers who were RIF'd in November 2009, will be provided opportunities to interview for any position for which they are qualified before external candidates are considered. (Must check on the exact language on this one!!!)

Here is the text of a separate Q&A, one that addresses the sources of the contract funding:

Framing Message and Q and A for Private Dollars

Framing Message:

In order to appropriately compensate teachers for the incredible job they do each and every day, we called upon a broad range of foundations with vast experience in the field of education philanthropy to help support a contract that will compensate DCPS teachers in a way that no other school system can match. The dollars from each foundation - $64.5 million total - will be dedicated to separate and specific areas of the contract. These foundations believe in education reform that recognizes and empowers teachers. We are extremely grateful that they stepped up when asked and are helping to launch a new kind of contract.


Q: Are any private funds being used to facilitate the costs of this contract?

A: Yes. A significant percentage of this contract is being funded with private dollars from a wide and diverse array of foundations. This funding will allow DCPS to compensate teachers as the skilled professionals they are, with accountability measures that reward strong classroom performance.

Q: Which foundations are involved?

A: The Laura and John Arnold Foundation
The Broad Foundation
The Robertson Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation

Q: How much have they contributed?

A: Each organization stepped up to the plate with extremely generous commitments.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation: $10 million
The Broad Foundation: $10 million
The Robertson Foundation: $19.5 million
The Walton Family Foundation: $25 million

Q: Are these private dollars going to anything specific or a general fund?

A: These dollars will go toward the recruitment, retention and rewarding of quality teachers.

Q: Why are these foundations contributing to the cost of a teacher's union contract?

A: All of these foundations have two things in common: they believe.in our vision for reform, and they all committed their support when asked by the DC Public Education Fund.

Q: What is the role of the DC Public Education Fund?

A: DC Public Education Fund's mission is to serve as a strategic partner to businesses, foundations, individuals, and community leaders in collaborating on and investing in high impact programs with DC Public Schools. This work includes attracting critical funding resources, managing key public-private partnerships, and acting as fiscal sponsor for all grants made on behalf of DC Public Schools.

For questions about each individual funder, refer media to the specific foundations.

Q: Is it appropriate to use private funds for public education?

A: Yes, we want to bring every available resource to bear for improving our public schools.

Q: Are there any strings attached to these dollars?

A: It is important to be clear that the District will control this money, rather than the funders. The conditions are that DCPS stay true to its mission of reform, and that these dollars be used to support excellence in teaching. There are no conditions that are atypical for a standard grant agreement.

Q: But what happens when these foundations decide to put their resources elsewhere other than the DCPS system?

A: Our partners are committed to the terms and for the duration of this contract. Beyond that, it is our goal to sustain this with public dollars.

Q: Why is the Gates Foundation not involved?

A: The Gates Foundation has been incredibly generous, and, like all other funders, is donating substantial resources to a singular effort. The Gates Foundation is currently supporting innovations in teacher professional development such as the online platform, which is currently being planned, that will allow for personalized training for individual teachers.

Q: Why are there no local foundations involved?

A: Many local foundations generously fund school-based programs throughout DC Public Schools. Large national foundations are the appropriate source for funding...

Posted by The Washington Teacher/ picture courtesy of the Washington Post

Apr 4, 2010

AFT President Randi Weingarten Responds

It greatly disturbs me that I pay dues to a union in which our current Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) president, George Parker and certain WTU Executive Board members (M. Angala, J. Armoo, D. Hines, S. Littlejohn, C. Locke, E. Martel, L. Smith, A. Taylor and M. Williams) were unwilling to hear about the details of the April 10 march and rally to defend public education, organized by Steve Conn and other teachers from Detroit. Parker claimed that since AFT wasn't supporting this event, the WTU would follow suit and voted against even hearing discussion on this issue at our last Executive board meeting. This seemed absurd to me especially since Steve Conn requested an endorsement directly from our local. Parker at the very least had an obligation to allow discussion on this issue. It is a problem when executive board members who have been elected to serve are unwilling to even hear issues and concerns from members like myself . When Parker refused to place this item on our March meeting agenda, I wrote an open letter to American Federation of Teachers' national union president Randi Weingarten on March 29 to elevate the issue. I must give Randi her props because unlike George Parker - she did at least respond to me. A commenter who posted here makes an excellent point about this response from Randi. Pete said...
"Well, now! Exactly what did she (Randi Weingarten) say ? Sounds like a bunch of blah, blah, blah. All those kind words she lauded on you, Candi, surely wasn't the purpose or intent of your open letter, was it?
So, what is she going to do or what has she already done to show support for these teachers traveling across the country to defend Public Education? I sill am not clear as to why AFT doesn't support it except that the group didn't start planning it last Easter.......Really!?!"
Here is the letter in its entirety:
March 31, 2010
Dear Candi:
Thank you for your open letter to me about the march to the U.S. Department of Education scheduled for April 10. There are extraordinary challenges facing teachers and students today. Our sisters and brothers throughout the American Federation of Teachers are meeting these challenges by doing everything in their power—inside and outside the classroom—to strengthen public education and to ensure that their students have access to the kind of education that opens doors throughout their lives.
Our members—and their local unions—choose many different ways to address the challenges facing our public schools. The AFT enables this exercise of freedom. Because we are a federation and a democratic institution, there is broad latitude at the local union level to make decisions about endorsement of and participation in various activities.
AFT local unions are free to promote, endorse and participate in such activities, just as they are free to exercise their judgment not to take part in certain events. That said, maximizing the effectiveness of these national events requires that we plan ahead to allow for the participation of as many teachers, parents and concerned stakeholders as possible. The most effective rallies for public education are planned months—not weeks—in advance, and scheduled to be held when educators and students are out of school. While as a national union we have not endorsed the April 10 march, we are engaged in a series of actions to help students and their educators in these tough times.
You have identified a number of the challenges facing teachers today, specifically here in Washington, D.C. I share your concerns, and I appreciate your dedication and activism. I am proud that you and so many concerned teachers and union members have spoken up about the rights and concerns of educators, and about the needs and hopes of our children. I expect that, as long as you and I have breath remaining in us, we will continue to do so.
Randi Weingarten , President
American Federation of Teachers
Posted by The Washington Teacher

