May 30, 2009

A DC Teacher Speaks From The Hart

Hart middle school in S.E. Washington is being reconstituted and as many of you know has been in the news throughout this school year with stories about DC teachers being assaulted, teachers teaching outside of their certification area, substitutes covering classes, overcrowded classes, unruly students, possession of handguns, violence and a lack of supports promised by Rhee's office. The Washington Teacher covered what was happening at Hart back in November 2008. Hart is a school which merged with P.R. Harris Educational Center this school year against the advice of parents and community activists. Hart's problems have been complicated by not having adequate funding to run the school. When these complaints surfaced in the news, Hart's principal was fired by Chancellor Rhee instead of being given the supports the school desperately needed. It should also be noted that Hart was not given the financial support that it was entitled and this was revealed after the Levy report documented that approximately 31 schools did not receive the funding they were entitled based on their student enrollment. How does one run a school without adequate funding is beyond me ?

I am posting a copy of an email that I received from a teacher at Hart middle school so that you can see based on this insider's experiences that Chancellor Rhee is following through with her promises to rid our school system of a significant core of our DC teaching force as revealed in her 5 year educational plan. No credible school system seeks to rid a significant majority of its workforce. Who really cares about our students and the chaos Rhee's actions and 5 year plan of mass terminations and buyouts will create? Certainly not Rhee and company.

I also have my doubts that certain elected teacher members of our Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) Executive Board care about what's happening on our educational landscape either. One such board member who ironically happens to teach at Hart middle school along with a group of board members fails to 'adequately represent' the teachers they are elected to serve. In some board meetings, certain board members read cook books and magazines while others consistently nod off to sleep. Some do not attend board meetings regularly and one board member makes it a point to prematurely motion to adjourn most board meetings in the midst of our trying to conduct business because she would rather go home than address hard core issues.

At last week's Thursday's executive board meeting, a core group of board members ignored the pleas of teacher colleagues' complaints from the trenches. Even in the face of allegations of discriminatory practices by the Rhee administration which surfaced, our union members' cries went unheard and this motley crew of disengaged board members refused to take any action on these complaints. This same group of board members failed to insist that our union president hear the questions/comments raised from a teacher visitor about the 90 day plan. They also are usually on the DL (down low) and don't vocalize any concerns to WTU President Parker on most issues of merit. In the matter involving our WTU General Vice President, Nathan A. Saunders' leave of absence - this group of board members were missing in action (MIA) even while community activists, parents, teachers and the media expressed their outrage at Parker for taking his blessed time to resolve this matter expeditiously.

I hope you, like me take these violations of due process more seriously than some of our lackadaisical executive board members, union president and Chancellor Rhee. Here's the email from my teacher colleague working in the trenches. Even though some members of our union, are falling asleep on the job, The Washington Teacher is listening . Keep sending me your emails c/o The teacher's name has been removed in order to protect confidentiality.

A DC Teacher Speaks Out ....
"Hey Candi, I am a teacher at Hart middle school, and I read your blog. As you know, we were told at Hart that we had to either reapply for our jobs or become excess employees. I was placed on the excess list as well as many of my colleagues who either didn't reapply or opted out. The majority of teachers from the old regime at Hart (with the exception of two) are not coming back.

Anyway, I was just wondering if you had heard the news about all the other teachers being excessed. This week, the teachers at Kramer middle school , Kelly Miller Junior High, and Johnson Junior High were all excessed! These schools were not even on the list to be reconstituted. Then, Rhee allegedly went to Kelly Miller and told the teachers that, if the City Council did not get her 27.5 million back, then all the excessed teachers would be fired! I wonder why more people are not talking about this, because it is absolutely ridiculous!

When we go to these teacher fairs and tell them we are from Hart middle school, they look right past us as if we are invisible. A colleague of mine even told me that a school told him they were primarily only interested in teachers who were from "outside of DCPS". At Hart, the principal is walking around interviewing prospective teachers right in front of us for jobs for next year. The funny thing is, every single person he's interviewed (at least the ones that I know of) are from OUTSIDE of DCPS.

It is almost as if Michelle Rhee is purposely excessing all the teachers from restructured schools, replacing them with teachers from outside of the system, making it next to impossible for them to get jobs within the system, and then trying to use the 27.5 million as an excuse to terminate them. Meanwhile, students from at least 10 schools next year (and probably more that we don't even know about next year) will have to come back next year to buildings where they practically won't know a single adult working there! It will be absolute chaos!

