Mar 29, 2010

Open Letter To AFT President Randi Weingarten

This letter was sent to the American Federation of Teachers national union president.
March 29, 2010
Dear President Weingarten:
“Thanks to Thursday’s (March 25) vote of the Washington Teachers Union, President George Parker and certain WTU Executive Board members will not support the April 10 march to the US Department of Education that has been organized by Steve Conn, a Detroit public schools teacher. The purpose of the march is to defend public education by taking a stand against the attacks on teachers; black, Latino, poor, working class and middle class students of all races; end privatization of public education; end separate and unequal schools; and restore Dr. King’s vision for America.
Thanks to Thursday’s vote (March 25), Washington Teachers Union President George Parker and certain WTU Executive Board members were unwilling to allow information about the April 10 march to be placed on the WTU Executive Board agenda so that I could explain why public school teachers and their students will travel here to DC on buses to stand up for public education. I was disappointed to learn that AFT, our parent organization, also will not support the April 10 march on the US Department of Education (as reported by WTU President George Parker)
This got me to thinking that, unlike teachers, neither you President Weingarten nor George Parker will be wiped out in July by an IMPACT evaluation that is grossly unfair to teachers, neither you President Weingarten nor George Parker have been wrongfully terminated at the whim of a chancellor and neither you President Weingarten nor George Parker will be forced to consider a contract proposal (tentative agreement) after three long years that gives more leverage to administrators to terminate Effective teachers or be faced with reassignment options under mutual consent provisions.
I am troubled that our current WTU president, George Parker, is unwilling to have an open discussion with our WTU Executive Board members informing them about the march simply because the AFT has not endorsed the event. I know that Steve Conn advanced this issue directly to George Parker and Monique Lenoir, WTU Communications Director, for consideration.
For this reason, I appeal to you to let members of the Washington Teachers Union, Local 6, decide whether they want to attend this event. At a time when public education is in peril, we all need to stand together as one in solidarity and struggle. If teachers can travel from across these United States, at the very least DC teachers should be afforded the option of standing alongside our colleagues. So far the Detroit Federation of Teachers, The California Federation of Teachers, California NEA State Federation, California AFT State Federation, West Haven (Connecticut) Federation of Teachers and the Detroit School Board have signed on to lend support.
I ask you President Weingarten to do the following: post an announcement on the AFT web site providing details about the April 10 Washington, DC, march to the U.S. Department of Education at 400 Maryland Avenue SW (time 12 noon) and send a letter to WTU/AFT members informing them about the upcoming event. As the American Federation of Teachers national union president, you have an obligation to represent all union members, not only those who share your point of view.
Signed, Candi Peterson
full dues paying member of WTU and AFT
Washington Teachers Union Board of Trustee
Washington Teachers Union Building Representative
Posted by The Washington Teacher


Anonymous said...


We have to make sure we vote George and his flunkies out of office! They are promoting "attacks on teachers; black, Latino, poor, working class and middle class students of all races; end privatization of public education; end separate and unequal schools."

Anonymous said...

What's the big deal? These are dues paying members in Detroit who have a legitimate concern. They are organizing a march in DC. We are their colleagues located in DC and after reading about the cause, might want to decide to support them. So, what's wrong with letting folks know about it? Are the AFT and WTU so concerned about their image that they withold information from their constituents in order to keep them ill-informed (another way of controlling the message)? Yet, Weingarten can be seen on Real News with Bill Maher discussing public education and her support of legalizing marijuana (for kids as well) in the same episode.

Go Figure?

Anonymous said...

(I love "Anonymous" who complains that that other commenters are Anon.) It's sad to read purported old-timers turning this into a racial matter, in our majority AA city that has had home rule for almost four decades. (Yes, Congress interferes, but not in a way that explains the DCPS quality of education.) Teachers are just victims. Or, it's just poverty--usually voiced with a tone of resignation and unspoken responsibility in the schools decline. We have had good teachers among us in the past, but I sense many have just given up on the children--long before Rhee got here. Have lived in DC for ages, though all of this. I don't buy the decline has been someone's plan, as there's no evidence I know of. Teachers are paid well and the budget is generous relative to other districts. We need to stop the bickering and sounding like the Tea Party crowd. Marching on the White House, or even the District Building is a big waste of time. It will make us look silly. But maybe not as foolish as Randi Weingarten looked today on Bill Maher's show. She apparently wants to be a "celebrity" as much as Sarah Palin. Unfortunately for AFT and WTU, she was very unimpressive.

The Washington Teacher said...

I have to respond to comments by Anonymous 632:
There is a correlation between how students perform and socio -economic status. Race whether we like it or not is a factor not only in DC but nationwide. There is an achievement gap even in Montgomery and Fairfax counties and elsewhere.

Look at the research. That is not to suggest that students can't learn. Some years ago there was a study in the American Educator which looked at vocabulary of students families on welfare, the working poor and middle class families. Students whose families were on welfare were only exposed to 500 words before starting school while the working poor were exposed to 600 words and students whose families were middle class were exposed to 1200 words. This study showed how these disparities continued to grow even after students entered school.

