Sep 29, 2008

Some Teachers Want Better Bargaining !

In the WaPo Sunday's September 28th edition , teacher colleagues Liz Davis and Kerry Sylvia along with Mark Simon of the Mooney Institute wrote an opinion piece titled 'Bargaining For Better Teaching.' What I personally liked about the piece is that the trio suggests that the method in which Rhee and Parker have been negotiating the teachers contract is broken and needs to be fixed. The group outlines a sense of urgency about their concerns that Rhee/Parker's one-to-one contract negotiation style which by the way violates labor negotiation regulations. They put the ball back in Chancellor Rhee and WTU President Parker's court by acknowledging that teacher contract negotiations should address more than higher pay and due process.

Here's an excerpt: "The contract talks have focused on the chancellor's proposal regarding pay, teacher transfers and due process rights. While increasing salaries is important, there seems to be no administration plan for improving and supporting teacher quality. To fill this void, the WTU should have brought forward a plan for improving professional working conditions, teacher evaluations and instructional support. While some of these issues were raised by the WTU negotiating team, nothing ended up being proposed to the WTU membership, and nothing was brought to negotiations with the chancellor."

The trio suggest that contract negotiations should also focus on a collaborative effort between management and labor which defines quality teaching from a system wide perspective. They pose some critical and well thought out questions for both Chancellor Rhee and WTU President Parker to consider. Here are their critical questions :

1. What is the plan to build understanding about what defines good teaching, so it becomes the norm in every classroom?

2. What is the plan to provide new teacher induction or, better yet, a "teacher residency" program so that the next generation of teachers has the knowledge and skills to engage in quality teaching ?

3. What is the plan to create professional teaching conditions and support for good teaching at every school so that talented teachers stay?

4. What is the plan to create an expedited and a high-quality teacher evaluation process that teachers respect? Is the WTU interested in the "peer review" approach taking hold elsewhere? How will the teacher evaluation process be infused with a deep understanding of how to observe and analyze teaching in a way that respects the complexity of the craft?

5. The consensus about the need to raise teacher pay is admirable, but how will the dollars be sustained over the long haul, and what in the bargain will deliver higher-quality teaching as a quid pro quo? Will teachers be any better prepared and supported under the proposed contract than before?

I'd like to hear your comments. Two thumbs up or two thumbs down for 'Bargaining For Better Teaching? agree or disagree with your colleagues ? Why ? posted by Candi.

Link to WaPo story:

Sep 28, 2008

DC's Shadd Principal Gets The Boot?

Believe It Or Not ?

This email came in from a confidential source on Friday:
Hi Candi: "Did you hear they terminated the Shadd Transition Academy principal on Thursday ? I don't know if she's still in the system or not, but it's very wrong and another example of how administration is steamrollering over people. She's not the problem with this program, she was just trying to keep the disaster afloat. Very sad. The staff gave her two standing ovations, it's going to kill morale and the kids are going to be off the chain today." Posted by Candi.

The Washington Teacher Blog of the Week !

Thanks to the NYC Educator for featuring my blog as Blog of the Week. Here's what she said about The Washington Teacher on Saturday- September 27, 2008

"Here's a real DC teacher dealing with the union-busting, teacher-bashing, no accomplishments, no proof of ever having been an effective teacher herself Michelle Rhee. " Posted by NYC Educator at 11:48 AM

Sep 27, 2008

No DC Teacher For You ! Part II

91 DC Classes Lack Permanent Teachers !

Check out the story as aired on Channel 7's Friday evening news as reported by Sam Ford. DC parents are complaining that they have been brushed off by DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee. They are lodging some legitimate concerns that many DC students in 91 classes have not been assigned permanent teachers to date. It has been reported that many are still being taught by substitute teachers. Reporter Bruce Johnson first uncovered this story at the opening of school when he interviewed the Chancellor on this same subject. On September 21st my blog featured DC teacher shortage impacts class size. Unfortunately many of our students in both regular education and special education are still being subjected to classes that are over ratio and many even exceed 40 students. 'Children First' - 'Failure Not an Option' - I think not !- posted by Candi.


DC Parents Concerned about Alleged Teacher Shortage

After millions of dollars in renovations, some parents claim McKinley Tech High School still suffers a critical shortage of teachers. "We asked what's going on, why there's no teachers," said Monica Lowe. "They made false promises." Her son is a junior at McKinley. After weeks of school, his Algebra II/Trigonometry class is on its second substitute teacher, she says. "Parent-teacher conference is next Friday, October the third, Mr. Ford, and we have yet to receive a teacher," Lowe told ABC 7/News Channel 8 reporter Sam Ford Friday. McKinley's not alone. ABC 7/News Channel 8 visited Thurgood Marshall Elementary School last week and found classes with only substitute teachers. One classroom with a permanent teacher had 46 students.

The teachers' union blames schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. "The chancellor was able to fire 270 teachers this summer without any problem, but yet has not been able to get a teacher in every classroom now that it's the fifth week of school," said teachers' union spokesperson George Parker. The union provided ABC 7/News Channel 8 with what it said is an an internal, school-system list of classrooms with no permanent teacher. There were 91 classes on the list as of Thursday. Among the vacant positions on the list, a math teacher at McKinley High School.The union says many of the teachers who were fired were a point or two from certification. They've been replaced by substitutes, said Parker. Parents like Monica Lowe say they won't put up with it.

