Jul 29, 2010
Jul 23, 2010
During the Rhee administration, her education plan which was released 18 months into her administration promised to terminate a significant share of the DCPS teacher workforce. Well the Rhee firing squad strikes once again. On July 23, Leah Fabel of the Washington Examiner newspaper reported that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee will fire a sizable number of teachers and school staff by next week. Rhee did not appear in a Thursday briefing and left the dirty work to her deputy, Kaya Henderson to announce the bad news. Fabel reported the numbers of the terminations was not revealed in the briefing. The firings are based on a new evaluation instrument (IMPACT) which was introduced in school year 2009-10. Many have argued that IMPACT had inadequate training which was offered after the evaluation cycle began and takes into consideration fifty percent of DC-CAS student test scores for those in testing grades. WTU's President, George Parker whose term ended June 30, 2010 reported in the Examiner article that grievances would "definitely" be filed for each fired teacher, based on what many teachers perceived as a botched process. Parker stated "The Impact evaluation is flawed, and we requested that DCPS not terminate teachers or inflict adverse actions in its first year. The document should've been piloted first." Terminated teachers would join a very long waiting list of DCPS employees who have already been fired by Rhee's administration over the past three years. Many WTU members believe that Parker's response to IMPACT evaluation has been reactionary and a little to late. In union meetings during last school year, members insisted that Parker fight IMPACT as an evaluation tool that is unfair. These requests made by union members of Parker have fallen on deaf ears.
Bill Turque, Washington Post writer for the DC Schools Insider blog also covered this story. Click the School Insider link for Turque's story. Stay tuned for more on updates on teacher and school staff terminations in the upcoming week. While Kaya Henderson would not give reporters a ball park figure of the number of terminations, what's your best guess of the number of DCPS teachers and school staff to be terminated?
Jul 19, 2010
Are the winds changing under Chancellor Michelle Rhee ? Given the recent announcement of low standardized test scores on the elementary level in DCPS, Efavorite poses some interesting questions for us to consider.
Written by Efavorite, guest writer
Have you noticed that Chancellor Rhee has not pointed the finger of blame at DC teachers for the 2010 DC CAS score decline in the elementary grades? How weird for someone who, up to now, has given teachers complete responsibility for student achievement, and has pushed for additional and easier ways to rid the system of teachers who she feels are not up to the task.
Rhee’s been complaining about the low quality of DCPS teachers since her arrival here, so these new declining scores could have been positioned as proof that her major reform of firing more teachers needs to be stepped up immediately! At the press conference announcing the scores, instead of the vague “we have to take responsibility” and “dig into the data,” Rhee could have simply blamed teachers and promised to fire more of them, using the new options at her disposal in her historic, ground-breaking union contract.
So what’s up? Maybe her $100,000 media consultant is worried that mentioning teacher quality right now would reflect poorly on the 900 new teachers Rhee hired last summer, breaking the budget and instigating an October RIF. These recent hires make up almost a quarter of the teaching corps now, so in theory they could be having quite an effect on student achievement.
It could be that Rhee is hesitant to bash teachers in the middle of a rough recruiting season, especially knowing that a bunch of current teachers, including some of her own hires, are now up for dismissal based on their students’ declining DC-CAS scores. Perhaps it’s more personal. Rhee may have decided not to attract too much attention to herself during the press conference, thus allowing more time to weigh her own options. With the DC mayoral election right around the corner, anything could happen. Future DC teacher-bashing and teacher-firing opportunities could abound! Then again, she could opt to go national, much as Sarah Palin did, extending her star power over the whole country.
Meanwhile, keep you ears open. The Chancellor has to mention teachers sometime soon. “Effective teachers” have been the cornerstone of her reform efforts. Remember, she thinks “Teachers are everything” and “the only solution we have.” Surely she won’t abandon them now.
Rhee must be waiting for the right moment and the right spin.
Jul 15, 2010
The Other Side Of The Sousa Middle School Story
A total of 50 teachers and staff members left the year that I was there. Jordon terminated 10, but 40 left on their own.To have 50 staff members leave from one school ( Sousa) is unheard of in any district. We complained to the union, and they were helpful but overwhelmed by the sheer volume of complaints. Our union Field Representative was either taking complaints or doing mediation at Sousa at least twice per week in school year 2008-2009. There were at least 45 complaints filed with the WTU and DCPS central office about Jordon. A lot of the staff, including me, worked around the clock to increase the test scores. Prior to Jordon coming to Sousa, we always had a lot less resources and many more students. When Jordon arrived our enrollment was down 60 students. All of our class sizes ranged from 10 to 25 students at most. Also, we did not have any other administrators (i.e., asst. principals) many years before Jordon came. When Jordon arrived, he was given two assistant principals, two coaches, and a dean of students. We only had 230 students with over 56 staff.
