Oct 31, 2008

WTU President Censured !

Censure - an official reprimand by a legislative body of one of its members; strong or vehement expression of disapproval.

WTU Executive Board members in a statement of disapproval passed a motion to censure the Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker yesterday. The motion passed overwhelmingly 9 to 4. Board members expressed their disapproval of President Parker's failure to adhere to regularly scheduled board and delegate assembly meetings, fails to hold membership meetings, fails to adhere to motions passed by the board, and does not respond to members request for information. Although as a Board of Trustee member I have been denied the right to vote as an ex-officio member of the Board ( as per Robert Rules of Order) - I spoke in support of this motion. The motion to censure President Parker is as follows:

Motion to Censure WTU President George Parker
Whereas President Parker was elected to uphold the constitution of the Washington Teachers' Union which includes requirements for delegate assembly and general membership meetings to provide union democracy and participation in the direction of the union.

Whereas the Executive Board was elected to address executive policy matters between delegate assembly meetings and serve as a check and balance function for the membership.

Whereas President Parker has cancelled meetings and not responded timely to executive board members' request for information or executive board motion directives such as reporting and documentation of activities including but not limited to the WTU contract negotiations, teacher placement, seniority and tenure information. The resulting state of the WTU is one of membership confusion on contract negotiations, contract compliance and job security.

Therefore be it resolved, that the Executive Board express its disappointment at, and censure of, President George Parker for ignoring the democratic principles of the WTU and his responsibility to comply with the executive policy as stated herein as established by the Executive Board of the Washington Teachers' Union.

Be it further resolved, that the Executive Board will direct its attorney to take the strongest legal action again President George Parker if the same behavior continues.

Tally of Executive Board Members votes

Nathan Saunders
Sallie Littlejohn
Robert Willis
Willie Brewer
Agnes Dyson
Pablo Giro'n
Diane Terrell
Sheila Gill
Tenia Pritchard

Joyce Armoo
Milton Williams
Gloria Everett
Erich Martel

Absent: Maria Angala, Deborah Hines ,Camille Locke, Lorraine Smith, Andre' Taylor, Rashida Young

Non voting/ex-officio members: Jacqueline Hines, Candi Peterson (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Oct 28, 2008

All Hands On Deck !

Earlier last week I wrote an email to our Washington Teachers' Union president, Mr. George Parker and all executive board members after our regularly scheduled Thursday October 23rd board meeting was cancelled by our union president. I suggested that our board members step up to the plate in a 'show of leadership' to reschedule our board meeting ( see 10/23/08 post) . To date, I have not received a response from our union president. However, I did receive an email from the WTU ( as copied below).
October 27, 2008
"The WTU Executive Board will meet 5:30 p.m., Thursday, October 30, 2008, at the WTU Office. Please confirm your attendance or express regrets . Thank you." Herb Thomas

Although the WTU Attorney Lee Jackson was scheduled to present, he will be unable to attend this meeting due to a conflict with the rescheduled date. I invite all WTU members to attend our board meeting at the WTU office which is located at 490 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 7200 Washington, DC 20024 - telephone: 202-293-8600. Take 7th street south to Independence Avenue, turn left onto L'Enfant Plaza and the union office is midway up on your left next to the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel. Metered parking is available. Please email Mr. Parker in advance if you plan to attend c/o: gparker@wtulocal6.org

It's time for all hands on deck in a show of solidarity to ask questions and demand answers of your elected teacher union representatives about the status of our long awaited tentative agreement. Come watch as the executive board discusses next steps for the WTU. Hope to see you there ! Even if you are unable to attend, contact your elected union officer and share your concerns. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

AFT National Representative
George Bordenave (gbordena@aft.org)
General Vice President
Nathan A. Saunders (nsaunders@wtulocal6.org)
Joyce Armoo
Sallie Littlejohn- Woodson at Johnson Jr. High
Vice President Senior High
Robert Willis - Ballou Sr. High
Vice President Junior High
Willie Brewer - Jefferson Jr. High
Vice President Elementary
Lorraine J. Smith - Bruce Monroe ES
Vice President Special Education
Maria Angala - Jefferson Jr. High
Vice President Specialized Services
Andre' Maria Taylor - West ES
Vice President Career Development
Members at Large Senior High
Erich Martel - Wilson Sr. High
Milton Bruce Williams
Members at Large Junior High
Camille J. Locke - Hart Jr. High
Agnes Dyson - Woodson @ Johnson Jr. High
Members at Large Elementary
Deborrah L. Hines - Bears ES
Tenia Pritchard- Whittier ES
Pablo Giro'n - Oyster-Adams Bilingual School
Diane D. Terrell- Stoddart ES
Members at Large Specialized Services
Sheila H. Gill- McKinley TSHS
Gloria T. Everett- itinerant
Rashida Young- Moten @ Hamilton Center
Board of Trustees
Candi Peterson - Garfield ES
Jacqueline Hines - Walker Jones ES
1 vacant position

Oct 24, 2008

It's A Lie - DC Educators Speak Out !

The Washington Post article by Bill Turque, titled "Staff No Shows Decried as Rhee Aide Testifies" on October 20th has generated numerous emails sent to me by DC educators during this past week. Many of my teacher/provider colleagues were outraged about Richard Nyankori's comments in which he indicated that we do not attend mandatory meetings and are 'willfully indifferent.' My position is "it's a lie for lack of a better word" still stands. Unfortunately, Chancellor Michelle Rhee's comments in this article are devoid of the facts and suggest a draconian approach to dealing with the multi-faceted problems in special education versus utilizing many of the recommendations of such long term studies as the Appleseed Study. This article should have been more aptly titled "Rhee Swings The Axe- Part Two." Here are several poignant emails which I have received lately that are worth sharing on this hot topic.