"I refuse as a parent to allow my son or any of the children to suffer," she said. "They just blow us off as parents as if we're not important."ABC 7/News Channel 8 contacted the school system to ask about the list provided by the union and parents' concerns. A spokesperson had not called us back as of Friday evening. story courtesy of

Believe it or Not ?

This is the room where DC related service providers (speech pathologist and a school social worker) were assigned to work at Jefferson Junior High School located in SW. I don't think it gets any worse than this. As a WTU Building Representative for citywide teachers and related service providers - I am appalled at what I see. For too long providers have been fighting the battle for appropriate work spaces across this city . Imagine if you will attempting to provide services to special education students in this wholly mess ! Jefferson administrator gets an ' F ' for failing to honor the WTU contract provision which states that all related service providers must be provided an 'appropriate workspace.' Posted by Candi.

Sep 25, 2008

Reminder of Friday's Call for Justice in The Workplace/Prayer Service

On Friday- September 26, 2008 @ 6:30 pm. Please join us for a Prayer Service for Social Justice In The Workplace. The service will feature Denise Hamilton, a blind teacher (certified) of visually impaired students who was wrongly terminated by DCPS. The service will also facilitate a Call to Action on behalf of all public servants including teachers, aides and other workers who have been fired unjustly. The service will be held at the Covenant Baptist Church located at 3845 South Capitol Street SW, Washington, DC. Contact phone number: 202-321-9071.

Sep 24, 2008

DC Teachers Could Learn a Lot From Crayons !

Tuesday was a long night for DC teachers and service providers who attended the WTU informational session meeting on September 23, 2008 at McKinley Senior High . Some had difficulty sustaining focus as President George Parker continued his two hour long oration as estimated by some colleagues. Others had to leave prior to the long awaited abbreviated presentation of Attorney Lee Jackson and the mini question and answer session. What many who have critiqued the WTU Executive Board members and teacher participants to death seem to forget- that in a democratic society and as dues paying WTU members- all of us are entitled to weigh in on matters that impact our occupational futures even when our positions are in opposition to others .

The object of true democracy is to produce citizens who are independent thinkers , questioning and analytical in their outlook while being open to research complex issues. The spirit of democracy challenges conventional thinking and encourages vigorous debate and should not ignore discussions or arguments that may be unpleasant or controversial to some.

Teachers could learn a lot from a box of crayons: "...some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors .... but they have all learned to live in the same box - Anonymous. " Posted by Candi.

Sep 22, 2008

The Three R's to the DC Teacher Shortage Problem : Retain, Respect and Resources

From: The Mail - September 21, 2008

The research supports that teacher attrition rates are higher in teaching than other professions. The National Center on Education estimates that one third of all teachers in the US leave education during their first three years of teaching and almost half leave after five years. In poorer communities, it is even worse. For those who choose teaching through alternative certification programs, it isn’t uncommon for as many as 60 percent to exit education. Little wonder that DC Public Schools is facing a teacher shortage citywide. Of course other factors contribute to teacher shortages. For instance when Chancellor Rhee offered the Teacher Transition Award program last school year it encouraged certified teachers from closing and restructuring schools to leave in exchange for monetary awards. Not to mention the 78 probationary DC teachers who were fired in June without regard to their work performance while another 269 teachers were terminated, even though some of them were certified and some had agreed upon action plans. Then there are teachers like Denise Hamilton, the blind teacher (certified) featured on channel 9 news that was fired by DCPS due to a glitch created by the DC Central office. Go figure. Let’s not forget about the teachers who just got up and left for greener pastures.

The media recently reported that there is a teacher shortage at Thurgood Marshall, Ferebee Hope, and Garfield schools in the district. Many other schools complain of teacher shortages, including Ballou, Davis, Hamilton-Moten Academy, and the Shadd Center amongst a host of unreported others. A listserve parent weighs in on the impact of the DC teacher shortage at Thurgood Marshall: “Both Rhee and Fenty would never subject their kids to be placed in a class of forty students. You would think school principals should be the first voices we hear when school conditions are unacceptable. But instead they hide out in their offices, hoping parents will not complain. They are so afraid of drawing attention to their school to even ask for help or assistance from DCPS, for fear of loosing their positions, that they are placing our children in overcrowded classrooms.”

I wish I had a crystal ball, because if I did I would love to predict how our mayor and Chancellor will deliver the hard and quick solutions to our teacher shortage problem. After all, they are revolutionizing education, aren’t they ? Could teacher retention be one of the solutions? Randi Weingarten, now President of American Federation of Teachers, offers her perspective: “If we can’t keep the teachers who are hired, building a cadre of experienced, well-prepared teachers becomes like trying to fill a bucket that has a hole in its bottom. It’s costly and counterproductive to hire thousands of well-qualified people every year, invest millions of dollars in incentives, orientation, and professional development — only to see one of every four leave within a year and more than one of every three by the end of the third year. Worse, it’s bad for kids. Experienced teachers are more confident and more competent than brand-new teachers.” The key to retaining certified teachers depends on the three R’s which, by the way, have been discussed in many UFT publications: “You need to respect your professional staff, you need to retain (not fire) qualified teachers, and you need to provide adequate and appropriate resources.” Written by Candi Peterson.

Sep 21, 2008

DC Teacher Shortage Impacts Clasroom Size !

Say it ain't so. Channel 7 news reported on September 19th- that there is a DCPS Teacher shortage. Many of us who advocated last year to Chancellor Rhee to slow your roll knew that closing 23 schools simultaneously while restructuring 27 other schools was a Herculean task. Add to this the Teacher Transition Award which was offered to teachers in closing and restructured schools to leave their teaching positions in exhange for monetary awards. Of course firing 78 probationary teachers without regard to their work performance as well as firing 269 teachers - (some of whom were certified and some who had agreed upon action plans) have led to a system wide teacher shortage. Many school's just aren't reporting their teacher shortages problem. Here's the story as posted on Channel 7 website. Read it and weep !