Mr. Jordon was very gifted at analyzing data and implementing longer school days. Some teachers even came to work from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily to please him. We were scared as he threatened us with being fired at least three times weekly. In Jordon's (July 6) front page Washington Post article written by Stephanie McCrummen, he wanted to paint a picture of all of the 10 teachers he fired under the 90 day plan as being incompetent. Yet, four teachers retired and six were given their jobs back because many of them had never had a bad evaluation prior to him. Also, Jordon lied and omitted many components from staff evaluations. Based on the 2010 IMPACT preliminary Final Report, these are the ratings of the six teachers who Jordon fired but were reinstated with the help of the WTU: one teacher Minimally Effective, three teachers Effective, and two Highly Effective.
Jordon was very cruel. For instance, one teacher that Jordon did not like had an allergic reaction and needed medical attention. Not only did Mr. Jordon refuse to call the ambulance after the teacher begged him, but he walked down the hall and told the other staff members who witnessed it that they would be in trouble if they gave helped to stabilize the teacher.
Jordon would regularly demean teachers by screaming and yelling at them in the hallways right in front of students as he saw fit. Jordon intimidated many teachers by standing outside of their classroom doors during their lunch periods. Many teachers would go into the bathroom for privacy. It was not uncommon for teachers to be found crying in the halls.
It was very common for most teachers on the 90 day plan to be observed at least three times a day, yes three times a day. Jordon illegally used his Literacy and Math Coaches who both still work at Sousa to officially observe teachers. The teachers had a meeting with the union field representative for Sousa, and the field representative explained to him that the coaches are ET-15's and cannot officially observe teachers.The next day Jordon went to every teacher's classroom that was present in that meeting and wrote them up if they did not have their lesson plans. The Math Coach reported to Jordon all the names of the teachers that were at the meeting. We did not want the coach at our union meeting as she was a snitch; however, the union allowed it because she was also a member of the union. The Literacy and Math Coaches still continued to officially observe teachers until the end of the 2009 school year. All their observations were placed in the teachers 90 day plan file with Jordon's forged signature. Even when asked by teachers, It was seldom that the Literacy and the Math coaches modeled effective instruction.
Jordon was always saying how unprofessional the 2008-2009 staff were; however, he was one of the most immature men that any of us had ever met. Jordon would talk about teachers negatively (without saying their names) in front of their faces almost daily in our morning collaborative meetings. Additionally, he told our students that he was going to get rid of certain teachers, and sure enough those teachers were terminated. Jordon would also bring you into his office, along with his administrative team, to question you if he thought that you talked about him to anyone. Jordon continued to bad mouth many of the former teachers after they left Sousa. Jordon lied on many of our evaluations just so that many people could get bad ratings. He never gave positive references when other administrators called. He even bad mouthed teachers that he did not terminate. However, the few teachers that Jordon liked were given good evaluations and special privileges. For instance, there was a white female teacher that Jordon liked who still works at Sousa. She had no classroom management, was an average Language Arts/Social Studies teacher, but had an Ivy League degree. If a student so much as hiccuped, Jordon would get the student out of her classroom immediately and she never got into trouble. Yet, he would write up other teachers if students misbehaved in their classes. This teacher ended up being on Jordon's administrative/recruitment committee to interview new teachers, and received an Exceeds Expectations rating at the end of 2008-2009.
In contrast, there was an African-American male teacher, who had received many Ward 7 Teacher of the Year awards, had the highest test scores averages in the entire building, and had the best classroom management ever as he dealt with the most behaviorally challenged students at Sousa. He was the best teacher in the building in terms of academic rigor and integrating technology. His students loved him. Jordon even offered to nominate him for Ward 7 teacher of the Year in 2009. However, this male teacher had integrity and continued to still speak and interact with many teachers that Jordon did not prefer. Jordon did not like that he could not control this excellent teacher. Therefore, Jordon got back at this teacher by giving him a lesser rating of Meets Expectations rating at the end of 2008-2009.
Jordon would try to discourage many of the teachers from talking to each other. He would even tell teachers that other teachers had said bad things about them. Yet, he would never identify the teachers in question. Also, Jordon had many very questionable personal relationships with female administrative staff members that we could not prove. Yet, he called himself a role model.