Email # 1

"Thank you for your bravery and commitment to the teachers, counselors and staff who on a daily basis try to help the students in special education or in need of special education. They didn't even begin to touch on bilingual special education in the recent Post article . No one has really ever exposed what the psychologists, social workers, special ed. coordinators, et. al have to go through to help our children. The chancellor's office is irresponsible in making comments such as these. Thanks for all you do! Anonymous DC Teacher

Email # 2 (Copied to me)

Dr. Nyankori:
"I was utterly appalled at the inflammatory comments that you have made towards the providers that have serviced DCPS. Collectively we have generated millions for this school system and many of us have defended this school system in court with excellence. I am seething with utter contempt at the day-to-day disrespect to those who have dedicated their professional careers to a system that has seen the changing of the administrative guard many times over. How dare you sir! How dare you blame the providers when the main problem with meetings being conducted are: a) parents who have transient living conditions, b) parents who have disconnected phone numbers, c) parental neglect issues, d) lawyers that cancel meetings ( certified letters that are returned to the school countless times), f) your contracted employees for example; the Columbus Group has called the DCPS staff to use our equipment to their incompetence, g) reports that have not been turned in by your contractors that your administration gave millions too. These are just some of the reasons that these meetings are not conducted.

I have been in this system since the 90's and I have seen many educators and providers go to parents homes who are just out right oppositional and defiant. We have gone to these parents homes to complete IEP's the day before Christmas. Many of our parents live less then a block away from the school. These are physically healthy functional adults that can only find the time to come to school when they want the staff to fill out forms for SSI . Now do not get me wrong, we have parents who have excellent parenting skills but those parents are not the problem. It is the parents that your administration refuses to hold accountable. You want everyone in the school to be responsible for these children except the one that God gave these babies to. Tell me, when you are dropping the hammer on the provider, the special education teachers, the principals at the special education schools and the behavioral staff, where are the parents in this equation ? These children sir are not being rehabilitated. Their minds, souls and spirits were damaged in the home not in the school system. Whether you realize it our not, you are placing the rearing of these children on the educational staff. That is why you are not getting the results you want. This decision making in a bottle with people who will tell you what you want to hear because they are more concerned about their car note is the reason why you have the problems that you have.

If you want change then do not be afraid to listen to those who are in the trenches. Many of us are more highly qualified then the people that you have put in place to develop these special education programs. Do you know how humiliating it is to work with people who get a six figure salary and talk to you like a dog on the job site and then come to you when their proverbial buttock is in a sling and need your expertise because they are too arrogant to listen to wisdom. This is why many things are happening now in the system because there is change with no experience or wisdom compounded by the flagrant disrespect from those that we are suppose to be lead by.

I love these children Dr. Nyankori. Do you hear me? I love these children. I have used my own money to finance my therapeutic center for four years prior to your commencement. Come to the providers and talk to us, not about us or at us. Your office has been extremely adversarial to the providers. Now if you have someone who needs to be held accountable and you have documentation to prove that then you do your job but, to flagrantly accuse us in a judicial setting in what appears to be a convenient scapegoat is in poor taste. Now when we as providers are in meetings with attorneys, your comments have opened the door for more critical analysis and disrespect for the very people that you need to provide services for the children you were hired to serve. " Anonymous DC Provider. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Oct 23, 2008

A Shout Out For My Student S.A. !

"Like all rites of passage, the death of a father tests our strength. In the worst of circumstances- the loss can propel some to become despondent or to self-destruct. In the best it can inspire a new appreciation for life and move us with a sense of urgency to make the most out of our lives." Neil Chetick

Here's to S.A. whose Dad died early today. I admire you because you came to school anyway. I can't imagine dealing with such a heavy blow. Life- what a bummer it can be at times. I hope you liked the wall mural the class created to lift your spirits. You and 'your Dad in heaven' are in our prayers ! Posted by The Washington Teacher.

WTU Board Meeting Gets Cancelled Again !

"That nothing is ever solved, or created, by standing still. Movement is the process of the Universe. So move. Do something. Anything. But do not stand still. Do not remain"on the horns of a dilemma." Do not fence sit. Put your foot down on one side or the other, swing the opposite leg over and start walking. You'll know before you take ten steps if you're going in the right direction. Not to decide is to decide. Try to not make choices by default." Neale Donald Walsch

The WTU Executive Board meeting has been cancelled today by WTU President Mr. Parker. This is the third board meeting which has been canceled by our union president without input from WTU Executive Board members. I have posted a copy of the email that I sent to Mr. Parker, Mr. Bordenave, AFT National Representative and all members of the WTU Executive Board and Board of Trustees about my concerns about cancelling our meetings.

October 23, 2008

Dear Mr. Parker (Copied to WTU Executive Board members/Board of Trustees)

I am writing to express my concern that the WTU Board meeting has been canceled again at your sole direction without input from WTU Executive Board members. This is the 3rd Executive Board meeting that has been cancelled by you this year. I am also concerned that we have not yet held a WTU Representative Assembly meeting in either September or October. By continuing to cancel regularly scheduled business meetings signals to our union members that the business of the Washington Teachers' Union is unimportant. Too often, your plans to reschedule meetings never come to fruition.

I would like to suggest that our WTU Executive Board members rather than wait for your direction- in a show of leadership reschedule the WTU Executive Board meeting next week . Given that Attorney Lee Jackson was suppose to present at Thursday's WTU Board meeting, arrangements should be made to have him attend the rescheduled board meeting to discuss the WTU next steps as it relates to our pending tentative agreement.

Our members are quite concerned that we still do not have any more information about the status of our tentative agreement. Certainly our complicity with this type of inaction suggests that our WTU Executive Board members are part of the problem versus actively involved in developing solutions. I await to hear from my WTU Executive Board members who have been elected to represent us as union members.

As an advocate for teachers and providers- I intend to make our union members aware of this ongoing lack of action. Thanks for your attention and I await the prompt response of the WTU Executive Board as well as our AFT National Representative, Mr. Bordenave. I remain


Candi Peterson
WTU Board of Trustee member/WTU Building Representative (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Oct 21, 2008

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire !

