Oct 11, 2009

Rhee's Legacy Of No Accountability

There is a double standard within Chancellor Michelle Rhee's administration. What we are seeing is a chancellor who is not being accountable when it matters most to be accountable. Most of us can agree with the Post writer who said that Rhee overplayed her hand this time in laying off hundreds of teachers. News releases show teachers recounting horror stories of their dismissals despite years of positive performance evaluations. Most have yet to be informed about the real reasons for their imminent layoffs. Students following the lead of their teachers and school counselors report that these untimely dismissals have led to changes in class schedules, dropped classes and worries about their education. Despite unending news coverage of recent layoffs, Rhee digs her heels in and refuses to provide data to substantiate her claims of an education budget shortfall now down to 12 million dollars from earlier reports of 40 million.

I wanted to share an email that I received from a newly hired DC teacher on her dismissal from DC public schools. Her words illustrate better than I can how DC students are the real victims in this tragedy.

“After devoting the past six years of my life earning a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, I applied to the DC Public School System (DCPS), hoping to make a difference in the lives of students living in urban areas. I was especially interested in DCPS given its efforts to implement an IMPACT program throughout each school to maximize the educational experience and better students’ test scores. Being a recent graduate, I was fortunate to have the IMPACT program implemented in my own curriculum.

I was delighted to receive a call from offering me the position of 3rd grade teacher. I eagerly signed my contract and retracted all other outstanding applications. I quickly set forth preparing myself for this fantastic opportunity, which involved a number of major investments including signing a new lease, moving into my apartment, and purchasing a car. Readying myself for the start of classes, I also acquired my DC teaching license, school supplies, “extras” to help incentivize my students, and all the bells and whistles needed to create a welcoming classroom environment.

Of course, no amount of effort fully prepares oneself for a new life experience. Indeed, the past five weeks of teaching have been eye-opening for me. I quickly realized that the students in my class needed tremendous support to ensure that they were emotionally and intellectually ready for the challenges of third grade. I saw this as an exciting opportunity– one that I felt well qualified to fulfill with the academic and hands-on experience I have immersed myself in for the past six years. Translating my knowledge to meet the needs of these students – children who have lived difficult lives – required nothing short of complete dedication. This has meant starting early each day and working into the evening hours to write and review lesson plans, focusing on the needs of the entire class and the individual needs of each student.

On Friday afternoon, I learned that I had been laid off. Apparently in a last-minute attempt to balance the budget, Michelle Rhee and the District of Columbia opted to lay off 200 or so teachers during the most critical period of the academic year – just when students are becoming acclimated to their new environment. My immediate concern was what would happen with my students because I was the only third grade teacher at my school. My principal has informed me that some students will move up to fourth grade and some will move down to second grade. In these tough economic times, the solution should not be to provide a poor educational experience for these children who, arguably, need extra attention. Simply assigning them to another grade greatly degrades the educational opportunity for my third grade students and the classes into which they are integrated. While I am obviously upset with losing my job, many more individuals will suffer due to this shortsighted decision.

We live in a great city in a wonderful country. We must remain competitive and teach our students at the highest standards. The decision to lay teachers off weeks into the school year is disruptive to the lives of the children and dishonest to the teachers who made a commitment to DC Public Schools. I am floored by this decision, and I cannot help but to draw conclusions about the long string of mishandlings that must have led to this situation. I have to ask, what is Ms. Rhee’s accountability in the situation? "

Posted by The Wash. Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence


Glenn Watson said...

My principal has informed me that some students will move up to fourth grade and some will move down to second grade.>>>

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Is this a joke? I am absolutely stunned.

Can anyone image what White parents in a suburban school would do to a superintendent who decided to move their 3rd grader either back to 2nd or up to 4th in the middle of the year.

I can tell you what would happen. That superintendent would be run out of town on a rail.

Anonymous said...

I also think an OFFICIAL boycott of the Washington Post is in order.

Anonymous said...

My principal informed teachers to be considerate towards our new students and try not to give "Fs". The first advisory ends 10/29. RIF VICTIMS DID NOT LEAVE GRADE SHEETS, ROLL BOOKS, ETC.

