Oct 31, 2010

The 266 Deserve Quality Legal Representation

Featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence and WTU Candidate for General Vice President

On Friday, October 29 in the courtroom of Judge Judith Bartnoff- WTU lawyers appeared to challenge the reduction in force of 266 laid off teachers and school personnel. DC Schools Insider blogger, Bill Turque reported "The Washington Teachers' Union court challenge to the October 2009 layoffs effectively end this morning when a WTU attorney told a DC Superior Court judge that after scrutinizing 1,200 pages of District documents, the union could find no evidence that Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee contrived the budget crunch she said justified the job reductions."

Some of the laid-off teachers I talked to find it amazing that attorney Brenda C. Zwack said: "We didn't find anything that would warrant further briefing". While the court hearing lasted no more than 10 minutes, it left those in the audience with unanswered questions about their legal representation and the impact that this case will have on their personal lawsuits. Unfortunately, WTU's "Hold over" President Parker was not present at Friday's hearing and could not be questioned by the handful of teachers who were present. Attorney Zwack reportedly made a "mad dash" for the nearest exit as teachers attempted to question her more in depth.

While I have not seen the 1200 page documents that DCPS submitted, I know for a fact that the Rhee administration continued to hire teachers and other school personnel after the 266 were laid off last October. I followed many of the DCPS job advertisements that the Rhee administration placed on Craig’s list for teachers and school personnel. I often wondered why a freeze was never ordered in school year 2009-10 by Mayor Fenty, since DCPS was in a budget deficit. One thing is for sure — the Rhee administration continued to spend willy-nilly without any checks and balances in place. Perhaps that’s why we are in an even bigger deficit now.

If you recall more than a year ago Nathan Saunders and I arranged for a free two hour legal consultation (which turned into 3 hours) to laid off DC teachers with another law firm who later offered to represent the 266 teachers case at a significantly reduced rate. It seems that our hunch about the quality of legal representation that these teachers received was correct. I know we can and we must do better. At the very least, the 266 wrongfully terminated teachers' legal case deserves another 'look- see' by another law firm. This is why the Saunders slate needs your support to get elected in the run-off election so that we can aggressively represent the 266 who were wrongfully terminated. We owe it to them, that is if it's not too late.

I encourage all to read Bill Turque's article in the Washington Post on the legal challenge to the layoffs which appeared in Saturday's newspaper. Click on the link to see the article in its entirety:

Oct 28, 2010

WTU Election Results

Election Results
Nathan Saunders slate 334 votes
Hold Over President Parker's slate 313 votes
Davis slate 196 votes
Bergfalk slate 38 votes

Candi Peterson, Blogger in residence and candidate for WTU General Vice President

Last night our slate won! It was an exciting evening for the Saunders slate. Parker, hold over WTU President never showed up to watch the election results. The WTU Constitution requires that the winner receives more than 50% percent majority of the total votes cast. If none of the candidates receive more than 50% of the total votes cast, then there must be a run-off election between the two candidates who received the highest number of votes. In this case, Nathan Saunders received 334 votes and Hold Over WTU President Parker received 313 votes; therefore, there will be a run-off election between our two slates. The challenge ballots submitted by those who recently retired, resigned or were terminated were not counted.

We will need your continued support in the upcoming run-off election. Thanks for all of your support so far.

Oct 22, 2010

Hot Off The Press: Reduction In Force (RIF) In DCPS

Featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence & candidate for WTU General Vice President

Update: The Washington Teacher led the story on DCPS layoffs which were later confirmed by Bill Turque and Fox 5 News. According to inside sources, the total number of layoffs were not reported accurately by the DCPS spokesperson and numbers could be as high as 127 employees.

Sources have told The Washington Teacher that Deputy Chancellor, Kaya Henderson instituted yet another round of layoffs of DC Public Schools employees on Friday, October 22. These layoffs are one year after the October 2, 2009 anniversary date of layoffs of 266 teachers and approximately 100 other school staff. Inside sources report that this latest reduction in force allegedly includes special education specialists, placement specialists, central office staff and school based social workers and school psychologists some of whom may be members of the Washington Teachers Union. Stay tuned for further details on the 2010 round of school layoffs.

