Dec 16, 2013

Forcing Out Effective Educators in DCPS Through Buyouts

Forcing Out DCPS Effective Educators Through Buyouts
By Candi Peterson
Forty three DC Public schools Educators out of fifty-five signed up to testify at the DC City Education Chairman, David Catania's Round table on Public Education held on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at McKinley Senior High. I was among those DC educators willing to endure the brisk cold wintry Saturday morning to express my perspective on public education and discuss ways to help our students succeed.
The title of the round table was "Setting Students up to Succeed" although many in attendance questioned the motives of Chairman Catania's as seeking to get a political leg up on other DC mayoral candidates using support of public education as  his platform.
I was glad that the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) saw this event as an opportunity to elevate the voice of educators who as the inside experts can speak truth to power about what our students really need to succeed. WTU had panels of educators to bring testimony in a number of different areas including, budget and assessments, professional development, special education and teacher evaluations.
DCPS Chief of Human Capital, Jason Kamras was among those seated  in the McKinley auditorium and didn't escape the attention of some teachers who expressed concern about fear of reprisal for testifying. Before the start of the hearing, I mentioned the audiences comments to Mr. Catania and he gladly made an announcement that work place reprisal for participants testimony could constitute a misdemeanor and wouldn't be tolerated. Whatever the reason for Jason's appearance, I hope his note taking will find it's way back to DCPS  and be the impetus for much needed changes to this corporate model of education reform that sets our students up to fail.
Here's my testimony that I didn't get a chance to present in its entirety due to the strictly imposed two minute time limit on the afternoon panels.
12/14/13 - Testimony of Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President
Panel # 2: Budget and Assessments (presented with Guy Brandenburg,/WTU retiree, Erich Martel/WTU retiree, Angela Thompson Murphy/Teacher Lasalle-Backus Education Campus
 My name is Candi Peterson and I am the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) General Vice President. I have 21 years as a DCPS educator. In 2013, I was excessed from Cardozo High School due to a school restructuring . I had been unable to find another position and had it not been for my election to WTU, I most likely would have faced termination from DCPS  within the next school year, despite my Effective Impact evaluation rating.
Given that DCPS has one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the nation with 55 % of new teachers leaving in their first two years and 80% gone by their sixth year, I want to focus on the churning out of effective & highly effective educators who are pushed out through a process known as excessing. Turnover of our best teachers creates instability for our students and schools and negatively impacts student achievement.

Fix my Life is a reality TV series hosted by life coach, Iyanla Vanzant. This TV program focuses on offering solutions guests present. When it comes to teacher churn in DC public schools, we are desperately in need of an intervention like the one offered on the Fix My Life TV series. We need to stop the purging of effective and highly effective educators through excessing which by definition is "an elimination of a teachers position due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring or change in the local school program where such an elimination is not a reduction in force or abolishment."

When the WTU Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)  was negotiated in 2010, little did many of our teachers know that an excess under this contract would likely lead to their termination as there would no longer be a requirement for teachers to be placed. Under this contract if teachers are unable to secure a position within the 60 calendar days following their excess through mutual consent, if they are probationary teachers - they are terminated from the school system. What the general public isn't aware of is that our effective and highly effective educators are among the growing pool of candidates facing termination from DCPS. Under the WTU CBA, effective and highly effective educators with permanent status are offered a series of three options if they are unable to find another position following the 60 days after excess. These three options include a $25,000 cash buyout, an early retirement option to eligible teachers and a one year placement option.

Option 1 and option 3 involve financial incentives to push effective and highly effective teachers out of the school stem. Option 1 is a $25,000 cash buyout offered to these teachers unable to find another position and results in their termination. According to the DCPS Fiscal year 2012 WTU Teacher buyout document which was made available to the Council at the Oversight hearing indicates that 34 effective and/or highly effective teachers were terminated and offered buyouts totaling $835,000 to the school district.
A second costly option to the school district is the early retirement option. Under this option, DCPS funds a VEBA (Voluntary Employment Beneficiary Association) which is a trust that provides financial benefits to effective and highly effective teachers after being unable to secure a teaching position following an excess. Teachers who select this option must have 20 years of creditable service and an effective or highly effective rating. DCPS funds 1.7 million dollars yearly  beginning Fiscal year 2012 through Fiscal year 2018 totaling 11.9 million dollars. This option forces out teachers who would likely continue working until full retirement age.

What's wrong with this picture? Teacher buyouts force our best teachers out and are costly to the District of Columbia and hurts our students. They also add to the pool of teachers who leave voluntarily, thereby creating a revolving door workforce. If DCPS can find monies to buy teachers out, then surely they should be able to brainstorm ways to financially support our public schools and retain good teachers.