In a Washington Post article, titled: No-Shows Decried as Rhee Aide Testifies, October 21st, Page B-5/Metro, reporter Bill Turque reported on a hearing held on Monday before Judge Paul Friedman in the Blackman Jones case in which he stated " Richard Nyankori, acting deputy chancellor for special education, said the backlog of DC children awaiting special education services is lengthy in part because school staff don't show up for meetings leaving cases unresolved and parents in the lurch." I was grateful that Bill Turque contacted me for a comment on an issue which I am all too familiar particularly since I represent itinerant related service providers city wide and have worked in special education for 16 years. This is my response: "Candi Peterson ... disputed Nyankori's claims. "That happens to be a lie, for lack of a better word, said Peterson who has worked in DC Schools for 16 years, said no-shows are rare."From my experience, providers are pretty conscientious about showing up. I hate to say this, but I think they're looking for some justification for their lack of compliance."

This article could have been aptly titled: "Rhee swings the axe again" particularly since Rhee's comments indicate that "termination will be swift." Here we go again with the blame game and finger pointing devoid of 'the facts' and lacking accountability for management's responsibility for special education compliance. Special education providers have been accused of other things but not showing up at their MDT meetings is not one of them. I know first hand that while juggling multiple schools, we attend meetings even in the summer ( when we are on leave), conference call in when we are sick, switch days at our other schools to accommodate a parent's schedule just to name a few. Liar, Liar- Pants on Fire !

Rather than belabor the issue, I decided to post comments that I have received on this subject via email as well as comments posted on The Washington Post's website. Feel free to add your own two cents worth on this hot topic.

"Thank you Candi. I am in complete agreement with you and applaud you response. What Nyankori said was a lie ... that can not be excused due to his lack of experience or lack of time with us. One of the things I learned when I was a child was that a liar is one one the most dangerous kinds of people. I still believe that's true."

"How sad can it get? I think this is just horrible, what a perfect way to destroy morale."

"This is shameful; I'm definitely going to make the time to write the court monitors."

"Thanks Candi. They always want to blame the workers instead of accepting the blame for their role in this fiasco."

"Good Evening Candi: The truth will set you free!! I have the utmost respect for you to stand for what is right and speak the truth!! You need to be applauded for your honesty and blessed spirit. You will always be well respected among your peers!! I salute you !I am in complete agreement."

"This is one more slap to our members."

peterdc wrote:
Part of the problem is of course going back to school boards in the 70's that never planned for special education programs in the public schools. But the reality is that for years many Teach for America teachers, or Teach for Awhile teachers as they are sometimes called- and those recruited by the New Teachers Project, couldn't get the extra help they needed for those children with disabilities in their classrooms. They were asked to work with these children along with all the other children in their classes alone and as a former teacher I know what that does to a classroom. I think that when Adrian Fenty ran for Mayor he said that we will need more money for special education as we develop these programs in our public schools. I don't think that Chancellor Rhee has really focused on this issue and I believe constantly threatening teachers and principals with dismissal, even when not providing the staff and help they need, may not be the way to go to correct these problems.

teachdc wrote:
Candi Peterson, one of the last pure teacher advocates apart of the Washington Teachers’ Union, is the hero of this issue and many others. She must be protected from Rhee and Co. for contradicting the Nyankori testimony. Judge Friedman must pay an unannounced visit to these special education programs which the administration is hyping. They are either poorly performing or non existent. Press the issue and discover the real truth. The court must identify with being the adjudicator of justice or part of the problem. Where is Nyankori’s proof for such a disparaging remark? All special education teachers, advocates, and vested parties ought to send their comments to the special education lawyers, advocates, Judge Friedman, and Candi. Her blog: The washingtonteacher.bogspot.com is where some of the best education issues are discussed. Nyankori ought to be ashamed of himself for telling such as incredible lie. What a cowardly response!

efavorite wrote:
A couple of good points have been made here that bear follow-up by the reporter.1. Check on Rhee's cancelled flight - don't just take her word for it. Check the reservation and the flight schedule.2. Check the data on teachers missing meetings. Again, don't just ask Rhee's staff to present it; find the raw data and check it yourself. If there isn't any raw data, that's news too. As for the irony of Rhee missing a meeting in which her staff accuses teachers of missing meetings, please check to see if a phone hook-up was considered as a way of having her present. If the DC teacher who posted here can give testimony from her cell phone in her car, certainly the Chancellor can do it from a conference room in an airport."My flight was cancelled" sounds remarkably like the executive version of "the dog ate my homework."

chelita wrote:
I too am a DCPS teacher who does not teach SPED but is involved with it. And as pointed out by previous posters, it often is the PARENT who doesn't show up for meetings which then have to be constantly rescheduled. I recently was involved in a hearing where my testimony was needed. I was able to give it to the lawyer from my cell phone and I was put on speaker phone. It was done outside of school time and I sat parked in my car giving testimony about a student's academic progress and responding to questions. The hearing ruled in DCPS' favor, that we at the local school were in fact meeting the child's educational needs. No private placement was needed. Readers, please realize that for all the problems there are many competent committed DCPS teachers who work with special ed. Rhee and Nyankori must know this.

whatsnext wrote:
By the way, did DCPS provide documentation supporting the charge that staff didn't show up? I, for one, would like to see the statistics. How many hearings were conducted last year? How many were cancelled - and for what reason? This is so easily documented that anecdotal charges against the integrity of professional staff (and parents) is inappropriate in a legal setting. Show me the numbers!

whatsnext wrote:
So my question is....even if everyone shows up and the backlog is eliminated, what happens NEXT??? I see no plans to properly serve Special Ed children in our schools. At my daughter's school, for instance, the entire special ed staff has turned over every year for the past three years! Even now, we are two months into the school year with two vacancies in the Special Ed dept. Frankly, I am grateful for the families who can manage to challenge DC in court and get their children into private schools - it is brutal, expensive, and time consuming. But their children get served and progress.While I know that there are many qualified and dedicated Special Ed teachers in DCPS, they frequently work short-handed, lack materials, and have no structure to address the multiple needs facing them.Where is the support for the PROGRAM? The recruitment and training of all the staff that will be needed? The curriculum?

cbiscuit wrote:

kronberg wrote:
I was a special education teacher in two different districts and never encountered a staff member not showing up for a scheduled meeting. When meetings had to be rescheduled it was invariably because parents did not show up.

infrederick wrote:
The DC school system is under court order to obey the laws requiring special education services. Therefore when a school staff person willfully chooses to "not make it to meetings" the correct description of that behavior is "contempt of court". So give one last clear warning and then throw the next staffer, or several staffers, who do so in jail overnight. I am pretty sure only a very few examples will fix that particular problem.

schooletal wrote:
Kudos to Educator1 and Candi P for setting the record straight. 98% of the time, parents DO NOT show, often for multiple, re-scheduled meetings. This administration has become masterful at scapegoating everyone else for its failures. How convenient for Rhee that her flight was "cancelled." She's always touting accountability for employees (while hurling threats of termination), but when she was required to go before the judge to explain her own dearth of results, she offered up Dr. Nyankori instead. DCPS needs a new slogan: "CYA" by any means necessary!