Haven't voted in the WTU elections yet? Get your ballot ready and vote Saunders slate! Mail your ballot today. www.votesaunders2010.com

Oct 21, 2010

An Open Letter To WTU Members

Dear Washington Teachers' Union Members,

For years, we fought to make sure teacher voices were heard and due process rights were protected. Our actions were required when WTU “Holdover” President George Parker refused to act. Under his leadership, jobs were lost, unfair IMPACT evaluations were created and teachers suffered professional disrespect. Candi Peterson- a WTU Trustee board member and building representative - created theWashingtonteacher.blogspot.com, a reputable DC education online voice for teachers and school personnel in 2008. She has been an intelligent teacher voice and foundation for numerous DC education stories. Nathan Saunders, WTU’s two term General Vice President- spoke expertly as the legitimate opposition voice on education reform efforts which hurt DC students, parents, and teachers. We accurately forecasted teacher/school personnel terminations, oppressive working conditions and performance based mutual consent. We provided facts, analysis, and solutions. We created rallies and demonstrations after Parker “sold out” WTU members. We worked alongside parents to challenge disproportionate school closings in Ward 5 and some of our poorer sections of the city. This current election, which is more than six months overdue, was forced by our court action e.g. Saunders et al. v. WTU. Visualize our mutual progress if you entrust your vote and WTU resources to us!

We do better because we know better. The WTU can be a voice for members and can negotiate a better contract and improve working conditions. Without a change in President, the current state of confusion, failure to hold union meetings, ineffective advocacy, and weakness will continue to endanger your job and positive working conditions that facilitate teaching and learning. With the current union president Parker - you have no voice.

Nathan is the only candidate for union President with world class training in how to be a successful teachers union President. He is a Harvard Law School- Harvard Trade Union Program graduate and earned a Masters degree in Law and Ethics from the National Labor College/University of Baltimore.

If you are wrongfully terminated, it will be too late. Elect a strong President with excellent credentials and experience supported by an effective executive board who support a participative union democracy. Remember, Nathan and Candi have been fighting for you all along! Vote Saunders Slate ! Check out our website @ www.votesaunders2010.com An X mark is all it takes. Place your ballots inside the secret ballot and then send it off in the mailer provided. If you still have not received a ballot call the American Arbitration today @ 800-273-0726.

Oct 17, 2010

Vote Saunders Slate Today!


Featuring Candi Peterson, Blogger in residence &
candidate for WTU General Vice President

Click our flyer to enlarge

One X is all it takes- Vote Saunders Slate!
Nathan & Candi- We've been working for you all along !

IF YOU NEED A DUPLICATE BALLOT for any of the following reasons: you did not receive a ballot, the ballot package is not complete or your ballot has been lost, damaged or spoiled - Please call Maria Landhi, American Arbitration Association @ 800-273-0726

In addition to calling AAA, please email thewashingtonteacher@gmail.com to let me know if you don't receive a ballot.

Oct 12, 2010

Breaking News!

Featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence and candidate for WTU General Vice President

The Washington Post reports that Chancellor Michelle Rhee will announce on Wednesday that she is resigning at the end of October. Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson will serve as the interim Chancellor. What do you think led to Rhee's abrupt resignation?


Oct 9, 2010

Hot Off The Press: The Wash. Teacher Update on DCPS Pay Freeze

Featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence & candidate for WTU General Vice President

Earlier this week, I wrote about Mayor Fenty's Executive Order which went into effect on October 6 and places a 'freeze' on DC Government hiring, vacant positions and negotiated wage/salary benefits. We can now bring some closure to questions that we had about whether our future pay raises would be jeopardized by the Mayor's recent Executive Order. In response to questions raised on The Washington Teacher blog, Safiya Simmons, spokeswoman for Chancellor Michelle Rhee responded "We remain fully committed to honoring the agreement we signed." The Washington Teacher was glad to have been able to advocate for teachers and school personnel by elevating our isues. Imagine what I could do for you as the WTU General Vice President.

Oct 6, 2010

Reduction In Force:Rhee's Final Curtain Call ?

Featuring Candi Peterson, Blogger in Residence

Due to a budget shortfall and projected spending pressures in DC government, Mayor Adrian Fenty signed an Executive Order which will take effect on October 6. Click the link to see the Executive Order:


As a result of spending pressures, DC Government inclusive of DC Public Schools will be under the following restrictions:

1. freeze on new hiring
2. freeze on all vacant positions
3. freeze on travel and training
4. there will be NO INCREASE in salary or benefits including increases in negotiated salary, wage and benefits provisions and negotiated salary schedules shall be provided in fiscal year 2011 from the fiscal year 2010 salary and benefits levels.