"A lack of teachers at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Northeast Washington is forcing school administrators to make drastic moves. D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired 270 uncertified and probationary teachers last summer. Parents at one school in NE Washington believe their children are now suffering the affects of a teacher shortage. "I think we're just being neglected. Our children are not being educated," said parent Janie Felder. Among the reasons the parents are upset, the eighth grade class at Thurgood has had one teacher for 46 students. "She's getting ready to go to high school next year. How do you learn? She doesn't like it. She said the students are disruptive. The teacher can't control the class, said parent Oliver Leslis. Parents say Marshall does not have a certified teacher for either third or fourth grade so they combined the grades and hired a sub. "It's terrible. How can you have a third and four grade combined and don't have a teacher for five weeks and you have substitute teachers," asked parent Saymende Lloyd. A school spokeswoman said Chancellor Rhee was not in the office to comment, but Rhee and the mayor have promised better schools. At Thurgood Marshall, the PTA president, who declined to go on camera, said the school is worse because of the teacher shortage "Our children are suffering up here. Our children are suffering. They're not getting what they need," said an unidentified parent. When Sharnette Gordon Bryan found out about the combination third-fourth grade class, she said, "I just withdrew her. I didn't want her in a combination class." Parents say many people have gone to charters or other schools because of the teacher problems. The schools spokeswoman said they're going to have a new eighth grade teacher at Thurgood Marshall on Monday. As for the third and fourth grade combination, no progress has been made. The union president said Thurgood Marshall's problem is not an isolated incident; there are shortages in other schools around the city." Posted by Candi.

Sep 20, 2008

A Call For Justice in The Workplace on Behalf of DCPS Fired Teachers !

You're Invited to a Call for Justice in the Workplace/Prayer Service !

On Friday- September 26, 2008 @ 6:30 pm. a call to action/prayer service will feature the DCPS blind teacher, Denise Hamilton who was fired unjustly by Chancellor Rhee this past June 2008. This story originally aired on Channel 9. This service will facilitate a Call To Action to the DC Labor Community to request that labor and the community assist us in the fight on behalf of DC Teachers. The event will be held at the Covenant Baptist Church located at 3845 South Capitol Street SW, Washington, DC. DCPS Teachers are organizing this social action event. Contact phone number : 202-321-9071. Posted by Candi.

Sep 18, 2008

More Trouble On The DC Schools Horizon !

The mainstream media painted a rosy picture about the opening of DC Public Schools . Many DC teachers say it ain't so. Here's another email from a teacher colleague about one of our educational centers.

Candi - I have learned the following about an educational center from a DC colleague . They are missing eight teachers. Even the principal holds down classes. They are missing ESL teachers. Of the teachers holding classes, one is a special ed teacher, which means she cannot provide services and the rest are either ESL teachers or specialists. They are also missing books. Back to school night was a joke, a long night with minimal numbers attending. Muriel Bowser was forty-five minutes late...meaning they lost many parents who could not wait. The security company wants to add another security guard, but DCPS disputes the size of the building so they will not add another guard. It costs too much money. It's not as bad as some schools, but it is a nightmare. Anonymous DCPS teacher -Posted by Candi.

A Troubled DC Student Absconds From School !

Yesterday was a sad day for me. A troubled student absconded from Garfield Elementary School. It wasn't clear what triggered her to run away. Her grandmother informed all staff that she has ran away from home on several occasions as well. (I wish she had told us this before ). This act brought our staff together and made us closer somehow. We were all clearly concerned about this students whereabouts. The teacher in this classroom literally hitched a ride from a stranger to go searching the neighborhood for her. Others of us walked the neighborhood calling out her name. It was 20 minutes of PANIC, luckily for us and our student- when our physical education teacher yelled out her name one last time- she appeared after hiding in the brush behind an apartment complex running with open arms to him. WHEWWWW ! We were relieved.

I took the afternoon to meet with her. She talked- I listened. I let her know how concerned we all were and the real scare that she gave everybody at school as well as her grandmother. She said Ms. P you mean you all were really worried about me. I responded yes - we care and we don't want anything to happen to you. In that instant I believe that a light went on somehow with her. She agreed with me that we need a plan when she gets upset that rather than running away she can have an emergency pass to a teacher or administrator in the school. She nodded yes. I looked up to the heavens and I said in my own mind- thank you God- we owe you !

Working with emotionally disturbed students is a challenge for all programs especially when they are understaffed like ours. We are still awaiting our central office to send in the troops if you will. At least the staff that they have already promised- a special education teacher and an educational aide. Although this may still not address all of the problems we have at the very least students will be getting the services that they are entitled. SOS-SOS-SOS- If somebody is listening out there, we need help at Garfield Elementary school before the unthinkable happens. Posted by Candi.

Sep 16, 2008

It's Hard to Say Goodbye !

Today I was saddened to learn via email that Dr. Marla Oakes, former Executive Director of Special Education died just yesterday. Only several years ago- she returned to our school system in 2006- eager and anxious to take on the task of fixing special education . Many special education related service providers were optimistic about her arrival. Staff were happy to learn that Dr. O had formerly worked in our system as a Speech and Language Pathologist. Many reasoned that she would have a greater understanding of discipline specific issues.