In other words pass everyone who appears thru the door.

Yes Glenn, this is a joke. This city is in the hands of FOOLS.

Sharon B. said...

To Glenn Watson: When I read that foolishness, I was appalled. What kind of &%$#@### is that? You are indeed right. White folks would have had her head on a platter by now. Only because these are little black children whose parents are not well informed. They are completely being taken advantage of. A quality education will continue to allude all of the disenfranchised in the District of Columbia. WE NEED TO RUN RHEE OUT OF TOWN- POST HASTE. How can we mobilize the parents?
To Anonymous: The Washington Post is a joke and always has been. A lot of my colleagues are ending their subscriptions and will not renew. Why do they continue to be on her side? By the way, on Friday morning when Rhee appeared on Fox News, Rhee stated that only six percent(6%) of the RIF'd personnel was considered "veteran" teachers. Well if you check the Stats at Ballou SHS 21 teachers alone were RIF'd. Most of them were veteran teachers. In any event 6% of 229 = 13.74. Do the math!!!

Anonymous said...

My question is how this will affect the 12th graders who are trying to graduate? Will the lack of teachers prevent them from fulfilling all of their credits? If so, this is a disgusting tradgedy.

I wish Rhee could be sued personally for all of the harm she is causing to our children! She is a despicable poor excuse for a human being!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this story is unbelivable. I mean, I really don't believe this teacher's story. At all. So we're to believe that there will be an elementary school with ZERO 3rd graders? Michelle Rhee has been attacked for many things on this and other blogs and message boards - arrogance, narcissism, immorality, and hubris, just to name a few. I'm not here to argue for or against her on any of these charges. But do we really believe that she's flat-out stupid? Because I can't imagine even her staunchest supporters would condone haphazardly placing 3rd graders in 2nd and 4th grade the way this teacher describes.

Candi - if/when you know it, please share the name of this school. This is definitely something that needs to be verified and corroborated.

The Washington Teacher said...

Replt to Anonymous @ 7:51 pm

The school is Shaed elementary school.

Anonymous said...

There must be some DC teachers blog that doesn't only spew vituperative comments about the Chancellor. While TWT is interesting, it is impossible sort out any truths from here. The anecdote to fact ratio is about 50 to 1. Someone says "I heard something from someone" and the next thing you know it is grown into fact. While you all flame me, please direct me someplace where there are more rational (pro and con) arguments to be made about the Chancellor and her actions. I am open to discussion, but everyone is so outraged here that it is impossible to make any meaning from the comments.

On the other hand... said...

I have a few comments.

1) This story is from a new teacher. I am hearing lots of stories of 1st year teachers being fired. Make up your mind - either the RIF was to get old teachers out or it wasn't. You can't have it both ways.

2) Please bear in mind that the comment about students moving up or down a grade are from the riffed teacher, who is understandably upset and may be distorting things. Having said that, nothing is wrong with multi-age classrooms. I've taught one. Sometimes the enrollment doesn't work out to have an additional class in a certain grade level.

3) Riffed teachers destroyed their roll books and grade books? That's disgusting. They were paid to produce those items, are still on the payroll to this day, and had a responsibility to turn them in to the principal. Of course, if some of these teachers were bottom of the barrel types, they may not have been keeping record books at all. I've known more than a few DCPS teachers who simply do not keep grade books and guess at grades when report card time comes. It happens!

Alexia A. said...

Candy - Is there a shortfall in funding? The payroll continues to increase in the upper ranks at
825. Rhee has secured the silence of top-level administrators by paying them salaries in excess of $125K and rewarding them with bonuses of
$20K and more. Laptops and Blackberrys are distributed like pens and pencils. DCPS has become the One-Stop employment center of the Ivy League with new hires still being fingerprinted in HR everyday.

The Wash. Teacher said...

Response to Alexia- Is there a shortfall in funding?

According to Vincent Gray, Chairman of the DC City Council - the answer is no there is no shortfall. You have raised some legitimate points about the goings-on at the DCPS central office.