Anyway, you are probably already aware of most of this, but I just wanted to give you a point of view from someone who works in one of the schools that's being reconstituted. I really hope that whatever scheme Rhee is pulling (as well as all of her other schemes) becomes exposed because this is absolute insanity!"
(Posted by The Washington Teacher).

May 28, 2009

It's Time For The DC Principal Shuffle

Starring: Michelle Rhee, DC Public Schools Chancellor

Hey folks, it's almost that time of year again when DC schools approaches its final days as the school year comes to an end. In the interim, some principals have already faced Chancellor Rhee's 'meat axe approach' to termination while others have announced plans this week to resign or retire under what many believe are threats of more soon-to-be terminations by Rhee and company.

As you may recall, last year some targeted DC principals on Rhee's hit list left many parents and community activists baffled and questioning Rhee's guidelines for termination of local school principals. Even in cases when principals had performed well, Rhee's unconventional actions to fire these principals without as much as an explanation left many wondering how could this be happening ?

So far here's the short list of departing DC principals and their affiliated schools:

My sources report the following:

Principal terminated @ Anacostia Senior High School (school reconstituted)
Principal terminated @ Dunbar Senior High School (school reconstituted)
Principal will resign under threat of termination @Garfield Elementary School

Principal terminated @ Hamilton Center
Principal terminated @ Luke C. Moore Academy Senior High School
Principal terminated @Spingarn Senior High School

An anonymous blogger posted that the principal at Janey Elementary School resigned.

Another blogger asked the following questions:

"Why is the principal at Walls remaining? Since his arrival, the number of scholarships received by the students has decreased. In fact he received a rating of 37.

"Why is the principal of Brightwood remaining too..She really needs to go! She is a control freak who has not made AYP since she has been there...and the hispanic student's don't have anything to doo with her incompentence. The principal shuffle has to do with keeping the bad principal's and eliminating the good ones, it has nothing to do with improving DCPS, but destroying it. "

Feel free to keep me posted about DC's soon to be departing principals or drop me an email @ with your departing principal tip. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

May 26, 2009

A Teacher Against Mayoral Control: Here's To You !

We have a lot to learn about mayoral control from a NY teacher colleague. On Sunday, this NY teacher wrote a special story that appeared front and center in the New York Daily News titled: "Teacher Against Mayoral Control: All that power hasn't made things better." Sounds eerily familiar to what's happening right here in DC . I hate to be the one to say that NYC parents and teachers tried their darnedest to forewarn us. Here's to you for speaking out !

Teacher Against Mayoral Control: All that power hasn't made things better
Arthur Goldstein

"As a teacher in an A-rated school, I believe mayoral control has been an absolute disaster. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our federal and state governments have checks and balances so no one person has total control, which is a synonym for dictatorship. City kids need reasonable class sizes and decent facilities. Under Mayor Bloomberg, class sizes just took their biggest leap in 10 years.

Some people say class size doesn't matter, but even the best teachers can give more attention to 20 kids than 34. The fewer kids I have, the more individual attention each one gets.

Under this mayor, charter schools get the best of everything, including small classes and new technology.

My high school was built to hold 1,800 but enrolls 4,450 students. My kids sit in a crumbling trailer, with no technology and often no heat in the winter. So much for efficiency. The mayor says it's his way or "the bad old days." That's a false choice. We need a system that works better than what we have.

We need a chancellor who works for the kids, not the mayor. The chancellor needs to fight for what's best for kids whether or not the mayor agrees. He can't do that if the mayor can fire him for not following his orders.

A few years ago, the mayor fired two members of the Panel for Educational Policy who had the nerve to disagree with him. Consequently, the PEP is a mayoral rubber stamp. No mayoral appointee dares to stand up for kids.

This mayor boasts about accountability. Teachers are accountable. Principals are accountable, but the only time the mayor is accountable is once every four years. That's not enough, particularly for a man who is prepared to spend $100 million to buy reelection and who scoffed at the voters by changing the term limits law they twice affirmed.

Four more years of this system guarantees the privatization and destruction of public education in New York City. That's a prospect we should all oppose."

Courtesy of NY Daily News. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

May 17, 2009

Here's To UTLA Teachers & Their Union Prez, A.J. Duffy !