As a WTU Building Representative- I met with Dr. Oakes and our school team monthly during our first year. One thing I remember were the pictures of her family a husband and grown children prominently displayed on her office credenza. Dr. Oakes took time to point them out to us and beamed with pride at the thought of them. From where I sit, Dr. O seemed courageous, conscientious and convicted. She was no doubt a hard worker and spoke her mind freely and matter of factly, offending some with her directness but offering no apologies. Unlike our directors before her- she tackled some issues that others dared not. Today let's pause for just one moment to honor her life of service to special education students. May peace cup Dr. Oakes family gently as they embrace her transition. I bid her adieu and give thanks on behalf of DC's children. Here's a copy of the email from Chancellor Rhee- which was forwarded to DCPS employees today announcing the very sad news of her passing. Posted by Candi. Picture courtesy of

September 16, 2008

To the DCPS Community,

I am sorry to report to you that last night Dr. Marla Oakes—Executive Director of the Office of Early Intervening Supports—died after many years of dedicated work on behalf of children. From her early years of service as a speech pathologist, speech therapist and reading specialist, to her executive director positions with DCPS starting in 2006, her colleagues attest to her lifelong passion for working with students with special education needs, and of her love for her children, Phillip, Danielle and Daphne. We will remember her friendly face and warm spirit, matched by a private strength and unyielding force of conviction and character.

In her most recent work this summer, Dr. Oakes was conducting site visits for the Student Support Teams (SSTs) in schools to bring early intervention services to students. She was a strong advocate for an inclusion model respecting the rights of special education students to learn with their peers. Her work will be felt in the lives of thousands of students long after her passing, and I am grateful for it.

Services will be held by her family for this Saturday in St. Louis, Missouri. I know that many of you worked closely with Dr. Oakes, and as you grieve her passing, I am sorry for the loss of your colleague and friend.


Michelle Rhee

Sep 15, 2008

Anacostisa High smells of Rat/Mouse Droppings and Urine !

Please Help ! Another plea from an Anacostia teacher colleague !

9/14.. Candi... I finally located the teacher's lounge which has been allocated for teachers at Anacostia SHS on Friday 9/12/2008. It is located in the new building, but one would not know that it was the new building, because it is run down, dull, major cracks in the walls, and worst than the "old building. I've concluded the "maintenance, engineering, plumbing, electrical, carpenters, and the custodial staff" are inefficient there, or they definitely need more help. The custodial staff needs training on how to clean a school building. The stairs have not been cleaned .....seems like in a decade. Anyway, I visited the teacher's lounge and it was appalling. It appears this place has not been cleaned in years. It smells of urine. Rat/Mouse droppings and roaches are everywhere. This place is unacceptable. I am shocked that the DCPS administration is announcing this "place" as a teacher's lounge. Who is responsible for our school buildings? How can this school be allowed to operate under these conditions? Where is the Chancellor and the Mayor on this situation at Anacostia? You should also see the business managers office, she is in and out (more out) due to complications of her pregnancy. I would spend time articulating this environment also in writing, but I am beginning to feel no one cares except for the teachers at Anacostia who nobody tends to listen to. Several teachers have echoed that they have sent emails to the Chancellor but no response has been given. Please publish on your blog and send to the local media. Thanks, anonymous teacher. Posted by Candi.

Sep 14, 2008

The Washington Teacher Blog quoted in the Sunday's Post !

Bill Turque of the Washington Post did a story based on my blog. While I appreciate the coverage of this issue- The Post incorrectly published that The Washington Teacher had reported that Dr. Phyllis Harris was fired. Correction: The Washington Teacher reported that un-named sources confirmed that Dr. Harris got the official boot. Be that as it may- thanks for reporting Bill on an even greater issue- students with disabilities DO NOT have special education teachers and educational aides in many city-wide schools. Garfield and Ferebee Hope are just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately Mr. Turque failed to mention many of the other schools in which there are numerous complaints. Service providers and others continue to act in the role of educational aides and substitute teachers. I have posted Sunday's Post article in its entirety for all to read.

Special Ed Chief Takes Leave of Absence Departure Comes Amid Judge's and Teachers' Criticisms of Services for Special Needs Students

By Bill Turque, Washington Post Staff Writer - Sunday, September 14, 2008; Page C04

The D.C. school system's deputy chancellor for special education, Phyllis Harris, has taken a leave of absence for unspecified reasons. Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee , said personnel regulations prohibited her from discussing the nature of Harris's leave, which began Tuesday. She did deny a report, posted Wednesday on the blog The Washington Teacher, that Harris had been fired. Efforts to reach Harris at her office and home this week were unsuccessful. Her leave comes less than two weeks after a federal judge admonished the District for its lack of progress in serving children with learning disabilities and physical or behavioral challenges.

On Sept. 3, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman said the District was failing to comply with a 2006 court order to eliminate a backlog of cases involving hundreds of schoolchildren waiting for special education services. The order was part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit, Blackman v. District of Columbia, brought by parents seeking help for their children.

The District has almost 11,000 special education students, including about 2,300 who have been placed in private schools at taxpayers' expense because the city cannot meet their needs. Friedman, responding to a report by court-appointed monitors, also said the District's approach seemed disorganized. "My fundamental problem here is the lack of accountability, lack of coordination, lack of oversight, a lack of specific people who are rolling up their sleeves to get the job done," Friedman said. He said he planned to order Rhee and State Superintendent of Education Deborah A. Gist to return and explain in more detail how they were addressing the problem.