We are awaiting an analysis by Mary Lvey which I understand will be presented by October 16 at the DC City Council hearing. Stay tuned as we await all the data.

meaningful change said...

Anonymous 7:52 am,

People are outraged because outrageous things are happening. What do you want us to do? We work for DCPS because we care about children. Most of us can't just turn a blind eye to what is going on.

Maybe you can because these are mostly poor children of color that are being affected and maybe that is tolerable to you.

I am very grateful for this blog because from what I have seen the information is accurate. When people share their opinions it is just that, a person's opinion and we are all entitled to our own.

If you want some pro Rhee comments read those from the Washington Post's editorial board. They don't have children in these schools and they don't work in them.

I_educ8 said...

To Anonymous at 7:52 (Oct. 12):

Not that Candi needs anyone to defend her blog, but if you don't like the content, why not go to some of the other blogs out there? It never ceases to amaze how some people come on this site to villify and denigrate when there are so many other sources out there. Get a life!

Anonymous said...

It seems that principals have been given the green light to hire and fire as they please. What is the rationale for firing a very popular and able 40 something 5th grade teacher who has been in the system for over 10 years and replacing her by another 40something teacher without certification who has yet to pass the PRAXIS exams after several attempts? (and jokes about it)

The principal is able to bend the rules to get this person in the system because she believes that regardless of his paperwork (or the lack of it) he is good for the school. This is a double standard -- when the students do not score well, the teacher is not efficient; but when the principal's choice teacher does not score well, it is somehow the exam's fault.

Glenn Watson said...

The good news for you guys is that anyone left after the RIF is bullet proof. You survived the purge and that defines you as a good teacher.

Glenn Watson said...

The good news for you guys is that anyone left after the RIF is bullet proof. You survived the purge and that defines you as a good teacher.

Rhee can't admit that she screwed up and left some bad teacher in the system.

Nicdst said...

Glen Watson...I agree! The parents in Howard Co, Montgomery, and Fairfax would have the chancellor out by monday morning!

Alexa A. R u serious? Please give more info. I guess every one with a Ivy league degree that needs their student loans paid need to apply to money bag..DCPS.

Kings said...

To On the other hand - no one but you said RIFd teachers “destroyed their grade books” – only that “RIF VICTIMS DID NOT LEAVE GRADE SHEETS.”

Yes, there are tons of rumors around. It would be great to have more verifiable facts, wouldn’t it? But our chancellor isn’t seem very interested in getting them out. She even stated as “rumor” something many people saw with their own eyes – a teacher being escorted out by police.

Many other teachers and parents and kids know from their own experience that good teachers were RIFd. When one of the chancellor’s bad “reforms” hits you personally, then maybe you’ll believe it, but apparently there are still people who believe that whatever the chancellor says is true and other opinions are just from people who don’t care about children. She can be very convincing. She had me fooled for a while.

Something else – just my opinion, of course – I suspect you work for Rhee or Fenty. Why – because it’s hard to believe anyone else could possibly be as callous and purposely misleading as you are. The RIF doesn’t have to just to be a way to get old teachers out. It can be a way to cause chaos and frighten everyone into thinking they’re next, it can be mismanagement, and we all suffer for it – including the kids, whose interests supposedly come first with Rhee.

Anonymous said...


Ditto everything you said. We shouldn't have to cut off someone's ear to prove that we are telling the truth. I believe that some of these people who have trouble believing the truth work for Rhee. Need I say more ?

Alexia said...

To Nicdst - Absolutely. DCPS central admin has become the employer of first resort, no longer the last. The catch phrases are now networking, alumni groups and personal connections. Husbands and wives are now 2 for 1. This is not the same cronyism or nepotism as was described in the past.

You - if you are the right kind of You - can advance from answering Rhee's emails one day to being appointed as a director the next!

Just make the career level employees with institutional knowledge help you do your job, they can prepare paperwork, and accompany you to meetings - and then threaten them - remember another eval or RIF is just around the corner or 3 months away.

