Feb 26, 2010

Rhee's Motto: Speak No Evil

The DC Schools Insider blog features a story about DCPS lining up support for the upcoming Council annual performance oversight hearing on March 15. Turque who writes for the Insider blog wrote "Testimony at these events tends to become an open-ended infomercial for those unhappy with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. So Peggy O'Brien, Rhee's family and public engagement chief, is reaching out to those who have had kind words for DCPS and have asked what they can do to help." Talking points have been created by Rhee's staff as well as a plan to give those willing to testify favorably, a reminder call about 1 hour before their turn comes up on the council docket. In my open letter to Peggy O'Brien, I discuss what is wrong with this picture:

February 26, 2010
Dear Dr. O’Brien,
I am most concerned about your inappropriate effort to solicit positive testimony only from a group of parents who have previously expressed support for the Chancellor’s reforms. In your role as chief of Family and Public Engagement for a tax-payer supported agency, you have an obligation to appeal to all DCPS stakeholders to testify at the March 15th City Council hearing, not just to identified supporters. In the interest of all the DC residents your office represents,
I ask you to do the following:
*Post an announcement on the DCPS homepage about the hearing, inviting all family and parents of DCPS students to testify. Just announce it. Do not provide positive, unsubstantiated talking points as you did in your original email.
*Send an email to your original group of supporters acknowledging your error in using your public office to solicit positive views only.
Of course, I understand that your office would welcome positive testimony, given the chancellor’s recent controversial remarks about RIFd teachers hitting and have sex with children and her sliding poll numbers. Thus, I suggest you contact groups like DC School Reform Now, a non-profit organization founded by former Teach for America workers to support the Chancellor’s reform efforts. Interest groups such as this would see it as their mission to mobilize their members and provide talking points that are strictly supportive of the Chancellor. Unlike public agencies, they don’t have an obligation to serve all citizens, but only those who share their point of view.
Candi Peterson
From: Peggy.O'Brien@dc.gov
CC: Katherine.Gottfredson@dc.gov; Jason.Crawford@dc.gov
February 23, 2010
Dear Parents and Friends of DC Public Schools,
"I've lived in this community for 40 years, raised two children here, sent them to DCPS. I know that more people than ever are feeling optimistic about DC Public Schools because I talk to parents and community members every day and they tell me so.
And for good reason. Test scores and graduation rates are up, facilities have been modernized, our teachers are more qualified, more effective, and better supported, access to technology is system wide, early education is expanding and improving, and programs to address reading and learning problems are proliferating.
I am reaching out to you because you have expressed your support of DCPS reforms at some point during the past year, either to the Chancellor or to me directly--and we are coming up to a time when expressions of support would be most helpful.
The DC Council will hold a DCPS Agency Performance Oversight Hearing on Monday, March 15, starting at 10 a.m. at the Wilson Building. These hearings are opened with public testimony. People sign up in advance, and then testify in the order in which they have done so. If you are willing to share your story at the hearing, please contact Aretha Latta at 202-724-8196, or email her at alatta@dccouncil.us to be placed on the list. Once you are on the list, we would be happy to call you an hour in advance of when you would be expected to testify if you are not able to attend the entire hearing. Just let us know if you've signed up. You can also submit written testimony if you cannot attend the hearing.
The District of Columbia deserves a more complete picture of the school reform efforts underway. Your testimony can help provide that. Thank you for considering this."
Peggy O'Brien, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Family and Public Engagement
Office of the Chancellor
District of Columbia Public Schools
Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, email courtesy of DC Schools Insider blog.


Anonymous said...

Dear Washington Teacher,

Please post this as a headline separate entry on your blog so other DCPS teachers might see it and respond.

From Washington Post Bill Turque, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcschools/2010/02/iso_former_dcps_teachers.html

ISO: Former DCPS teachers

For a story on teacher attrition, I'd like to talk to educators who have voluntarily left DCPS within the last three or four years. I'm looking for both veterans and novices. If you're interested, please get in touch with me by phone 202-334-9294 or e-mail turqueb@washpost.com.

Ragemania said...

Taking the title of "Chancellor" quite literally. Next thing we know there will be hush money or worse going on. Disagree with the Iron Chancellor and you may sleep with the fishes.

Kings said...

Love your visual. Maybe all schools should have a photo like that to hang in the teachers' lounge just to remind folks of the rules.

I do hope more people write to Peggy O'Brien. It should be made very clear to her that this was a bad move.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a conspiracy. Why would the chancellor need anyone to speak highly of her, usually she does all the speaking, and mayor, Fenty agrees. This incompetent, overrated, evil woman is having her own Waterloo!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sending the letter to Peggy. Rhee and her crew know they've FU**** up the DCPS! All of those crazy fools have to go! They all are FAILURES!

Anonymous said...

Since the courts have ruled that Fenty's friend has to appear before the counsel by March 25,2010, maybe this will be the beginning of the Fenty/Rhee decline!!!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe a bad move on Peg's part, but maybe not. Many of teachers whom I know of are silent supporters of the Chancellor. And they seem afraid to go public because of feared recrimination from some colleagues, including WTU members. I think the hearing should go on, with free expression from all sides. Vicious attacks on anyone will not be tolerated by teachers who care about our children in school as much as themselves. I am torn and upset that some WTU members do not support--to say the least--helping DCPS get tens of millions of dollars in D. of Ed. Race to the Top funds. We need those dollars desperately, but some colleagues will not cooperate to ensure DCPS can file a valid application. This upsets me a lot.

The Wash. Teacher said...