Profiles In Courage
Angry over budget cuts, L.A. teachers planned a 1 day strike to protest teacher lay offs outside their school district's headquarters . Even though a judge issued a restraining order against the 1 day strike, teachers protested cutbacks through an organized sit-in, city-wide sick-out and hundreds of high school students walked out of classes in acts of civil disobedience. Their slogan read " One Day's Pay 4 The Kids of L.A." (pictured right ). Updated reports indicate that fourty-five in total were arrested outside school district offices including L.A. Teachers' Union President, A.J. Duffy (pictured above) on Friday, May 15, 2009.

Here's to you United Teachers' of Los Angeles (UTLA) President Duffy and all of the L.A. teachers and students for taking a stand in the best interests of teaching and learning ! An L.A. public school student said it best when discussing the cutbacks : "We care about the teachers," Jasmine Guerrero, a senior, said in a phone interview. "But it's more about us. One teacher for 45 students, it's not a productive learning environment." Here's the story as reported courtesy of the LA Times, written by Jason Song and Howard Blume:

Anger over budget cuts boils over at L.A. schools
"United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy was arrested at a protest outside the school district headquarters. Hundreds of teachers call in sick and hundreds of high school students walk out of classrooms. The teachers union president is among 39 arrested at a sit-in outside L.A. Unified headquarters.

The head of the Los Angeles teachers union was among 39 people arrested Friday during a sit-in outside the school district headquarters, one among dozens of peaceful protests around the city by teachers and students outraged by plans for deep cuts in education spending."Don't raise class size!" the protesters chanted before Los Angeles Police Department officers moved in to break up the demonstration.

Is all this really for the children?
United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy was among those who had raised his fist in response to police requests to disperse, and who was bound with plastic handcuffs and taken away in an LAPD bus for booking on a charge of blocking a public street. All of those arrested were later released.The protesters' ire was stoked by plans for layoffs of as many as 2,500 Los Angeles Unified School District teachers, the consequence of billions of dollars in statewide cuts to education.

Schools throughout L.A. were disrupted as hundreds of teachers called in sick and hundreds of high school students walked out of classrooms to protest the cutbacks at the district, the nation's second-largest after New York City. Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said after the protests that Duffy and a top aide had met with him the day before to suggest a compromise: The district would spend more of its federal stimulus money than planned in the coming year, forestalling the need for any teacher layoffs, and the union would agree to concessions, such as a wage freeze or unpaid furloughs.Cortines said he was open to such a deal, and that he might be able to offer jobs as long-term substitutes to laid-off teachers.Duffy had no comment on those negotiations.Danis Cybulski, a fourth-grade teacher at Aldama Elementary School in Highland Park, said she could accept a pay freeze or furlough days."I would stand behind the union as long as class sizes aren't increased and wasteful spending stopped," she said.Earlier in the week, a judge issued a restraining order prohibiting the teachers union from holding a one-day strike to protest the budget cuts.Cortines said the headquarters demonstration had not violated the order because the teachers involved were either on a break between semesters at year-round schools or had arranged for substitute teachers.

The superintendent, however, said he was not happy with the civil disobedience."I don't think that's the kind of image I want for our system," he said.The school district reported that it had 3,152 requests for substitute teachers, or roughly 700 more than usual for a Friday in May.Students walked out of class at several high schools and held sit-ins in support of teachers.About 500 students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles held a sit-in Friday morning in the school's central yard. Later, they moved to the athletic field bleachers, and the school provided a sound system so they could discuss why they didn't want teachers laid off. Garfield could lose 13 English and social studies teachers. At Jordan High School in South Los Angeles, about 200 students gathered in the quad to show solidarity with teachers, and the campus was put on lock down in what Principal Stephen Strachan called a routine security measure.When students refused to go back into class, Strachan said, he gave them a microphone and about 15 students spoke out about the proposed layoffs."I'm very proud of our kids and their willingness to cooperate," he said. Hundreds of students also walked out at Maywood Academy. And scores of students chose not to return to their classrooms after a morning break at Franklin High School in Highland Park. " (Pictures/article courtesy of Posted by The Washington Teacher.

May 14, 2009

No Water For DC Students & Staff At Bell Multi- Cultural High

On Wednesday, May 13th Bell Multicultural High School experienced a break in their lateral water line to the school. Unfortunately, a little birdie told me that Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee decided not to close Bell despite these conditions. This unfortunate incident was also kept hush-hush . Staff members at the school were not properly informed by the school administration nor were Bell parents given written notice regarding yesterday's series of events and what transpired. Throughout the day, a series of 3 announcements were made over the school's loud speakers telling students not to use the restrooms.

The school system failed to utilize a contingency plan to deal with this emergency. As a result there was no running water throughout the day and students and staff had to be shuffled to a nearby charter school to use the restroom facilities beginning around mid morning at 11 a.m.