Educator1 wrote:
Sorry to inform you, but it's more like the other way around.More often, it's the parents that DO NOT SHOW UP. Saying that it's the staff that does not attend these meetings is VERY far from the truth.We're at the schools, so how can we NOT show up?Hearings are such a "big deal" that more often than not, everyone shows up.Example, we've been trying to schedule a meeting with a parent since school started....we have yet to have this meeting...Why? because the parent has failed to show in 4 or five attempts..but just you wait...in a few months the parent will show up with an advocate/attorney to complain about what the school hasn't done...this is how a number of cases go down in DCPS

bbcrock wrote:
I trust Dr. Nyankori's continued search for excellence in DCPS. I've talked to him at length and I don't believe that he would lie about this kind of thing.

properbostonian1 wrote:
Tell Candi Peterson the better word goes like this: That happens to be one of those Liberally Interpreted Evidentiary Substantiations. Liberally Interpreted Evidentiary Substantiations is abbreviated LIES !!!! Maybe she can help us with a way to say the same thing in the SINGULAR. Let us work on it, together. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/20/AR2008102002011.html

Oct 20, 2008

Excessed DC Teacher Comes Up Short !

I received this email from a parent about a DC teacher who was excessed and is yet to be paid. While I don't know all of the details of this case- it certainly should be investigated by the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) . I have posted her email here because I think it is noteworthy for all to read. It is important to note that the WTU General Vice President, Mr. Saunders wrote to Chancellor Rhee at the end of last school year ( as directed by the WTU Executive Board) requesting that all DC teachers active on the payroll be placed prior to the hiring of any new teachers. Unfortunately this did not occur and many excessed teachers have been illegally placed by Human Resources outside of their area of certification, and some are still awaiting job placement even though newly hired teachers are already in teaching positions. This school year has been fraught with many problems for DC teachers as many predicted due to the simultaneous closing of 23 schools and restructuring of 27 schools and lack of an educational plan . The President of the educational aides' union reports that educational aides have been unfairly denied unemployment compensation which by the way is being contested by their union. If you know of an excessing horror story for DC teachers, feel free to write me c/o saveourcounselors@gmail.com

Hi Candi:
How are you - it was great seeing and speaking with a couple of weeks ago . Here's an account for you: I just got off the phone with a teacher who was "excessed" due to the Shaw-Garnett Patterson consolidation - although he was excessed, he has NOT received a paycheck . This is not how the policy was supposed to unfold - he was under the impression that he would remain on the payroll since he is willing and able to work within DCPS, but DCPS refuses to place him at a school. He has just filed an unemployment claim and is waiting to hear if it has been accepted. I have heard that some teachers and other personnel (aides)are being denied unemployment. Do you know if this is true? Anonymous parent/community activist. Posted by The
Washington Teacher.

Oct 18, 2008

Teachers & Parents 4 Real Education Reform: This One's For You !

I received an email from a DC teacher colleague, Liz Davis. Liz has formed an alliance with DC teacher Kerry Sylvia and DC parents Iris Toyer, and Margot Berkey and others asking for better bargaining for DC teachers. You may recall an editorial written in the Washington Post by Liz, Kerry and the Mooney Institute. They have created a position statement which deserves front and center. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts ? P.S. Teachers and parents for real education reform has a new blog- I encourage you to check them out @ http://realeducationreformdc.blogspot.com/

Position Statement from Real Education Reform DC :
Well The proposed WTU contract does not address many of the problems teachers face and will not make DCPS a better place to teach or learn. Successful reform of education in DC will require more than what we've seen, and we believe you know that too.

We who chose teaching as a profession want support for teachers to improve their craft but see nothing but disrespect and blame in the proposed contract.

The proposed raises and bonuses rely on private funding, which is not guaranteed. The green and red salary tiers will result in a teacher workforce that is a revolving door of short-timers. We think this approach disrespects the profession of teaching.

We need dramatic improvement in teacher salaries and high standards for teaching quality, but this contract is not the answer. It won't work and it may bring disrespect for teachers and teaching that cannot be reversed.

Arbitrary, unaccountable power in the hands of principals to make every teacher an at will employee does not lead to better teaching. DCPS hasn't clearly defined what good teaching is, but wants teachers to put their fate in the hands of principals, or worse, unreliable student test results as the measure of school and teacher quality.

The AFT is a national leader in fixing teacher evaluation systems, support systems for new and veteran teachers, and accountability to standards of good teaching practice. Why weren't they brought in to help develop the WTU's reform proposals? It's not too late for the AFT to work with the WTU and put forward a new plan.

How do we create a stronger contract?
Demand that the WTU leadership and negotiating team bring in the expertise of the AFT to develop and bring our proposals to the table. Don't worry! Voting against the proposed contract means that the current contract remains in force. We do not lose if we work for a better approach. Learn more and join with your colleagues who see another way to reform."
Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Oct 17, 2008

DC Teachers and Providers Speak Out: From The Trenches !

Here's a post just in from the trenches. DCPS related service providers speak out about our real working conditions that you rarely hear about in our mainstream press as well as the cronyism and nepotism and politicism that are still pervasive even under the helm of our school chancellor. Check this out from a DC School Psychologist.

"As always thanks so much for all you do, keeping everyone informed and working tirelessly on our behalf. First, please write to the Obama campaign and respond to Obama's most ill advised praise for our Chancellor and the "great" Mayor for all they are doing for education in this city. They ( Obama and his campaign advisors ) need to see/ read those voluminous articles to the contrary.