When the Washington Teachers' Union contract (2007-12) which was negotiated and finalized by 'Hold Over' union President George Parker and AFT President Randi Weingarten in September 2010, I questioned and raised concerns about a clause in the union contract language which states on page 103:

Article 40.1: The Parties agree that all provisions of this agreement are subject to the availability of funds.

40.2: Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as a promise that Congress, the DC Council and any other organization shall appropriate sufficient funds to meet the obligations set forth in this Agreement."

I was worried that this clause which has never appeared in previous union contracts would come back to haunt us in addition to, protecting DC Public Schools from honoring the terms of our Contract Agreement once ratified. My gut told me that when Parker and Weingarten negotiated our teachers' union contract during a large looming budget deficit (158 mil) that it would only lead to problems for us down the road. Of course my concerns about the contract language that were addressed to 'Hold Over' Union President George Parker fell on deaf ears and of course the rest is history. While I don't have the answers to what the Mayor's Executive order means for DC teachers and school personnel, as a critical thinker it raises for me a number of questions and concerns that requires us to seek additional information on how this will impact teachers, school personnel, students and schools.

As if this news weren't bad enough, inside anonymous sources are also reporting that Chancellor Michelle Rhee's final curtain call will be another reduction in force (RIF) for DC public school employees much like the RIF that occurred a year ago last October. While these are only speculations at this point, It is reasonable to believe that cuts will need to be made due to "budget pressures." Certainly at Vincent Gray's town hall meeting on October 5, he suggested that cuts will have to be made in DC Government. Whether or not these spending pressures were manufactured by Rhee and company in order to cleanse DC Schools as one inside source suggests is a question a lot of people are wondering about. Another anonymous source raises some important questions that must be answered (see below). In the days up ahead, I will be exploring the answers to many of the questions below. If you have any insights, feel free to drop me an email @ thewashingtonteacher@gmail.com or post your comment on The Washington Teacher blog.

Questions That Deserve Answers:
1) Is the entire WTU contract that Ms. Rhee negotiated (all salary increases) out the window?
2) Is the entire 21% "negotiated" salary increase out the window?
3) Or is the "negotiated FY 2010" salary scale kept on as the FY 2011 salary level(s)? That is, no increase from FY2010 to FY2011?
4) What impact does this have on IMPACTplus?
5) Will this cause a RIF or excessed positions?
6) If positions are excessed, should highly effective teachers take the "bonus" pay? Are there strings attached for FY 2010?
7) What impact will this have on teacher professional development and implementation of the WTU contract?
8) How many open positions in DCPS are there and are they all frozen?
9) Does this affect the contractor and consultant positions?
10) If schools come in over their budgeted enrollment, can they still expect to receive "equalization" and if so, when?
11) Will DCPS increase the target average class size to reduce the number of teachers needed?
12) How will this help/hinder getting Spec. Ed budgeting under control and bring more services in house? Is it true that DCPS fired so many local Sped support personnel that they must now import services from very far out of town including airfare expenses??
13) What impact does this have on negotiating the CSO contract? Has that gone to arbitration yet?
14) What effect does this have on the other DCPS labor contracts and negotiations (AFSCME, etc.)?
15) Will DCPS seriously consider closing more under enrolled schools to gain back the economy of scale?
16) What does this do to the Fine Arts Middle School currently in the planning states, but with no announced budget?
17) What other initiatives are likely to be cut back?
18) Will this effect the outside evaluation of the educational reforms of the last three years previously budgeted at about $350,000 or so (estimated from memory)? When has this body met since the initial meeting? And what progress have they made?
19) Will this effect the CSM budgeting model or will we see a return to the weighted student formula for local school budgets in order to better ensure that the money actually follows the students?

Oct 3, 2010

Let The WTU Races Begin !

We Want Your Vote !
Even though the May 2010 WTU officers election was hindered by the current 'Hold Over' union president, George Parker due to his failure to turn over the necessary documents to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Washington Teachers' Union members will finally be able to elect a new union president and a slate of officers.

According to AFT , ballots will be mailed to members mid-October and must be returned by no later than October 24, 2010 to be counted on October 27.
AFT notified the Saunders slate this weekend that we have satisfied the requirements of the WTU Constitution and have been certified as official candidates in the upcoming union election. For information on our campaign, please visit:

We Can Do Better !
Nathan A. Saunders
Current WTU General Vice President
Candidate for WTU President

Candi L. Peterson
Candidate for WTU General Vice President