There were complaints that the school's restrooms were being used despite the announcements but eventually toilets could not continue to be flushed as the day progressed due to the lack of running water. Despite not having the benefit of running water and optimal sanitary conditions , lunch was still served to students on schedule which was a cause for alarm for some especially given recent outbreaks of the swine flu and other potential viruses.

Fortunately, some students had the good sense to notify their parents directly via their personal cell phones. Some parents made the decision to pick their children up from school rather than allow them to remain under these conditions. According to my sources, the water line at Bell has only been patched and not completely repaired. It is unclear what today holds for DC students and staff at Bell. Stay tuned as this story unfolds.
(Posted by The Washington Teacher).

May 11, 2009

Trouble in DC Mediation Paradise?

So says WaPo staff writer, Bill Turque as reported in his May 8th entry from the DC Wire blog titled: "Rhee and Weingarten: How About Two Mediators?" Well many would argue that everything that DC teachers hear about our teacher contract proposal lately, we initially read in The Washington Post or on the DC Wire (a WaPo blog) . As a WTU Board of Trustee member who regularly attends our bi-monthly executive board meetings- I have NO UPDATES to report especially since our May 9th- Saturday WTU Executive Board meeting was cancelled by union Prez George Parker on short notice. Here is the story in its entirety as it appears on the DC Wire. Interesting read.

"Contract talks between DCPS and teachers' union reps resumed a few days ago, but the principal players aren't saying much. That includes newly minted mediator Kurt Schmoke, who when asked for an interview--even with the provision that he didn't have to wade into any pesky contract details--said he'd have to take the request to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. He must have misplaced our phone number, because we haven't heard back.

One shaft of light did escape this week, however, and it doesn't suggest that things are going all that well. In a Q&A with education writer Linda Kulman, posted yesterday on Politics Daily (Full Disclosure: your Wire correspondent is married to the editor-in-chief) Rhee pronounced Weingarten a liar. It came in the course of lamenting the "misinformation" in the press about her proposals.

"What was the misinformation?" asked Kulman, who did her own disclosing that her son and Rhee's younger daughter attend the same DCPS elementary school."That we were going to make everyone give up tenure, that I was trying to fire people. That's not the case," Rhee said. "I don't have any interest in making people give up their tenure. We wanted to provide a choice for people and, regardless of what choice you made, everyone was going to get paid more money. That was what made it to me a no-brainer. What was communicated was that everyone had to give up tenure and your evaluation is going to be all based on test scores. The AFT still says this -- Randi Weingarten said this the other day -- that it's all predicated on moving older teachers out and moving younger teachers in. That's just a lie."

Neither Rhee nor her spokeswoman, Jennifer Calloway, would provide the basis for this claim. As best we can tell, Rhee is talking about Weingarten's April 21st letter to The Post, which referred to an editorial noting that after the foundation money was gone Rhee planned to sustain the pay hikes with savings gained through reforming DCPS.

Then Weingarten said: "The editorial failed to mention that these savings can be achieved only by hiring lower-paid, less-experienced teachers. This age-old practice would serve the District's bottom line but would ultimately shortchange students."

As for lying, AFT spokesperson George Jackson said today that Weingarten "has no idea what [Rhee] is talking about. And given that they have spent so many hours in mediation, if the Chancellor felt misinterpreted she could have brought this to [Weingarten's] attention directly."

Rhee spokesperson Calloway, said: "There are numerous ways to fund a contract, and the financial modeling used for DCPS' last proposal was based on current seniority demographics. We have earnestly restarted negotiations; the comment made to Politics Daily was out of admiration for our hard-working teaching corps, and intended only to correct misinformation. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the WTU and the AFT to quickly reach an agreement that is respectful of teachers, good for children and supportive of our collective reform efforts." (Posted by The Washington Teacher). Courtesy of

May 8, 2009

The Washington Teacher Appears On This Week's News Hour With Jim Lehrer

In a series titled Well-Know Nationally- Struggling at Home, The Washington Teacher appears on the News Hour With Jim Lehrer this week. Some have asked me to post this link here on my blog.

Finally, after covering DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee for an entire school year, Jim Lehrer and his team from Learning Matters responded to requests to tell more than just Rhee's version of the story. Even though this segment was a much longer interview, I am happy that at least viewers will get to hear another perspective than just Chancellor Rhee. Here's the link: (Posted by The Washington Teacher).