Jordon never rewarded his staff for our hard work except once during the year. Once during Teacher Appreciation Week, he got his Math Coach to bring in 3 dozen stale donuts, which none of us ate. An 8th grade parent felt so bad for all the teachers' that she used her money to cater us lunch from Chick-Fil-A that week. Jordon tried to stop the luncheon. Jordon was reported to the union for not returning the teachers' $400.00 in hospitality dues as he never even sent a card to any sick person in 2009. Also, one teacher had to come out of her pocket and pay $40.00 in cash for a missing textbook in June 2009. None of these monies were ever returned. Yet, he went to "Things Remembered" in Pentagon City and purchased plagues for his two assistant principals, dean of students, and coaches with our hospitality money in 2009. We are still waiting for him to return our money. He blamed it on a former counselor by saying that she was responsible, and took the money when she quit before the school year ended. He also promised us an end of year luncheon but he did not even buy us water in 2009. However, the last week of school in June 2009, he took his administrative staff ( Asst. Principal's and Coaches) to Jasper's Restaurant in Largo, MD using the remaining teacher hospitality funds.
In Closing Candi, Jordon will never mature and teachers will continue to be tormented and ridiculed at Sousa. He has such a high turnover rate that many teachers will never know the full extent of his terror."
Jul 13, 2010
Jul 12, 2010
" This morning, two political bodies within the American Federation of Teachers presented their platforms for today's election of AFT executive officers and council. That's right, I said two. Apparently, this is the first time since the 1970s that there has been a full slate of candidates opposing the incumbents. Keep reading.
Current AFT Executive Vice President Lorretta Johnson spoke on the behalf of the incumbents, which include herself, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and Secretary-Treasurer Antonia Cortese. She underscored Weingarten's "vision" for moving the union forward, as well as her ability to fight back, and even call out allies:
"I saw Randi Weingarten bust the vice president of the U.S.," Johnson said, referring to Weingarten's confrontation of Joe Biden over the Central Falls, R.I., teacher-dismissal situation. "He got the message. All those teachers came back."
Then, a bunch of folks from a new political caucus formed just this year, called the BAMN Caucus, presented their point of view.
A bit more about BAMN Caucus: It's essentially a loosely coordinated group of teachers, some of whom belong to the separate, left-leaning BAMN group, and some of whom have challenged or will challenge incumbents in AFT locals. Several have had some success in winning spots on those local unions' governing bodies. Others are hoping to in the future: Among the BAMN slate is Candi Peterson, a trustee of the Washington Teachers Union, in D.C., and a staunch supporter of Nathan Saunders, who is running against incumbent WTU President George Parker.
This group thinks that Weingarten and many of the local affiliate leaders haven't pushed back hard enough on things like charter schools, the Education Department's policy priorities, and school turnarounds and closures. And they oppose her efforts to re-examine things like due process and teacher evaluation.
Speaking this morning, Heather Miller of Detroit, one of the candidates on the BAMN slate, had this to say about the activism in Detroit: "Our members opposed the the policy of cynicism and cooperation with those who would destroy us."
Of course, it's hard to say at this early stage what BAMN's bid means in the grand scheme of the AFT. The political activities took place this morning before formal AFT business started, and the room was probably only about half full. We'll learn more when the election results are out.
It's also worth noting that BAMN candidates seem to be coming out of cities like Detroit, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C., that have had some remarkable challenges, like enrollment declines, school closures, and rancorous union-management relationships.
The wildcard to watch in all of this is Karen Lewis, the newly elected president of the Chicago Teachers' Union. As I reported yesterday, she recently joined the Progressive Caucus—Weingarten's coalition—but appears to differ with some of its objectives."
Jul 3, 2010
The WTU Constitution Says It Isn't George Parker
A lawsuit has been filed due to election tampering by George Parker, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) President. According to the WTU Constitution, Parker's elected term ended June 30, 2010 and the new slate should have been installed July 1. Parker's cronie, John Tatum reported to the Washington Examiner earlier last month that the WTU would not hold union elections until November. Now they are saying union elections will be held in September. It's hard to believe anything these two say. Read about the lawsuit (below) that has been filed to address Parker's elections meddling as well as his retaliatory actions to reduce Nathan Saunders, WTU General VP's salary to a big fat zero while he (Parker) continues to earn a hefty sum of $150,000 and perks. Go figure. Here's the latest as reported by the Washington City Paper news desk.
Lawsuit Filed As WTU Election Fiasco Gets Personal by Alex Burchfield
"Who, exactly, is in charge of Washington Teachers’ Union? Current president George Parker’s term ended Thursday—at least as far as the union’s constitution is concerned. On July 1, new officers were supposed to take office. But the elections that would have determined who started a new three-year term then were never held—and now WTU’s leadership is locked in a court fight over what happens next. Vice president Nathan Saunders and the chairwoman of WTU’s election committee, Claudette Carson, have sued Parker for thwarting the election process and illegally cutting off Saunders’ salary.