Michelle Rhee went to the Democratic National Convention and berated the democrats as shameful for only being concerned about unions and NOT about education of the inner city students ! Can you believe the gall ??? Here in DC we have classes with 35 and 45 students, some reform that is. Her only methodology for reform in fire, fire, fire, hire non-educators - anyone she can find, and let the classroom teacher:student ratio's be damned! Obama just might lose votes by aligning himself with those two DC lightening rods for public contempt.

Most people recognize the "destruction of public education ", and it's replacement with poorly conceived privatization, to be a republican initiative. Just as their repetitive attempts to dissolve the US Department of Education keep coming to the surface. Remember when Service master replaced all school custodians.... and what was the benefit there other than more privatization ?

Secondly, every new DCPS administration comes along with the battle cry of "down with the pernicious practice of friendship, kinship, cronyism and nepotism" as the #1 problem with DCPS staffing. Well, the 5 new School Psychology heads ( including the two who subjected us to the most elementary " ethics training " session recently, are all tight friends, schoolmates, cronies from way back and also long associated through family friendship with one of the administrators under Dr. Phyllis Harris as reports have it.

Additionally, these "program managers" are the least seasoned, least experienced of all the psychology workforce. But then, that's what apparently qualifies one to work under the current regime. When reading the published Human Resource job description for program managers, there is such a massive list of responsibilities that they clearly don't have time to hold "peer review/ case conferences" in addition to staff developments, which rarely develop anything because of a pervasive lack of psychological acumen and creativity."
Anonymous DCPS School Psychologist. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Oct 15, 2008

Save The Date: October 29, 2008

I hope that you will check out this At-Large City Council Candidates Forum which is being sponsored by the Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools (CSONS), Jobs With Justice, DC Library Renaissance Project, Empower DC, Fair Budget Coalition and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. WPFW will be broadcasting live ! Find out where at-large city council candidates stand on:

The Issues
Preserving Public Property
Affordable Housing
Homeless Services
Public Schools
Good Jobs for DC residents

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
True Reformer Building
1200 U St., NW
6:30 - 8:30pm
(U St/Cardozo Metro on Green Line, Accessible location)
Come tell Candidates Invest in Human Needs First if they want your Vote!

All Candidates for City-Council At-Large have been invited
RSVP to Empower DC
(202) 234-9119 (Posted by The Washington Teacher !)

Oct 14, 2008

No Principal for You !

WJLA news featured a story on another principal firing by Chancellor Rhee. This time the Shepherd elementary school principal- Galeet Ben Zion gets the ax after only three months on the job. It seems that this firing has angered parents at Shepherd elementary school. In the words of NYC Educator: "So I gotta wonder this--if Ms. Rhee has no qualms about misleading the taxpayers (who are, after all, adults, whose rights and privileges and priorities deserve to be put aside anyway), what reason do we have to suppose she'd look after our children? Because make no mistake, Ms. Rhee wants the right to fire working people with no due process whatsoever.Don't enough people get fired in this country? Shouldn't we be aiming for fewer, rather than more Americans losing jobs for no reason?And shouldn't our children have rights based on something more secure than the changing whims of Michelle Rhee?" You be the judge ! By the way Ben Zion was the 5th Shepherd principal in 12 months !

Here's the story link: http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/1008/561119.html
Parents Outraged by New Principal's Firing
October 13, 2008

Parents at one D.C. elementary school are demanding to know why the principal was fired just a few months into the school year. Shepherd Elementary School principal Galeet Ben Zion, PhD, was called in to meet with D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee on Friday and promptly fired. Ben Zion says she remains baffled by her dismissal. "It was maybe a two-minute meeting, and I was told that I failed as a leader," recalled Ben Zion. When asked whether she thought she had failed as a leader, Ben Zion replied, "Not in my opinion."

Ben Zion said she was hired and fired by Rhee after a little more than three months on the job. Ben Zion's replacement will be the school's fifth principal in 12 months."If she thought I made a mistake, I would have liked for her to tell me what that mistake was so that we can fix it," she said. Many parents at Shepherd Elementary in Northwest are asking 'why.' The school listserve is filled reactions ranging from stunned and appalled to confused and ticked off. "I feel sick sick about Dr. Ben Zion being fired," said Carol Mullholland. "There is no other way to describe it. I came very close to pulling my daughter out of the school." "The best way to describe the sentiments of the majority of my parents ranges from being pretty upset to just outraged," said Earl Yates, the PTA president.

Parents are speculating there may have been tension with Rhee after Ben Zion raised issues about the several vacant positions at Shepherd, including spaces for two foreign language teachers and one kindergarten teacher. Mulholland says the vacancies led to students leaving her child's class. "Three of the kids left during the first two weeks of the school year, when we had a mess with the kindergarten teacher," she said.

A spokesperson said personnel laws prevent the city from discussing specifics in regards to this most recent dismissal. Ben Zion says there was no formal review. She says she would gladly go back to work, if Rhee would take her. "I'm there hand in hand to get the job done with her," said Ben Zion. Mayor Fenty's office wrote to one parent, saying he backs Rhee and the her action was is in the best academic interest of students. Rhee has been invited to speak to Shepherd Elementary parents on Thursday. Some parents say they are reserving judgement, and will wait to see what the new principal brings. courtesy wjla.com. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Oct 13, 2008

Statement of Facts

DC Federal Court Monitors for Special Education
Attorney Amy Totenberg ( email: atotenberg@aol.com) and Attorney Clarence Sundram are the federally appointed court monitors for the Blackman/Jones lawsuit in DC involving special education students. Although Attorney Totenberg resides in Atlanta, Georgia - she has been appointed by Judge Paul Friedman. None of the information supplied here is bogus and actually represents accurate information.

