Mar 18, 2009

Two Thumbs Down To DC's Ron Brown Principal Darrin Slade

Attached is an open letter that I sent to Chairman Vincent Gray and all DC City Council members on March 13, 2009 regarding Principal Darrin Slade's violations of DC teachers' right to confidentiality in personnel matters. I requested that Chairman Vincent Gray in his oversight role advance this issue to the Office of the Inspector General, Chancellor Rhee, Mayor Fenty, Deputy Mayor Reinoso and other bodies for appropriate sanctions against Slade.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with several Ron Brown teachers who took the bold step of speaking publicly on the record regarding the assaults against not only DC teachers but students as well in the recent WaPo article "DC Teachers Claim Assaults, Face Doubt." So it seems that many teachers just like the Ron Brown teachers and Woodson Academy teachers who were featured are fearful of speaking anonymously and on the record.
Now more than ever threats of placing teachers on 90 day termination plans have been made against teachers even for making referrals for inappropriate student behavior to a host of other issues. Often teachers who make these referrals do so after being placed in impossible classroom situations. Some of these situations include having class sizes ratio's exceeding contractural limits as well as DCMR regulations. Some classes are as high as 41 and upwards ,as well as situations in which some schools like my elementary school are being forced to do mandatory inclusion for ALL students mid-year without regard to students' with disabilities needs., etc. Recently my school was informed that we had to place a student from a residential setting into one of inclusion classrooms despite the fact that this student had an extensive history of assaults and had been recommended by his former school to attend a 'special school'. Had my team and I, as well as the interim principal not protested this- I believe we would have been put in a no-win situation.
Teachers report that Principal Slade like some other DC administrators are engaged in 'covering up the truth' about the level of school violence. I am concerned that a pattern has emerged whereby DC administrators are retaliating against teachers who dare to speak up publicly regarding matters that impact student learning and ultimately have an adverse effect on students, teachers and related school staff. Could it be that these DC principals fear losing their own jobs if word gets back to Chancellor Rhee? Certainly this isn't a stretch because this is just what happened to the former Hart middle school principal when stories about school violence hit the newspaper.
Unfortunately, Principal Slade's efforts to bribe students as reported in the WaPo to give him information at the tune of $100 dollars a pop leads to another dilemma: some innocent students are being implicated while the guilty go free, according to my sources. Bill Turque's article is just the tip of the iceberg regarding school violence here in DC. If you know of issues regarding school violence in DC schools that are not being accurately reported by DC administrators, I implore you to report them before someone gets seriously hurt, be it a student or a teacher. In order to address any problem, we must first acknowledge that there is a problem. While the news coverage has been scant on school violence until recently, I applaud all those who have come to the forefront about city-wide school violence at Cardozo HS, Hart MS, Woodson Academy and Ron Brown MS.
Here's a copy of the letter that I sent to DC Chairman Vincent Gray and DC City Council members last week urging their intervention regarding Principal Slade's inappropriate comments to the press on teachers personnel matters:

Request for Council Intervention Re DCPS Principal's Comments To The Press


Dear Chairman Gray and DC Council members:

I am truly disturbed by the comments made by Mr. Darrin Slade, DCPS Principal @ Ron Brown Middle School in the 3/13/09 Wash. Post article on page A 1. Mr. Slade's comments that teachers in the article are in the process of being terminated seems to be a violation of teachers' rights to confidentiality. One teacher in today's article denies being on a 90 day improvement plan as suggested by Mr. Slade. These comments are also inappropriate and unethical. At no time should a DC administrator openly discuss employee's personnel issues with the press. Principal Slade is also quoted in today's Post as per his school guide as threatening teachers with placement on a 90-day improvement plan instead of helping to provide support to teachers who may be in need of assistance.

It is also troubling that in this same article that two other Woodson Academy teachers who were assaulted had to speak on condition of anonymity because they fear losing their jobs if they spoke negatively in the press about their experiences with school violence. I would like to request that the DC City Council address this issue regarding Mr. Slade's comments in your oversight role of the District of Columbia Public Schools. I hope that you will take the lead to publicly advance this violation to the Office of the Inspector General, the Office of The Chancellor, the Deputy Mayor of Education, the Office of the Mayor and any other appropriate bodies so that it can be properly handled with appropriate sanctions. If Chancellor Michelle Rhee states that her office is unable to provide the names of DC teachers on 90 day plans to the Washington Teachers' Union due to the confidentiality of teachers, how is it that Mr. Slade at his level as a DC principal can discuss teachers' personnel matters openly in the press ?

Certainly in so doing, Mr. Slade as representative of the DC public schools poses a liability to the school system for potential defamation of character. It seems that the District of Columbia Public Schools is headed down a very slippery slope that ultimately will do more harm than good for DC students, teachers, administrators and our school system . Let's hope that Mr. Slade's behavior does not open the door to other DC principals acting in similar fashion.