Harris's leave also comes amid complaints from teachers that special education programs at several schools are suffering from staff shortages. Instructors have told the Washington Teachers' Union that at several schools, including Garfield and Ferebee-Hope elementary schools in Southeast Washington, that special education classes lack certified instructors. In some cases, union officials said, social workers are working as substitute teachers in classes for emotionally disturbed children. Iverson said Rhee's office was working to fix the problems. "The chancellor has made it a priority to have appropriate staffing in every classroom," Iverson said Friday. "We . . . expect to be at appropriate levels shortly."

Rhee named Harris, previously a special education coordinator for the Oakland, Calif., school system, to the deputy post last fall. Despite her current title, much of the significant work on compliance with the requirements of the Blackman lawsuit was actually led by another top Rhee aide, Richard Nyankori, according to court monitors Amy Totenberg and Clarence J. Sundram.Harris did not respond to requests for an interview after the monitors' report was filed Aug. 28. Asked again at the Sept. 3 hearing, Harris told a reporter, "Call me in a month." Posted by Candi.

DC Blind Teacher Still Fighting For Her Job ! Go Denise !!!!

Teachable Moment for Visually Impaired Students.....

Approximately 1 month ago WUSA Channel 9 covered a story about Denise Hamilton, a DC Teacher who is blind and was fired this past June. The letter terminating her was not sent in braille as required. Ms. Hamilton continues to fight for her job as a teacher of visually impaired students at Sharpe Health School. She has filed a complaint with the EEOC- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and is represented by the Washington Teachers' Union.

Blind and visually impaired teachers in our DC public school system are treated as badly as DC students with disabilities. Far too often- neither group are afforded the accommodations they are required under the 504 Rehabilitation Act and the American Disabilities Act. In Denise's case her classification was mistakenly changed by what some describe as the inept DC central office from being a braille teacher (certified) to a special education teacher. In response to this challenge, Denise returned to school to get a second certification in special education. She even hired her own 'reader' to read the praxis test to her and failed the test by 1 point. Check out the link below as Denise discusses the difficulties in completing a test particularly when everything is read to you. The million dollar question is : Will DCPS hire her back and make her whole again ? After all- Denise is a certified braille instructor and due to no fault of her own was terminated due to DC's human error. In my mind- the real travesty in this situation is the harm that has been done to our blind and visually impaired students in DCPS who regard Denise Hamilton as their role model. I salute you Denise and best of luck to you in your challenge on behalf of DC students ! Picture courtesy of Posted by Candi.

Sep 12, 2008

Missed Services for DC Special Education Students !

In spite of Dr. Harris being relieved of her responsibility as the Deputy Chancellor of special education, self-contained programs are still amiss in DC Public schools. Teachers and related service providers continue working out of their certification areas without a reprieve. Special education self-contained programs lack special education teachers. Many lack educational aides while school social workers have been assigned duty to full time E.D. classrooms and are functioning as substitutes, and educational aides. The result: students are missing out on valuable instruction and related services. Check out the email below from a related service provider at the Hamilton-Moten Academy.

September 10, 2008

Hi Candi

"Please don't mention my name however you can discuss my concerns. Yesterday the educational assistant was on leave and the teacher and I were in the classroom. I am asked to do the behavior sheets when it is really the aide's responsibility.
On 9-8-08 a 10 year old student swung at me and threatened to come to school with a knife today and stab me.
I left a message on the Principal's cell phone and also notified security this morning.

Since we have started school the teacher has taken off three times and the aide two times and one occasion both took off on the same day; only three students came to school on that day and I suggested putting them in another class but the Principal put two aides in the room. I have not been off work since school began. I feel as though I am being forced to be a aide, teacher, and police officer at the Hamilton-Moten Academy which makes it harder to be a clinician for the children when you are seen in these other positions. Also we are mandated to do our medicaid notes, but the service providers do not have access to the Internet and computers. This new model is terrible."
Posted by Candi.

Reminder of Saturday WTU E Board Meeting !

Just a reminder - WTU will hold its bi-monthly Executive Board meeting on this Saturday, September 13th @ 9:00 a.m. at the WTU Office. The office is located at 490 L'Enfant Plaza SW Suite 7200 - Washington, DC 20024. WTU members are welcome to attend. Please notify the WTU President Mr. George Parker via email @ Bring your WTU card if you plan to attend. Hope to see you there ! Posted by Candi

Sep 11, 2008

DC Special Education Department Heads Go On Leave- Before They Officially Leave !

In DC Public Schools, Special Education Department heads go on leave before ... they officially leave. Sound familiar. For those of you who have been around for the last several years- do you remember Dr. Silas Christian? Funny how Dr. Christian exited in much the same way as Dr. Phyllis Harris. Do you recall ? First Dr Christian left the DC central office never to be heard from again. According to the DC Wire, the DC Deputy Chancellor- Dr. Harris is now on leave - effective yesterday. Pullleaze !!!! For all those inquiring minds, here is the full DC Wire story as written by Bill Turque and Marcia Davis in today's Washington Post September 11th blog :

Top Special Ed Official Goes on Leave

"The D.C. school system's deputy chancellor for special education, Dr. Phyllis Harris, is on leave, effective yesterday. Dena Iverson, spokeswoman for Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, said last night that she could not elaborate on the nature of the leave and when--or if--Harris is scheduled to return. The Washington Teacher, a blog written by Washington Teachers Union trustee Candi Peterson, cited unnamed sources in a posting that said Harris got "the official boot."Iverson said Harris has not been fired.