Oh, and as it happens, Saunders is also Parker’s chief opponent to take over the union.The dispute over when, and how, to hold this year’s elections goes back four months. Unlike the usual hubbub of union politicking, this election bears heavily on the implementation of the newly adopted teachers contract—which will raise salaries an average $20,000 and create a merit pay system. The constitution stipulates elections for senior officials are supposed to be conducted every three years on May 30. The union’s election committee, elected in the spring of each year and composed of 15 nominated union members, runs the whole thing. Usually, candidates for officer positions must submit a nominating petition with 20 signatures to the election committee by April 30.
But Parker failed to turn in his nominating petition by the deadline, claiming the election committee originally in place wasn’t legally constituted because it did not meet its 15-member quota; thus, he didn’t have to submit a petition (see City Paper’s previous article). Parker argued that the other 86 candidates who submitted their petitions on the deadline were “trying to run a scam on [the] election” by using invalid petitions.
“This is a throwback to the unions in the 30s and 40s,” Saunders told City Desk. “Parker is saying, ‘I didn’t bring my basketball to the court, so I’m taking everybody else’s basketball.’”But Parker says otherwise: “What we have is Nathan Saunders playing an old-school election with invalid petitions.”
After the American Federation of Teachers—WTU’s parent organization—was called in to oversee the election of the 15 members of the election committee, it seemed Parker had nothing more to gripe about. The AFT decided to designate all future election decisions to the newly elected and legally constituted election committee, and would play no further role in the process. Parker, though, didn’t like the new election committee. So he kept withholding his nominating petition and refused to hand over the documents necessary to hold an election.
The complaint filed by Saunders and Carson (as you might expect) paints Parker as willfully obstructionist. During a meeting with Saunders, vice presidential candidate and blogger Candi Peterson, and AFT president Randi Weingarten, the complaint says, Parker told Weingarten, “I didn’t file my petition.” Weingarten responded, “George, you didn’t file your petition? I am stunned! I thought I had three candidates here representing three different slates, and I only have two.”
“Parker has run 100 times, so he certainly knew what to do,” Peterson told City Desk. “But for whatever reason he didn’t release the documents.”
Among his opponents, frustration with Parker’s conduct grew. When Carson, chairwoman of the Election Committee, requested that Parker deliver nominating petitions, union dues reports and the union’s only membership list in order to begin elections, Parker refused again. According to the complaint, Parker ignored Carson’s requests four times. Because the new election committee is composed of Saunders supporters, Parker’s solution was to transfer duties normally left with the election committee to the Parker-friendly executive board. With the unanimous support of the executive board, Parker decided all further elections would be postponed until fall, and that it was now the executive board’s duty to set election deadlines and provide the necessary documents.
To Saunders, that’s not fair. “The executive board never plays a role in the elections because they are candidates,” he says. “The election committee and executive board are not to be intertwined.”
Parker’s team is now making it personal, taking aim at Saunders, his main opponent. The board recently voted to revoke Saunders’s salary and refuse him a leave of absence. Since Saunders isn’t a teacher in DCPS, his salary is tied to the WTU payroll. The goal, Saunders and his allies think, is to force him to drop out of the running.
But beyond the personal disputes between Saunders and Parker, the indefinite suspension of the voting process has left many of the 4,000 teachers represented by the WTU feeling disenfranchised.
In an email sent to Parker by WTU member and Roosevelt High School teacher Thomas O’Rourke, the anger reaches a boiling point: “Your cynical manipulation and trampling of union democracy and worker tradition is both sad and disgusting and is directly responsible for the continuing decline of this union,” writes O’Rourke. “Know that, given the great amount of power under this Constitution you have, you will likely ignore this email and go on about your way, but know this: I, and others will make it our business to let the entire membership know of your nefarious conduct, your lack of accountability or even shame, and your cynical lies.”
It remains to be seen how the lawsuit transpires, but no one is too pleased about it.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to take these steps to go to court,” said Peterson.
As far as Parker is concerned, though, he’s still running the show. At a D.C. Council hearing two weeks ago, he told Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. that his term didn’t end until his successor took office.“The term of office for all officers is three years,” Parker said. “Ok, so what?” said Thomas. “Or until there – wait a minute.” “Or until?” “Or until their successors are elected,” concluded Parker. When that will be is now up to the court."
Article courtesy Washington City Paper