I along with other DC Public School employees have testified before you on a number of occasions to appeal for your help on a number of fronts. I appreciate that you have held city council hearings to address some of our concerns as it relates to our employment, school violence issues and other matters. I request a timely written response to my request. Thanks for your attention.

Candi Peterson
WTU Board of Trustees
WTU Building Representative/city-wide teachers and related service providers

(Posted by The Washington Teacher)


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Candi, for going the extra mile for teachers.

Anonymous said...

Great letter to the council! You make some excellent points.

Mr. Potter said...

We don't often agree, but I have to say that you're right on about this situation. It's extremely inappropriate for a boss to declare to the media that his subordinates are on an improvement plan.

I think sometimes teachers can be in a bit of denial about their performance. Last year at my school there were some teachers (whom I would describe as ineffective, given what I observed) who were let go, and they said that they thought it was because they complained and spoke out. Now, the people who were the loudest complainers -- but who were all great teachers -- were not asked to leave. A lot of times we don't like to admit that we come up short, so we look for something else to blame. So sometimes when I hear teachers talk about arbitrary firings, I get weary.

Obviously, it is really important for teachers and administrators to establish trust. It sounds like the principal at Ron Brown has created a whole mess of distrust in his school.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all of your comments.

Mr. Potter- even though we don't always agree, I do read your blog.
Certainly it is okay for reasonable minds to disagree. Good to know you are with me on this one. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I can hear students saying, "I don't have to listen to you. You're only here for, what? - 23 more days?"

A principal should not put information like this all in the newspapers so students can see how little respect he has for his teachers. Why should they respect the teachers if even the leadership doesn't?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jmannii for your comments. Long time no hear from. Hope things are going well for you in your neck of the woods. ;-)

Anonymous said...

What does Michelle Rhee expect when she closes schools, warehouses students 40 or more to a class,eliminates teachers, counselors, principals and staff that they trust, and replaces them with her office staff ?

Dunbar Sr. High School is a violent warehouse of students who don't have resources and many dedicated teachers have retired or took early outs. How can students that just graduated from college teach youth almost their same age, with no experience. DC is truly a lab for all of Mayor Fenty's out of town appointees to obtain large salaries perpetrated by greed. Michelle Rhee deserves a F- and should go back to the corporate world.

Dr. Sessoms, six month president of UDC, who plans to increase tuition by 100% needs to be sent back to New York. He has taken hope away from hundreds of graduating DC students looking for an affordable college. DC pays 60 million to UDC and instead of our elected officials standing up
and investigating several allegations, they are cowards just making sure they get paid.

Since we are the last plantation, without represenation in Congress, we are like lab rats who don't know the next atrocity coming
from outsiders, who are imported to change the District of Columbia.

Anonymous said...

Outsiders? What about people from North Carolina in DC? Is anyone calling them outsiders or is outsiders just a code word for non-African Americans?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: As I interpret a Disrespected Parent's message - it seems to me that the writer is refering to outsiders in the following statement: "DC is truly a lab for all of Mayor Fenty's out of town appointees to obtain large salaries perpetrated by greed."

Later on this writer refers to these same 'out of town appointees' as outsiders. How you arrive at a code word for non-African Americans is beyond the scope of my understanding.Perhaps you did not read the passage in its entirety or maybe you are just a little bit paranoid.

Anonymous said...

FYI, Dr. Sessoms was not appointed by Fenty. He was hired by the UDC board of trustees, after deciding they did not want a Fenty crony.

Anonymous said...

It is so disheartening for those of us who remember Dunbar, how it used to be, to hear that it's being described as a violent warehouse for students with few resources. And I assume teachers have retired because of the conditions. We all try to get out as soon as we can due to the horrible, out of control discipline that is absolutely system wide. And ditto that about these young teachers, especially on the high school level.

Anonymous said...

The work environment in schools that Rhee has created and forced on her underlings (principals) is hostile and toxic. You can hold people accountable and still be respectful towards them. I know that there are a lot of factors that have contributed to the mess at Woodson but for sure the intimidating, fear inducing rhetoric of Rhee makes it so much worse.

The Washington Post article shows how teachers in DCPS continue to be treated like dogs. I am not falling for Rhee's recent lame attempts to develop a congenial attitude.

Anonymous said...

"Hope springs eternal" is the only way I can fathom how some teachers are eager to interpret Rhee's recent pro-teacher rhetoric as a change of heart.

I'd think these newly trusting teachers would be wondering about Rhee's response to the Ron Brown episode. Is she defending this principal? firing him? trying to make up her mind which would play better? Is she doing anything to improve conditions for teachers and students at Ron Brown?

Anonymous said...

Your site is great for DC teachers. I have heard many scary tales about D. Slade. His conduct goes back to his days at Fletcher-Johnson. However, it appears that he is held in high regard by the Rhee team. She mentioned Mr. Slade in her remarks before the DC Council recently and described him as a great principal.

There is little to no trust between principals, assistant principals and the local school staffs. Everyone is looking out for their jobs and respect is going to ---- in a hand basket.

Thanks Mr. Fenty and Ms. Rhee for all you have done to DCPS.