The information listed on this blog has been provided in order that parents, teachers, service providers and concerned citizens could provide information to the court monitors and their staff in the event that they are uncomfortable revealing their identity. It is my hope that if you have concerns about missed services, teacher shortages, service providers shortages in the area of special education and other egregious concerns such as the overcrowding of special education students in classrooms as has been regularly reported on my blog - please feel free to contact Ms. Totenberg . Thanks for your attention. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

How To Report Special Education Violations

DC parents, teachers /related service providers and concerned citizens- I just received this post on my blog from a special education advocate on 'how to' report suspected special education violations in DC Schools. This deserves front page billing and may be the answer to our DC special education teacher and related service provider shortage amongst a host of other ills that DC students continue to face in our special education programs in DCPS. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

October 13, 2008

Dear Washington Teacher:

Please inform DCPS parents, teachers and school staff how they can anonymously report certain categories of apparent violations of special education policies and procedures. The Blackman/Jones consent decree establishes certain requirements and procedures to which DCPS has consented. Its primary focus is on:

1. Obstacles to proper implementation of hearing officer decisions, settlement agreements and/or resolution of complaints; and

2. The proper deployment of special education and related service staff and resources (including funds) to meet the IEP services and timely assessment needs of students.

If anyone thinks he/she has evidence of recurring practices or issues that they consider relevant and requiring to the attention of those charged with oversight over the decree's implementation, they can report the matter, including any supporting evidence, to the court appointed monitor:

Ms. Amy Totenberg, Esq. (Blackman/Jones Monitor, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia). They can be sent anonymously with no return address to: Amy Totenberg- 757 Flat Shoals Ave. SE Atlanta, GA. 30316404-622-6970 email: atotenberg@aol.com and/or to the plaintiffs' counsel, Ira Burnim, at the Bazelon clinic: Ira Burnim, Esq. c/o Judge David Bazelon Center- 1101 15th St., NW, Washington, DC 20005- Phone: 202-467-5730, Fax: 202-223-0409, email: irab@bazelon.org

Thank you,
DC SPED-advocate

Oct 12, 2008

Class Dismissed !

A Glimpse into a WTU Executive Board meeting: I was at a loss for words when WTU President George Parker 'banged the gavel' announcing the October 11th executive board meeting was adjourning early at 11 a.m. Given that we had conducted little business and DC Teachers have lost millions of dollars in a retroactive increase- I was frankly surprised especially since our teacher pay package/tentative agreement is still in limbo. I like some of my fellow executive board members had come to this meeting with the explicit purpose of inquiring about the status of an incomplete tentative agreement and report of a possible impasse as well as the WTU's future plans.

What I heard from George Parker's lips was news to me that Washington Post reporter Bill Turque misquoted him in a recent Post October 3rd article citing that the union may be headed towards arbitration . In this story Turque reported that Parker stated that the union would take whatever steps necessary to protect its members, including "court proceedings, arbitration and teacher job actions."

In this Saturday's Board meeting -Parker said:
The WTU has not yet concluded teacher contract negotiations. Really ??? The WTU plans to continue to advocate for a teacher contract that includes due process rights and serves the children of DC Public Schools . Neither side seems headed for impasse despite Rhee's recent announcement in The Washington Afro which stated that she will forgo stalled talks and take matters into her own hands.

Parker admits he has yet to meet with the WTU negotiating team to discuss the future of our teacher contract talks. What is he waiting for ?

While George Bordenave, the AFT National representative was requested (by Parker) to not be involved in DC teacher contract talks despite a written contract with AFT - President Parker is now reportedly working closely with AFT to address many issues affecting contract negotiations. Attorney Lee Jackson has been contacted and will attend the Thursday, October 23, 2008 Executive Board meeting from 5:30-6:30 p.m. to discuss next steps.

The WTU has sent out a 3 page mailing to DC teachers (dated October 9th) about the facts on teacher evaluations, 90 day plan, corporal punishment and disciplinary actions, abolishment of positions and right-sizing, termination of highly qualified teachers and WTU next steps.

I agree with part of Walter Wood's letter to the editor in the Friday October 10th Post editorial (page A18) in which he stated "I am appalled that George Parker, the Washington Teachers' Union president, is not willing to show leadership and move the negotiations along..... Mr. Parker must step up to the plate and lead. " Now is not the time for class to let out early ! DC teachers biggest roadblock to reaching a tentative agreement is the failure of our union president to make a decision by either resuming teacher contract talks, bringing the tentative agreement to a membership vote or declaring an impasse.
Stay tuned for more as the saga continues on stalled DC teacher contract talks. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Oct 9, 2008

SOS - DC Shadd Center: A Wholly Mess !

This is a follow up to my earlier piece about "NO Special Education Teacher For You." It seems that the DC Shadd center which is reported by my colleagues to be a self-contained warehouse of students with emotional disturbances. There is a significant teacher and service provider shortage with morale problems and many safety concerns for students and staff which are leading to high turnover rates for DC staff. Read the anonymous post and feel free to weigh in on how we can get the troops out to help ! SOS!

Hi Candi,

"I am so frustrated with news today that DCPS are putting more services in place for special ed students in eight elementary schools in the hopes of preventing further transfers to private placement. Haven't seen the article but NPR said that the schools will get additional clinicians and wrap-around services. What about providing for the students with an emotional disturbance who are most in need and are completely out of compliance (academically and clinically)over at Shadd? I have trepidation about sharing information publicly for a number of reasons. Please handle this as coming from anonymous source if included in your blog or if repeated in conversation. I don't want to discourage future employees from coming here because the need is so great, and am concerned about providing rough numbers of staff shortages because in three weeks there are going to be significant structural changes to the Shadd program. Also, the enrollment numbers are in flux, (i.e. many un-registered students who will be removed from the roster, and absenteeism through the roof, with no attendance counselor to hold parents and students accountable). This translates to many classrooms slated to have 12 students, who only have four or six show on a given day. Original numbers reflect a program with 176 students enrolled, and 17 classrooms. As of a week ago, we had 98 officially registered. With the original numbers, I have heard we are short about 7 special education teachers, and about 13 social workers. We have had several contract social workers but they don't remain long because of the climate here, and because of dissatisfaction with Dr. Harris' model of remaining in the classroom. We have only four or five behavior techs in the classrooms, so the handful of clinicians really fill this void. We have quite a few techs that serve the function of "crisis managers" but they aren't in classrooms, they're monitoring the halls, or providing interventions. We have a speech therapist, a couple of psychologists (one doing assessments, and one providing interventions another recently quit.) I have not seen any indication of an itinerant Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist , and have to believe that there are a handful of students in need of these services. And then we have about 15 or so Special Education Specialists temporarily assigned here to provide support in the halls, in some classrooms, and a couple during lunch. There are still many classrooms with only one staff present. New staff are trickling in at the rate of about one or two per week, but they seem to be quiting at the same rate. It could get somewhat better once the structural changes are implemented at the end of October, but morale is really waining. They really need to find some DCPS social workers (who are invested in the system so -- unlike the contract workers -- they won't leave) and some permanent teachers and techs. Otherwise, I don't see the program being able to succeed. I am particularly concerned about vast majority of the students not receiving services and the safety issues. Thanks-" Anonymous educator. Posted by The Washington Teacher