I encourage all to read DC's Race To The Top Application and judge for themselves. Don't rely on others to tell you what's in it. Here is the link:


Also you can visit the OSSE website and click on the link DC's Race To The Top Application.

Anonymous said...

So sorry, Candi. Which one of Pluto's moon does Ms. O'Brien live on? I'm a little confused.

Kings said...

Dear anonymous at 2:50,

You sound quite close to "Peg" and quite ready to impugn the union, though no mention of it was made in this open letter to Dr. O'Brien and this blog has often been quite critical of the union.

The “feared recriminations” from colleagues that you worry about couldn’t be as damaging to teachers as getting RIFd, getting a bad IMPACT evaluation or being maligned as a group by Rhee in the national media for over two years.

No, these silent Rhee supporters you speak of sound like absolute cowards. They are teachers with the full strength of the administration behind them, who nonetheless resort to posting on this blog in an underhanded attempt to get sympathy for themselves while blaming the evil union. Is this what Rhee’s army of believers has come to?

Surely Dr. O’Brien could have found a way to bolster these silent Rhee supporters without sending an email from her DCPS account to select parents asking for positive testimony only. And you could have found a way to support your interests without conflating opposition to Rhee’s policies with obstructing the DCPS RttT application.

The Wash. Teacher said...

Amen to Kings: You said it best to anonymous @ 2:50 on 2/27/ poster. I suspect that there is not a silent support group of the Chancellors but rather someone from the chancellor's staff who wants us to believe this crap.

Anonymous @ 2:50 states these DC teachers fear recrimination from some DCPS colleagues, give me a break pleeeez. Teachers and the WTU under the helm of George Parker are the least of their worries.

Kings said...

Let me predict the next move of Anon 2:50 types, to put it on the record and hopefully to thwart it.

“Peg” or another staffer will reach out by phone this time, to avoid traitorous email outings - to teachers with high IMPACT scores at schools with Rhee-loyalist principals. These teachers will be asked to testify at the March 15th hearing, will be given talking points and will be subtly threatened that if they don’t testify, their IMPACT scores may drop precipitously in the next round of evaluations. The Rhee staffer may also appeal to teachers with middling or low IMPACT scores, subtly implying that positive testimony could have a salubrious effect on their next evaluation.

Once the teachers have testified, the administration will circulate rumors that these brave teachers have been threatened by union instigators. As usual, the charges will not be substantiated. Still, word will spread, possibly with the help of a Post editorial, and DCPS teachers will now be tarred with accusations of abusing each other, on top of everything else.

As a way of disproving this prediction, the scores of some “highly effective” teachers who testified will dip into the “effective” category and a couple of the middling/low IMPACT testifiers will be fired for show.

Then again, perhaps after considering a scenario like this, Headquarters will decide against it, realizing that recruiting efforts could be severely damaged if prospective teachers are worried about being abused by their colleagues. Rhee staff could realize that this kind of bombastic maneuver isn’t playing very well with an ever more skeptical public. They might even reprimand the likes of anon 2:50 for the stupidity and audacity of posting that DC teachers fear recrimination from their colleagues for simply expressing their differing points of view. They could disavow any connection to Anon 2:50, implying that it’s just an attempt to make Rhee look bad. In fact, that’s how a lot of bad press is being handled lately and might be an easy out. Or they could simply not respond in any way, just letting this bad idea die a quiet death. That’s an uncomplicated approach that doesn’t involve blaming or stirring up trouble, so I doubt it will happen.

Anonymous said...

Ding-Dong the witch will soon be gone!

Classic said...

I BEG those of you that wish to testify to please email Vincent Gray's office to get on the list. We need parents and students that have been affected the most by the current administration.

Anonymous said...

It bothers me to hear someone set teachers against each other. I wish the anonymous at 2:50 would apologize for suggesting Rhee supporters fear recriminations from their colleagues who just have a different view of what’s best for the children’s education. You know, if 2:50 doesn’t apologize, maybe it’s the Chancellor herself!! She doesn’t apologize for anything. haha

The Wash. Teacher said...

I acknowledge that I've withheld two posts, obviously from the same person. I do not believe that the posts are from a teacher but think that they are written by someone from the administration whose sole purpose appears to incite others. The unpublished posts are divisive to teachers and I believe bring the WTU into what is not a discussion about WTU and does not involve people who are happy with the WTU.

As the blogger in residence, I retain the right not to publish certain comments. By the way this is not a a Washington Teachers' Union blog. Thanks for reading The Washington Teacher blog

Kings said...

Interesting, Wash. Teacher. If your assessment is correct about comments meant to incite coming from someone within the administration, then it looks like one of my predictions has already been affirmed: They’re taking a course that involves stirring up trouble. It’s their way.

Anonymous said...

Teachers must stop crying,just do your jobs the best you can. A blind person can see that Rhee is interested only on test scores, she will not last long.
I feel sorry for the kids who do not even know how to read but can score high on standarized tests.

Anonymous said...

Trust me. As Ragemania has said, there is a lot going on with this chancellor. I lost my job because I wouldn't commit an unethical act. She is as gangster as they come.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 2:12 said it well. There are some high scores in some unusual places, I mean some very unusual places. What amazes me is the way Rhee and her principals who do cheat get away with their dishonesty. Peggy O'Brien's attempt to get people to step up also indicates some conspiracy and collusion. Dishonest people they are in that administration.

The dishonesty hurts the children most of all. Why use a child for what you want and leave them unskilled and doomed to fail? Rhee purports herself as the savior of children but she doesn't give one hoot about them. She had the chance to save some young girls from her fiancee in California and she did not. What makes people think she'll stand and deliver here? Wake up people!!