To suggest that there are not disparities by race, class and socio-economic status are absurd. If you don' understand this reality than it is hard to address reform. A bolder approacher website which I have a link to on this blog addresses this issue and suggests that we cannot continue to think that a one size model of reform fits all. No one pair of jeans fits everybody. We have to create multiple models of reform for students east of the river as well as west of the park. These models should look differently because students have different needs. Many of our poorer students need a different prescription because learning stops for them often times at the end of the school day unlike in more affluent communities. If we don't address poverty and adult illiteracy in these communities then we will continue to not be able to make a significant impact in these communities as we would like.

I don't see teachers, students and their communities challenging politicians as bickering. For too long as Diane Ravitch's book suggests we let politicians make decisions about educational reform. It's time to march to the U.S. Dept. of Education as educators need to be at the table making decisions about education. We must take the lead in this debate. I will be there on Saturday, April 10 at 12 noon @ 400 Maryland Ave SW. For those who read my blog and are interested please join me. If not sit back and continue to do nothing but criticize those of us seeking to reform and strengthen public education.

Here's to Steve Conn and other teacher activists like him who are getting on the bus to come here to DC to defend public education.

Wyrm1 said...

I agree with everything you say except this:

and neither you President Weingarten nor George Parker will be forced to consider a contract proposal (tentative agreement) after three long years that gives more leverage to administrators to terminate effective teachers or be faced with reassignment options under mutual consent provisions.

I want the right to consider said contract. Just as you have been frustrated because Mr. Parker has not listened to his Executive Board, teachers are frustrated because we have absolutely zero voice in what our union is doing. I don't have that much of a problem with it being easier to get rid of teachers who aren't doing their job. There are plenty of them at my school.

Honestly, I wanted to vote on the red and green proposal (had it been fleshed out and completed). I probably voted against it, but I would have liked to have seen it, but was never given that right.

Wise Teacher said...

AFT President, Randi Weingarten was on Bill Maher this weekend. Randi is a sell out for teachers who belong to AFT. She doesn't represent teachers well. I am worried for DC teachers if she had anything to do with negotiating your contract. Read everything carefully. She may even leave some of the pages out!

tauna said...

Candi and Washington teachers,

Just a note to wish you the best in this. Though I am far away in proximity, I follow what is happening. I have read Weingarten's statements and watched and listened to her. I'm sorry to say this but I sure don't think she is a strong spokesperson for teachers and public education. She capitulates to the corporates far too much for that "seat at the table".

The Washington Teacher said...

Response to Wyrm 1

I have NO problem with teachers voting on a contract proposal. Let's be clear and read what I wrote correctly. I don't think you are. Rhee is firing EFFECTIVE TEACHERS as well.

As long as you are comfortable with Effective teachers being fired too then I say take it to the members.

Warren said...

Wait just a minute!!!

Who were the certain board members that would not allow for the information on the march to simply be placed on the agenda for discussion and notification.

WashingtonTeacher, you normally report names of board members and their vote.

Why not this time? Why the cover-up?

classic said...

I cannot believe that after the last two years people still believe ANYTHING that Michelle Rhee says. To think that Michelle Rhee only wants to get rid of bad teachers is a farce and some of you are drinking the Kool-Aid. Look at the HUNDREDS of good people that have been fired since she got here. Once again I will state that I do not suport bad teachers but I also know that a lot of great teachers have been fired under her watch.
Also, I know that teachers need help and support. Michelle Rhee doesnt want to help teachers she just wants to fire them and replace them. She is treating teachers like interchangable parts on an assembly line.

The Washington Teacher said...

DC teachers have friends and relatives that live in DC. This is voter influence. Encourage all your friends and relatives to vote for Vincent Gray who will be announcing his bid for mayor on Tuesday at the District Building.

Vote for Vincent Gray !

Sheila H. Gill said...


I truly appreciate you more for your wisdom, integrity and spirit for holding President Weingarten accountable.

At the end of the day, it isn't about Randi or George.

United We Stand and everyone must be actively involved.

Stay Focus and Vote for Vincent Gray 2010!

Anonymous said...

Only a former teacher here, and that was long ago.

I can easily understand why teachers would comment anonymously: Tenure is also under attack, leaving teachers not only pressured by the test scores as determiners of teaching quality supporters, but also subject to dismissal at whim.

Former teacher, partly driven off by all those union busting attacks.

Anonymous said...

This just in: it looks like Vincent Gray will be running for mayor against the unpopular Fenty. If Gray wins, Rhee is definitely out.

The Washington Teacher said...


The WTU Executive Board members that I reference in this article are: Maria Angala (Jefferson MS), Joyce Armoo (Seaton ES) Lorraine Smith, Camille Locke, Andre Taylor, Debbie Hines (Beers ES) , Sallie Littlejohn (Woodson SHS ), Milton Bruce Williams, and Erich Martel (Wilson SHS).

Anonymous said...