The move comes a week after a federal judge admonished District officials for the lack of progress in meeting the terms of a 2006 court order to eliminate the backlog of cases involving public schoolchildren waiting for special education services. U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman, reacting to a report by court monitors, also said the District's approach to addressing the special education issues seemed fragmented and disorganized.

Rhee named Harris, a special education coordinator for the Oakland school system, to the deputy's post last fall at a reported salary of $200,000. Despite her title, much of the significant work on compliance with the requirements of the Blackman lawsuit was actually led by another top Rhee aide, Richard Nyankori, according to court monitors Amy Totenberg and Clarence J. Sundram. For many months, they said, the staffs worked as separate entities. "My fundamental problem here is the lack of accountability, lack of coordination, lack of oversight, a lack of specific people who are rolling up their sleeves to get the job done," Friedman said.

Harris' at-least temporary departure also comes amid persistent teacher complaints about overcrowded special education classes that lacked sufficient teachers and other providers. Peterson and other union officials have said that some special education classes are being led by teachers uncertified in special ed."- Posted by Candi

Sep 10, 2008

DC's - Dr. Phyllis Harris Gets The Boot!

Today, sources confirmed that Dr. Phyllis Harris, Deputy Chancellor of Special Education in the District of Columbia public schools got the 'official boot' by Chancellor Rhee's office . Rather than improving special education in DC public schools- Dr. Harris created another catastrophe. Read the web and there you will find numerous complaints by the former Oakland public school district where Harris reigned supreme in special education leaving behind problems which have led to ongoing litigation for their school district. Here's what a teacher from the Oakland unified school district posted on Reporter Katy Murphy's education blog on October 22, 2007 :

"Dr Harris’ departure is welcomed by all in the department. The district spent THOUSANDS for a consultant from Sacramento to teach her the most basic facts relating to Special Education. Dr Harris was abrasive, arrogant, abusive and rude to both staff and parents. For those of us who have been around long enough to have experienced many Directors of Special Ed, we found Dr Harris to be similar, in many ways, to most. That is, she was ignorant and incompetent.... Our gain is Washington D.C.’s loss!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

A parent from Oakland wrote this comment on October 22nd, 2007 : "I won’t be crying any tears over Dr. Harris' departure. She was very proud of reducing the budget by bringing kids out of NPS programs and expanding in-school programs — but I did not see improvements for kids like my child. Perhaps there were improvements in autism programs, I don’t know; my child is not autistic. What I saw is that there weren’t enough speech therapists and the two “floating” Assistive Communications/Technologies specialists both left and the district was without any AAC specialists outside of the TACLE classroom for a very long time — I believe almost a year. The class I’m familiar with is overcrowded. Some of the kids actually learn in a converted supply closet! Also, I found her excruciatingly difficult to work with: Defensive about her own lack of special needs background, bloviating. She suggested that the services I wanted for my daughter would actually impair her learning! When I brought in a developmental pediatrician and a neuro psychologist to support my position, she dismissed their conclusions because they weren’t educators. She later admitted that at the time she made the comment she hadn’t actually read their reports.I’m looking forward to a new regime. I know nothing about the interim director, but am heartened she actually has experience"

While I applaud the decision to let Dr. Harris go-I know what DCPS is up against in the months ahead. Let's only hope that we can undo some of the damage that has already been done to our students who still lack certified special education teachers, educational aides and the much needed textbooks and other critical resources to help them be successful.

Wanted: A Deputy Chancellor for Special Education in DC Public Schools. Must be willing to submit to a reference and background check.

Sep 9, 2008

Campaign for DC Special Education Teachers !

SOS: Another Plea For Help- It seems there is a serious problem with hiring certified teachers in many of the District's public school programs. Many teachers are currently working out side of their area of certification area. Attached is a list that I received from an insider via email regarding many of the problems DCPS still faces. posted by Candi.

See Forever (Oak Hill Academy) – certification issues, unable to implement IEP's
Mary Church Terrell (MTC Center) certification issues
Luke C. Moore – program issues
Ron Brown Middle School –program issues
Sousa Middle School – ED Cluster program, certification issues
City Lights Public Charter School -(ED program), certification issues, no program
Web Wheatly ES – certification issues
Walker-Jones – certification issues
Ballou Senior HS (not implementing IEP's – (Sped students issued Gen. Ed. schedules)
Johnson Junior High -certification issues
Dunbar Senior High School – offering inclusive environments only
High Road Academy (using restraint techniques, truancy not filed on kids with more than 10 absences)
Sunrise Academy (showing movies most of the day, using restraints)
Rock Creek Academy -off-the-hook
Spingarn Center - certification issues, no program
Spingarn SHS - students not receiving services

Sep 8, 2008

SOS: Missing the Mark in Special Education !

A Plea for Help !

After my essay in the mail titled: No Special Education Teacher for You !- I received the attached email from a teacher in DC. I think that this email deserves front page billing. "I am a pre-kindergarten teacher in DC. I transitioned a child to Ferebee Hope’s kindergarten program this school year. The child has an IEP which clearly states that he should be in a small class setting, OT, speech and language services, and individual instruction. The kindergarten classroom teacher at Ferebee Hope DOES NOT have an educational assistant, the classroom has at least 28 children enrolled and the special education resource teacher works with children from grades 1-3 ( NO early childhood special ed. teacher). This placement has the potential to ruin this child’s life. I will not sit back and allow DCPS to do a disservice to our children." Posted by Candi.

The Miseducation of DC Special Education Students...