In what other school system can you become, for example, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, without an advanced degree?

And the excessive turnover in HR continues, one gentleman resigned under pressure for refusing to process a "questionable" transaction.

There are many, many true stories but people are too intimidated to speak the truth.

Sharon B. said...

Reply to Anonymous October 12,2009 @ 7:52 AM.... Let me begin by saying that I think you and others hiding behind "ANONYMOUS" is sort of like being a COWARD. If you have beliefs and what to stand by them great, but don't be afraid to "sho yoself" !!! Now. First let me say that this blog always speaks in layman terminology. You don't have to prove how wide your range of vocabulary is. Most of us have extensive vocabularies. However, there is a time and place to showcase your talents. This blog in my estimation is full of truth. A lot of this stuff comes from "insiders" that have the goods. I could place a whole lot of garbage that has happened to me over the years in DCPS. It's not opinion based. It is what has actually occurred in the lives of DCPS staff. There have been Principals who have responded to this blog. Who better to know what's happening than them. They do go to meetings with the Chancellor on a consistent basis. I've been at meetings where the Chancellor has been along with Principals and one particular Instructional Superitendent READ from a paper that she printed straight off the internet. Come on honey!!! Yes the Chancellor is receiving harsh, and abusive criticism (vituperative) because its what she deserves. She is committing acts of a criminal kind against "poor black children" and their families. Why? So that the elitist who have matriculated from Princeton, Harvard, Yale, with degrees in something other than education can screw over my children. Go experiment with your own. Go take them out of private schools and place them in DCPS and we'll see how your thoughs and actions, and words change. Last but not least, find your own Pro-Rhee blog. This blog isn't for you. Continue reading the Washington Post and you should get your "jollies". They are so Pro- Rhee. Rhee is a "big nothing" making a bigger mess of DCPS than what it has ever been before. You gets no sympathy here!!!!

Kings said...

"There are many, many true stories but people are too intimidated to speak the truth."

I will make a great book someday, hopefully soon.

Where is the John Dean of DCPS?

For those of you too young to remember, he was the Nixon staff member who ratted on him.

Alexia said...

Just as I thought - there are many "career opportunities" posted on the DCPS website today.

Are RIFFED employees eligible to apply?

Included in the RIF were "excess(ed)" employees who were promised IN WRITING, placement by HR early in the summer. Subsequently,they never received notice of open assignments, or the opportunity to apply for the 900 open positions.

Several of these capable individuals (documented high performers with terminal degrees and documentation of successful leadership)never received a fair chance. Ten years ago, in their mid-thirties, they were "too young" to become principals. And now, they are too OLD.

For example,a former asst principal was "bumped" back to counselor and assigned by HR to a school where there was only 1 position for a counselor. In late August, after school opened, the person was dispatched to an elementary school by HR. Upon their arrival, the principal stated, "Why did they send you here? I already have the counselor I want!"

Clearly, the handwriting was on the wall, and the individual received no assignments or defined areas of responsibilities. The individual did endeavor to make a difference by supporting an overwhelmed teacher, purchasing supplies and materials, and helping students, despite the cold shoulder and unprofessional reception.

Alas, this was just a "holding" spot until that fateful day when a school-wide announcement was made for the individual to report to the office. This was the only person in the school building to receive the termination notice along with the principal's SCRIPT.

The comments in this posting are all true. Names and school location have been withheld.

Anonymous said...

I agreed whole heartedly with Sharon B. There are lots of teacher without any education degree in the field they are teaching. Yes, Ballou High School housed a lot of white teachers experimenting on Black students. Some of them were obseved by one Assistant principal for giving wrong information to students but the AP refused to put it out there
because he/she scared of telling on white folks. I think, the council of the District of Columbia should should request for all employee personnel files. I know our children in DCPS are mostly disadvantaged economically and their parents are not active participant in their education but God let somebody/some people stand up for these children. Rhee and Fenty are commiting crimes by experimenting on our black children and they are getting away with it. Pls. Almighty God help Us because they are destroying lives with lies and crimes.