Vincent Gray is running for Mayor of DC. Time to start raising money and informing people who live in wards of 4, 5,7 and 8. These people can get Fenty out which means (hopefully) that will mean Rhee is out!

People in wards 7 and 8 must vote or Vincent Gray can't win.

Get to work regardless if you are a DC resident or not.
If you work or ever worked for DCPS, get busy!

james boutin said...

The only comment I would add to all of this is that educators have got to be active. There is so much smoke being put up by lawmakers, unions, districts, and the media that most people in the general public are relatively unaware about the negative effects of our educational climate.

So please get out there and do something.

Thanks for the letter, Candi.

Anonymous said...

Rooting for success for DCPS (kids and teachers and parents), I have to give some thought to Gray over Fenty. If Gray wins, what do we expect? One, he may not can Rhee--unless he runs on that platform--but rather tries to mold her actions to his wishes. But what are his wishes? He may--or may not--easily reinstate RIFd teachers, as some of those firings may have been fully justified, regardless of those that may be unjustified. He may--or may not kill Impact--because it is useful, if not perfect, and he realizes that evals are necessary. He won't reopen closed schools, but will need to follow through and close more. He won't rehire a ton of people for CO, because he knows that would be wasteful. He is intelligent, and wants to be seen as doing something the right way, if not a flaming reformer of schools. He knows things have to change, which means getting some new thinkers and more energy in the system. He can't buy Wards 7 and 8 on the education issue by just completing some new facilities. Parents everywhere are looking for real change, and soon. They are not looking at rolling back the clock and doing nothing and fully caving in to what WTU demands, even with a new firebrand leader. I trust this view of Gray makes sense to a lot of teachers who comment here, even if it is not what they want to hear.

andrew said...


You wrote such a compelling appeal for solidarity with our brothers and sisters from Detroit and around the country. Unfortunately, your appeal was addressed to an enemy of teachers.

Our unions have been turned into "holding companies" whose top priority is to keep salary flowing to officers and staff. The AFT and NEA have become nothing more than another layer of administration defending the system and the status quo.

This situation has produced pathetic figures like Randi Weingarten, who if truth was told has never been a teacher. It was her lawyer's credentials that made her a union "president".

As another poster mentioned Weingarten made a recent appearance on Bill Maher's show. She also showed up for a debate on Bloomberg's "Intelligence Squared" program. We teachers would have been better served by an empty chair on both occasions. She is weak, weak, weak!

She will never endorse the April 10 march on the Dept. of Education but please don't let that stop you and the other genuine teacher leaders from organizing for this vital action.

The Washington Teacher said...

I don't think we will need to micro manage Gray if he gets voted in as mayor. I can accept a leader who believes in democracy, one who is fair and will follow government regulations. One thing is clear- mayoral control needs checks and balances. It's time for a change. We can do better.

Anonymous said...

I will never vote for Gray... he is a mess too! We need someone intelligent that understands the teaching profession in the office of Mayor. Come on people... you are supporting people that are part of the problem. I am not going to mention too many names because then Candi won't post my comment. But think hard and long before you vote for some of these knuckleheads in May and thereafter! You are just going to be adding to the problems we have now!

Macy said...

Anonymous on 3/30 @ 9:11

The only knucklehead that we should concern ourselves with is Fenty. He has divided the city and created a mess and made a joke out of city government. I even met some of his fraternity brothers yesterday who said that they were forming a group to oust Fenty.

Whether you like Gray or not, he is a viable candidate and will give General Greenhorn (Mayor Fenty) a run for his campaign money. Go Vince go!

Anonymous said...

Randi W's reply to you, Candi, is sort of a slap in the face. She is not doing anything, pleading the long lead time, etc. She wants things convenient. Maybe she is too busy, with a new doo I might say, running around trying to be a celeb. Her appearance on the funny, profane Bill Maher show on HBO suggested she was way out of her league. Not insightful, not funny, and rather uncomfortable. Hardly recognized her w the haircut. I really don't expect or want to see her in People magazine. And in that debate on Bloomberg TV on whether to blame unions for the failure of public education, she handily lead her team to a significant loss on points. Even Rod Paige was on the winning team, for goodness sake. Somehow, Randi does not seem tuned in. She ain't a reformer, that is for sure. But is she a union official of genuine national stature who has the pulse of her members, including those who really need some national support?

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ March 30, 8:22,

While we don't know what kind of mayor Gray would be, I'm willing to take a chance on him. I do not believe any of the prospective candidates would be worse than Fenty, and I do not believe Rhee will stay if Fenty loses the election. (Fenty serves as her cover/shield and they both have proven to be very divisive, polarizing figures, pandering only to the moneyed, predominantly non-black interests west of Rock Creek Park.)

Though I am a DCPS educator, I live in Maryland and you can believe I will be contributing to Gray's campaign, both monetarily and physically (telephoning, canvassing neighborhoods with literature, etc.)

I don't expect miracles. I do want reform (as do many of my colleagues). I trust Gray will continue the reform effort without disparaging teachers and being dismissive of less affluent parents and other community stakeholders. We can only hope.