Earlier this month, I wrote about the lack of special education teachers and educational aides in No Special Education Teacher for You ! More emails pour in about the problems we face in DCPS due to the lack of appropriate staff and resources to educate our students. Other complaints have surfaced from Davis, Ferebee Hope, Garfield, Kimble, and Smothers Elementary schools and Anacostia Senior High amongst a host of other programs where self contained classrooms still lack special education teachers, educational aides, related service providers and textbooks still.

A DCPS service provider makes a poignant appeal in her recent email: “Hi Candi. It is truly a travesty, the disservice that our young children, especially black males, are being subjected to across this city. The E.D. (emotionally disturbed) programs are grossly understaffed and in total chaos and disarray. The conditions at Shadd are widely known, which is why central office personnel have been detailed; but the local school citywide programs are just as bad. Examples include Ferebee-Hope, which has a primary and intermediate class on paper. Only one teacher and no aides have shown. The school is supposed to have a full-time social worker but does not have one at all. The classes for students with an emotional disturbance are combined and the atmosphere is extremely confrontational. Students are aggressive with one another and the teacher. Davis, Garfield, Kimble, Smothers, and Thomas are also under staffed. My concern is that we are on the brink of a major catastrophe. This is a class-action lawsuit waiting to happen. Do we really wait until someone, child or staff, gets seriously injured before we address the issue? Unfortunately there are multiple issues of equal importance within the school system that need to be addressed. Please give this one some thought before it erupts and encapsulates us all.”

If you know of a program that lacks special education resources, please drop me a line c/o Posted by Candi.

Sep 7, 2008

Call For Help !!!!

I wanted to share from the 9/6/08 comments section, A DC Teacher's Lament. Souldrummer said... "Anacostia High School has been a concern for me for some time. It appears to lack a parent apparatus that can advocate for students downtown. Candi, are you aware of any nonprofits that help support motivated students academically at Anacostia High in the 9th and 10th grade years?" I'd like to pose the question to anyone who may know of city tutoring resources (preferably free ) that would help support Anacostia senior high students academically. Post your responses here. Posted by Candi.

I Can't Stop The Rain !

The rain didn't stop the show at the 23rd annual Black Family Reunion Celebration yesterday September 6, 2008. The National Council of Negro Women, Inc. moved the ecumenical prayer breakfast indoors to the basement of Union Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church. Afterall the church is where it all began. I was happy to be an invited guest. The Howard University Gospel Choir directed by Mr. Clifton Ross, III rocked the house with their gospel musical renditions. Their performance brought to mind the old adage to be young, gifted and black. Wow ! There was nary a dry eye in the house. Bishop Eddie Long of Lithonia, Georgia gave the keynote address with an awe inspiring speech that encouraged African-Americans to not give up on the dream that an African-American would become our next president. Bishop Long encouraged all to find their 'inner child' and dream like we were children- that change is a-coming.

Festivities for the Black Family Reunion celebration continue today on the Washington National Mall beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Sep 5, 2008

Get Active and Tell a Friend !

The WTU and AFT encourages you to Reject Proposed Changes to Sections 1601.7(d) and 1601.9 of Professional Education Requirements Campaign ends September 8th ! (Sponsored by WTU/AFT)


The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has recently proposed new regulations that would require DC Public School (DCPS) teachers to demonstrate effectiveness as a condition for teacher licensure renewal. Unfortunately there is not a lot of time to provide your feedback on the proposed regulations. It is the WTU's position that this proposed regulation would not benefit DCPS teachers, as a teacher's true effectiveness should not be linked to a teacher’s right to renew his or her license. What's at stake: Teachers evaluations are the responsibility of DCPS. In every state in the country licensing is the responsibility of the state and evaluation of teachers job performance is the responsibility of the local education agency. Allowing OSSE to issue regulations unilaterally that measure teacher performance may adversely impact your evaluation process and job security.

The WTU President, Mr. Parker and other WTU staff have provided testimony in strong opposition to these proposed new requirements. It will be important for WTU members to weigh in on these new proposed regulations. Please view the WTU "Get Active" message on changes to DCPS teacher licensure- Sections 1601.7(d) and 1601.9.

The public comment period ends this Monday, September 8th after which time the State Superintendent of Education will decide whether or not to move forward with these proposed regulations, so if you agree- PLEASE ACT NOW by clicking on the link above or responding to the email which has been forwarded to your email account by the WTU. Thanks for getting active ! Posted by Candi.

Sep 4, 2008

A DC Teacher's Lament ......

"Amazing we continue to have learning happen, even under these conditions. What better job could we do if we had good lighting, adequate space, good air flow and constant temperatures. Maybe that should be considered in the No Child Left Behind recommendations." - 2nd grade teacher

What its Like on the Inside of Anacostia High School...

Candi, "I was curious if you could lead me in the right direction to someone I can trust. I have been assigned to Anacostia High school, effective this week. I am so distressed and overwhelmed. I have been given a run around via HR, Special Education, and the WTU. Besides, Anacostia HS being a disgrace, it is filthy, and unsanitary for humans to be required to work there. It is not fit for students or teachers. It smells of dead animals, human waste, and the paint is very old, cracking, lots of broken lighting and windows, poor plumbing (running toilets) poor ventilation, and non working air conditioners. Every teacher does not have a computer as was reported last year. No elevators for staff or the handicapped to reach the third floor. Basically I feel the school should be closed, immediately to another building. Please send the city/state inspection crew out to this school and the media, immediately. I am mandated to report there and get nauseated everyday smelling the stench. Rhee's newspaper report that the schools are ready is simply a lie. Well, at least not - Anacostia SHS.