Oct 6, 2008

Mommilan: This One's For You !

Recently I received an email from teacher colleague- Mommillan who regularly posts comments here on my blog. A question that she posed to me was why don't I post more topics from another view point, other than my own. Well here goes. BTW, Mommilan supports the green tier as a DC Teacher. Here's her position. Feel free to weigh in ???

"I am talking for all of us... we are in some trouble now... We were presented a great opportunity. No Rhee did not do her best at giving alot of key information, but the WTU was split internally, both ends, GP and Rhee were being tormented and forced citywide after awhile this got so big...and now NOTHING...maybe a 2% raise that has to be drawn from the DC Treasurer which is in a deficit right now due to Fenty's screw ups this past summer!...Maybe you make 100k a year or more... but I am half of that, living in a more expensive time then where you came from in your 8th year of teaching and raising 3 kids at home... This IS about money but also about my own children and their futures within DCPS. I have 2 in DCPS and 1 will be in DCPS in 2 years. This is about me making sure they have all they need for school as well... clothing, supplies, lunch! Daycare, pampers... Money money money! Gas... you know...RECESSION! Its quite a stress to see an opportunity of a lifetime to just be presented and then taken away... Now we are still going to be working hard and watching our back because Rhee is highly upset now... and I do blame you and your leadership in pressing this matter and basically bamboozling others into thinking the worst.. This is depressing and sickening how so many can take away from other people's pockets selfishly and inconsiderately! As if telling us "you may want it, but you don't need it..." and then slapping us in the face!!! Horrible! I am almost in tears! This could have helped a lot more teachers rather than hurt them...please prove me wrong... Please tell me what was the secret that GP was supposedly hiding from us that Mr. Saunders was speaking of at the meeting?? You all have no cause... just being evil! I need answers...try to explain please..." (some personal portions were removed). Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Two Thumbs Up For The Kindness Game !

Spreading The Word about The Kindness Game
In The Mail - Sunday's edition- Susan Meehan wrote about a project at a DC public elementary school in Washington, DC that facilitates positive social behavior. Here's to the kindness game that is played by first graders once a week. I am spreading the word because I believe it is a game that is worth adopting in many citywide schools. Two thumbs up for The Kindness Game !

Ms. Meehan writes ...“The Kindness Game " is played by first graders. Once a week, the first graders are asked to write a postcard. The idea is for them to improve their writing, vocabulary, and grammatical skills. Their teacher helps by putting words up on the blackboard that she thinks the children might want to incorporate into their postcard — “kindness,” “helpful,” and “generous.” They are asked to address their postcards to another member of the class. The subject of the card thanks the recipient for a kind act the recipient had performed during the week. The cards are read out loud and the children are thanked. The children love doing this, and of course, they love being the recipient of cards! They are being trained to become kind, decent persons and this early-age training will, I believe, stick. One interesting aspect of the Kindness Game is that at the beginning, the popular children received the greatest number of postcards, but this has gradually changed, and the spread of postcards is quite even! That shows that the children have thought through what it takes to become worthy of receiving a kindness acknowledgment, and then they respond with positive actions that elicit postcards. They have learned how to help others and to be rewarded. Eventually, they will not even need any acknowledgment by others to be kind; it will have become internalized.

I think this should go citywide, and should be adapted to meet the academic and social needs of kids throughout the DC public school system. It costs nothing, and makes such a difference. Who could ask for anything better ? It can only improve the atmosphere of the schools and the character of our school children. In fact, why don’t we call it the District Kindness Game and spread the word nationwide, both in academic and public service media? It would bring the DC public school system a good name. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Oct 5, 2008

In The Name of Education Reform

Democrats Host Union-Bashers
by Candi Peterson
published in Labor Notes Magazine , No. 355 October 2008

Here in Washington, DC schools chief Michelle Rhee contends that her education reform plan will be done either with teachers - or to teachers. She argues that urban schools do poorly due to union contracts that prevent schools from firing bad teachers. Teachers' seniority rights, she says, stand in the way of the best education for our children.

Odd Bedfellows
Rhee and DC Mayor Adrian Fenty were invited to a forum before the Democratic National Convention in Denver last August to sell their management scam. They appeared with N.Y. Chancellor Joel Klein and Reverend Al Sharpton for a panel discussion that bashed teachers unions.

These self-styled education reformers can't document a case where slashing teacher seniority and tenure has led to higher student achievement. The platform presented at the Denver forum clashes with the Democrats' historical alliance with teachers union and stated commitment to workers' rights.

In Rhee's typical style, she vowed to impose her educational reform if contract talks with the union continue to stall. This doesn't fit the Democrats, which claim support for teachers unions and public education.

These anti-union plans support more privatization and outsourcing of public education while gutting hard-earned job protections. In exchange, teachers would be bought off with hefty raises and bonuses.

Fight Under-Funding, Not Teachers
Rhee and the people who invited her to speak before a crowd of Democrats, whose convention delegates were 25 percent union members, need to refocus. If half of the energy they spend fighting teachers went to fighting the under-funding of public education and budget cuts, our children would be much better off.