Apr 1, 2010

Educational Forum Featured Gray-Janey-Saunders & DC Parents

Bill Turque on his DC Schools Insider blog reports on the educational forum hosted by Robert Vinson Brannum and the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations and Wards 4 & 5 Council on Education. The forum was held on Wednesday evening (March 31) at the DC City Council building. I was in attendance along with many of DC's wrongfully terminated teachers, parents, community members and interestingly enough WTU President George Parker standing on the sidelines. The keynote address was given by a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Education. The panel included Dr. Clifford Janey, Nathan A. Saunders, and DCPS parents including Lee Glazer, Maria Jones, Iris Toyer, Keith White and Mia Pettus. The discussion was facilitated by Cherita Whiting. Here is Turque's version of last nights event:

Janey: "It's not a coup" by Bill Turque

"The gathering at the Wilson Building Wednesday night was billed as a community forum and panel discussion on education reform. But it didn't take long to morph into an emotionally-charged rally for what the 150 or so in attendance clearly saw as their dream ticket for 2010: Gray-Janey-Saunders.

D.C. Council Chairman and newly-minted mayoral candidate Vincent C. Gray didn't disappoint the audience, put together by a coalition of community groups deeply unhappy with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's approach to education reform. ("It's a new day! We're going to start with Gray!" exulted co-sponsor Cherita Whiting, chair of the Ward 4 Education Council).

He came with red meat for the anti-Rheeites, trashing her decision to reassign Hardy Middle School principal Patrick Pope and accusing her of not engaging with parents or articulating a coherent vision of education the District from early childhood through college.

With Washington Teachers' Union president George Parker looking on, Whiting lionized WTU general vice president Nathan Saunders, his opponent in next month's union elections, as a "standup guy" who "speaks for the teachers when they can't speak for themselves." Saunders called the union contest "a precursor to the mayor's race" and said his victory would create momentum for ousting Fenty and, by extension, Rhee.
Former D.C. schools superintendent Clifford B. Janey, shunted aside in 2007 by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in favor of Rhee, got a big hug and testimonial from Gray. "What a first-class professional. What a first-class human being."

Now superintendent in Newark, Janey never directly mentioned Rhee or Fenty. But he rejected one of Rhee's core contentions about school reform, which is that nothing is more important than the quality of the classroom teacher. Janey said such an approach, with its laser focus on test scores and achievement gaps, writes off the crucial links between school, home and community, and the potential contributions of parents.

Citing what he called "unassailable" research -- although he couldn't recall the exact source when I asked him later; he said he would send it to me -- Janey said just 13 percent of a child's academic progress is attributable to what goes on in the classroom and seven percent is driven by school leadership. The other 80 percent, he said, "is a function of what happens within the family and community."

"It stuns me that people just don't get it," he said. "And it doesn't mean teachers don't have an effect and can't have a greater effect than what is reflected in the research." But Janey said the achievement gap and other metrics are "just the tip of the iceberg."

"Much like attendance and truancy, looking at the achievement gap should only begin to raise other more fundamental issues about the lack of connection between schools, families and communities," he said.

Janey clearly enjoyed the hugs and hero treatment. But he said he and Gray are not plotting a restoration of the pre-Rhee DCPS. "It's not a coup."

Of Gray he said: "I do wish him well. We need some healing in this city."

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