One other interesting thing I noticed that they are currently installing a new football field. The school has over 300 special education students and currently does not have sufficient classrooms, textbooks, and supplies. I wonder where the special education funding is going to... the new football field? I have yet to be given a class schedule." From an Anacostia Teacher. Posted by Candi.

Sep 3, 2008

No Special Education Teacher For You !

Under Deputy Chancellor for Special Education Phyliss Harris' new model- many DC public school students diagnosed with emotional disabilities reported to newly created self contained programs. Little did their unsuspecting parents know that many of these special education programs lacked special educational teachers, educational aides and the much needed textbooks which somehow just did not get ordered by the Office of Special Education. The devil is in the details. To date major complaints have surfaced from the Shadd Center which some contend has become an institutional warehouse of disabled students. In lieu of having adequate certified special education teachers and support personnel for these programs , some central office staff are regularly performing as fill-in substitutes. Are we awaiting the call-back of the 269 terminated teachers, 78 terminated probationary teachers and the 500 terminated educational aides who were recently separated from DCPS ???? Is this a denial of a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE)- you decide.

Other complaints have surfaced from Ferebee Hope and Garfield Elementary Schools where self contained classrooms lack special education teachers, educational aides and textbooks still. If you know of a situation in which DC programs lack special education teachers/educational aides, lack textbooks, utilize school social workers as substitutes or aides, or DC teachers/providers who are working outside of their certification area, drop me a line @ Posted by Candi

Forum on Educational Reform Held Tonight !

You're Invited !

Obama4UnityBeatsMcCain presents A Forum on Education Reform. Please join the Obama4UnityBeatsMcCain slate of candidates for the DC Democratic State Committee for an Issue Forum discussing Education Reform in Washington, DC. Hear from experts and local officials, and share your thoughts on how to improve the school system to bolster the chances of success for DC youth.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
6:00 to 8:30 PM

Thurgood Marshall Public Charter School
2427 Martin Luther King Ave. SE (across from Anacostia metro station)

Panelists: Nathan A. Saunders, Tanya Kinlow, William Lockridge, Jeffry Richardson, Carl Thomas, Kathy Pearson-West, and a representative from the Office of Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

Nathan Saunders is the General Vice President of the Washington Teacher's Union. Tanya Kinlow a former school board member is now an ombudsman for the District of Columbia Public Schools ,William Lockride, a school board member and Kathy Pearson-West, a long time educational advocate and parent.

Endorsed by DC Vote - Posted by Candi

Sep 2, 2008

What Every DC Teacher Needs to Consider....

I contend that true democracy hinges on the fact that we all need to be as well informed as possible about the actions/intentions of decision makers that may effect us. Many would argue that our mainstream print media in Washington, DC purposely does not report or often under reports the other side of the story for political reasons (which I won't go into here). Therefore, the search for balance and equity in the news we need to know about is on the DL (down-low) . My goal here is to provide a look/see into the other side of the story about issues that impact our lives and often do not get equal coverage. I found the following essay by Barnett Berry, President of Center for Teaching Quality in the Washington Post comments on line section on September 1st. I think that Berry's piece is eye opening and represents food for thought as we continue to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the Rhee/Parker teacher contract proposal ( yet unfinished). Posted by Candi.

Trading Tenure for Test-Based Performance Pay: Revolution or Just More Confusion ?

"The Washington Post reported last week that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has proposed what some are calling a 'revolutionary' contract where mid-level teachers (who currently earn approximately $62,000 annually) could earn more than $100,000 if they 'boost' student test scores while giving up seniority and tenure rights. No doubt schools need to pay more for valued student outcomes. But will this effort to link teacher pay directly to student test scores lead to even more confusion?Ms. Rhee claims the increased pay will be funded by philanthropy, but should a pay system be based on the idiosyncratic and often ever-shifting priorities of education foundations? How will student test scores be used? Will they use one year of data or more? Will teachers who teach non-tested grades and subjects be eligible? Will the chancellor make sure the tests that are used are properly scaled so more true gains can be determined? (Or better yet can the tests be scaled at all?) Even proponents of student test-based accountability for teachers claim that the current psychometric properties of value-added methods render Rhee's pay proposals unfeasible and perhaps even invalid. More importantly, while paying teachers more and differently is critical for our 21st century schools, is placing more emphasis on current standardized tests in the best interest of students? Should the pay plan focus on more robust outcome measures reflecting the demands of our global economy and new Millennium citizenry? No doubt we need professional compensation systems that reward teachers for improving student learning, developing and using new skills, spreading their expertise, and teaching in high needs schools and subjects as well as working hard to make a difference in the lives (not just test scores) of students. These issues were buzzed about this weekend as members of our Teacher Leaders Network Forum discussed Ms. Rhee's proposal. They have some better ideas that embrace much needed changes in tenure and seniority moving well beyond the focus on test scores that has beset more meaningful learning for all students' and truly revolutionizes the profession that makes all others possible."

Barnett Berry President, Center for Teaching Quality

Sep 1, 2008


to bring to an end or conclusion as conflicts between people or groups usually with the implication of restoring former amity; settle; reconcile.

Today's topic on WPFW 89.3 FM at 10: a.m. Check out this labor day special aptly titled: Heal- Public Employees Under Attack. Union leaders, George T. Johnson, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 20 and Eric Bunn, President of AFGE Local 2725 who represent the majority of District government workers will discuss how the rights and dignity of DC government workers are being eroded under the Fenty administration. I know I'll be listening. Posted by Candi.