The nationwide assault on teachers unions from corporations and conservatives has intensified in recent years. N.Y. public schools have doled out millions of dollars to private contractors. DC is following suit, and millions more will be spent on hefty contracts with groups such as Teach for America and New Teacher Project - an approach that encourages a teaching force that will have a high turnover rate and an equally high number of novice teachers.

Without teachers unions and experienced teachers who are willing to speak out against budget cuts, understaffed schools, high-stakes testing and unsound educational practices, schools may become the personal plantations of principals beholden to corporate forces.

Our union allows us to pool our resources, knowledge and lobbying power to ensure better working conditions and better schools, and fight off attacks like the one we face in DC.

A Political Battle
The major party alternative to the Denver forum is certainly no better. Senator McCain regularly bashes teachers and public education. He supports private vouchers with no proven track record for raising student achievement. Obama meanwhile supports a compensation package developed with teachers, not imposed on them, and has said he would close failing charter schools. Rather than blaming teachers for the ills of our education system, he pledges more funding for public education.

For a long time, the obstacle to school reform has been political. We know how to make schools better. But we simply have not had political backing to separate education funding from local property taxes, which guarantees abundance for some schools and poverty for others. Seeing Rhee's deeply misguided ideas trumpeted in front of Democratic audiences makes one wonder which direction the party is heading. Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Oct 4, 2008

WTU 'Mans Up' Againt Rhee !

Recently- Chancellor Michelle Rhee told Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker to 'man up' and I guess that's what he's doing as reported by Chris Garlock in this weeks October 3rd edition of Union City :

"PARKER FIRES BACK AT RHEE OVER "PLAN B": "You can't fire your way to a quality school system," Washington Teacher's Union Local 6 President George Parker told Union City Thursday. Parker was reacting to DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's announcement Thursday morning that she plans to end-run the union contract. "I'll tell you this: we're going to protect the rights of our teachers against arbitrary and capricious abuse. That's not going to happen," Parker vowed. Talks have bogged down over Rhee's controversial proposal to offer teachers higher pay in return for her ability to terminate "ineffective"teachers. "She could fire all 4,000 teachers tomorrow and it wouldn't solve the school system's problems," said Parker. "Those problems are systemic and we're deeply disappointed that the Chancellor is instead choosing to focus on firing teachers instead of addressing these issues." Parker pointed to Rhee's failure to deal with shortages of teachers, continuing student safety issues and a lack of professional development for teachers. "Yet these are the same teachers who -despite all the turmoil last year - created the greatest growth in student test scores last year !" DC teachers "could do a lot more in the classroom if they get the systemic support they need," Parker said, "But you can't threaten your way to success." Rhee's unilateral actions mean the WTU "has to decide if further negotiations are a waste of time and we need to move to impasse," Parker added. Go Parker Go !!!! Posted by The Washington Teacher.

Oct 2, 2008

Educational Rheeform = Plan B

Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty's press conference today announced that a tentative agreement has not been reached between DCPS and the WTU. A lot of teachers are now pointing the finger of blame at one another for the impasse. "A wise man told me don't argue with fools because people from a distance can't tell who is who. - Jay-Z"

Here's the short of it as reported by Bill Turque of the WaPost on October 2nd :
D.C. Schools Chief Shores Up Power to Fire Teachers

"D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, stymied in her attempts to negotiate a labor contract that would give her more power to fire ineffective teachers, today announced a series of steps that she said would allow her to achieve that objective on her own. Among the measures Rhee plans to impose are a new teacher evaluation system based primarily on student test scores and other achievement benchmarks. She also promised more aggressive implementation of legal provisions already in place, including the ability to eliminate teacher jobs -- because of declining enrollment or school closures -- using seniority as only one of several factors taken into consideration. Rhee said she intended to more intensively use the so-called "90-day plan" that allows administrators to give teachers three months' notice to improve or face dismissal. "Where we are now is an incredibly unfortunate place," Rhee said. Rhee has been threatening to implement what she called "Plan B" for the past couple of months."

One thing I wish Rhee would point out is: her educational reform plan (yet to be revealed ). I know our school system would be better served by the development of one. Posted by Candi.

Oct 1, 2008

DCPS Fires Another Blind Teacher !

"The measure of a man is the way he bears up under misfortune."- Plutarch

I found an article on the National Federation of the Blind website about the importance of hiring and retaining blind or visually impaired workers. It got me to thinking about Mr. Fred Kamara, another blind teacher who was fired by DCPS unbeknownst to him. I learned of Mr. Kamara's testimony when I attended the prayer service/call to action for justice in the workplace last Friday at Covenant Baptist Church. Mr. Kamara returned to work in August like all DC teachers. He worked for several weeks (without pay) before learning of his termination . It appears that Mr. Kamara's principal also had not been informed that he had been terminated by DCPS as his name still appeared on the school roll.

For blind and visually impaired teachers, accommodations are not regularly provided to them in the workplace nor on the required praxis test. Of course this is a violation of the law and something needs to be done about it sooner than later. Teachers who are blind must hire their own 'private readers' to read the entire praxis test to them. They complain about the difficulties of having someone read a standardized test in its entirety. Imagine if you will attempting to take any test under these conditions. I shudder to think . I marvel at Fred Kamara and Denise Hamilton's tenacity in dealing with all of the challenges that our school system and others regularly place in their paths.

The worst part of this story is that Mr. Kamara should never have been fired. He passed his praxis exam even without accommodations. He never received a termination letter from the DC HR office in braille as required. Fred Kamara still remains unemployed although he'd rather be teaching for DC Public Schools. As the National Federation of the Blind states:

"Hiring and retaining workers who are blind or visually impaired is good business, and it is easier to do than you may think thanks to the many resources and technologies now available. Retention is especially important.... Blind and visually impaired workers have proven their value in a wide range of occupations. Technology further enables them to do more jobs than ever thought possible. Although some accommodation may be needed, it is often low in cost and easy to implement. The additional investment required is relatively small, and the return—in gaining or retaining loyal, high-quality employees who help to diversify your workforce—makes the return on investment a good one."

Really??? Perhaps someone should let DCPS in on this valuable tip. After all the National Federation of the Blind offers an array of services to employers interested in hiring and retaining workers who are blind or have visual impairments. Posted by Candi.