 What we know from the research is that high teacher turnover harms students. In a study titled "How Teacher Turnover Harms Student Achievement" by Matthew Ronfeld, Susanna Loeb and James Wycoff presented at the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research in 2012 - teacher turnover has a negative effect on student achievement in both math and reading. This study reveals that it is particularly harmful to the achievement of students in schools with large populations of low performing and black students.

In the words of Diane Ravitch, "good school districts don't have high attrition rates among teachers and principals. Good schools are schools professionals feel a part of and want to sustain and improve. Churn is not good for teachers and by now we know, it's not good for students." No creditable school system seeks to dismantle its effective teaching workforce.

My recommendation is to develop a plan which focuses on minimizing high rates of teacher turnover. We need to retain effective and highly effective educators, and work to develop and support novice teachers who shouldn't be expected to be proficient from the start.

Our first step should be to create a task force to review teacher churn. Next steps should include requesting detailed data from DCPS on teacher turnover rates including requesting the exact numbers of all educators who leave voluntarily and involuntarily with statistical breakdowns by race, gender, ward, school, years of teaching experience, date of hire, salary level, and Impact rating scores. Without this data, we are operating in the blind and unable to develop valid hypothesis, in addition we must demand to know the costs to the school district of teacher buyouts dating back to FY 2011.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Education Committee at this round table discussion.


Dec 13, 2013

WTU Panel to Participate in Education Roundtable on December 14

Education Round Table Discussion
By Candi Peterson

The DC City Council Committee on Education will hold a public oversight round table discussion; Setting Teachers Up for Success. The purpose of the round table, chaired by Council member David Catania is to hear from District of Columbia educators about their experience and perspective on the state of public education and how they and their students can be set up to succeed.  The discussion will be held this Saturday, December 14, 2013 from 10 am - 1 pm at McKinley Senior High school located at
151 T Street, NE.

Both District of Columbia public school teachers and charter school teachers have been invited to testify.

Washington Teachers' Union (WTU)  has convened a panel of DCPS educators/WTU members to present testimony at tomorrow's round table. Our WTU panel includes:

Elizabeth Davis
WTU President

Candi Peterson
WTU General Vice President

David Tansey
Dunbar Senior High School

Angela Thompson Murphy
LaSalle Education Campus

Guy Brandenburg
DCPS retired educator

Signe Nelson
Whittier Education Campus

Maria Angala
Jefferson Academy

Janice Brown
Itinerant Related Service Provider

Emily Washington
WTU Teacher Center

Erich Martel
DCPS retired educator

Hope to see you there!

Dec 3, 2013

Join WTU for a National Day of Action, December 9, 2013

By Candi Peterson
Join Washington Teachers' Union WTU) for A Town Hall On Public Education in Washington D.C. Monday, December 9, from 6:00 - 8:00 P.M. at Eastern HS, 1700 East Capitol Street, NE. 

WTU and Empower DC have both committed to increase awareness and build momentum around education issues. At our town hall we will discuss the principles that unite us as well as, engage the mayoral candidates around issues concerning quality education. We ask that WTU members and others attend to help make the December 9th Day of Action a success.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Aug 9, 2013

New WTU Leaders Poised to Fight for DC's Students

Angela Thompson-Murphy
Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

By Candi Peterson

Featured in the latest Washington Informer newspaper article (8/7/13) written by staff writer, Margaret Summers is one of our very own WTU Executive Board members, Angela Thompson-Murphy in this must read about our WTU Listening Posts held at Union Temple Church on July 30. The listening posts were held to solicit input from education stakeholders.

New WTU Leaders Poised to Fight for Students 
by  Margaret Summers, Washington Informer Staff Writer

Against the backdrop of District public and charter school students’ higher than ever scores on this year’s D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) reading and math tests, and a challenge to the authenticity of recent District teachers union election results, newly-elected Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) President Elizabeth “Liz” Davis and General Vice President Candi Peterson hosted a “Listening Post” to assist their transformation of the union. The event, held July 30 at Union Temple Baptist Church on W Street Southeast, was one of a series of four “Listening Posts” scheduled throughout the city in which teachers, parents, and others discussed Davis’ and Peterson’s platform issues on which they ran for office. The discussions help Davis and Peterson determine the platform planks which will become their top union priorities. “We need allies throughout this city,” Davis, 62, told the church audience of approximately 25, most of whom were teachers. Community coalition building is one of the planks in the Davis-Peterson platform. “To bring together all of the organizations who care about education under one umbrella with the union is exciting to me.”

 Former WTU President Nathan Saunders, who lost to Davis 459 to 380 in a July 1 runoff election, appealed the results, saying that the union sent ballots to 350 retired teachers on or before June 30, making their votes ineligible. Saunders also claimed that ballots were wrongly sent to 54 teachers fired in June, and to 89 teachers laid off due to budget cuts. In the appeal, Saunders said he should remain in office until December 2013 because under union rules, the president’s three-year term begins on July 1. Saunders’ term was delayed until December 2010 because the WTU’s then-president George Parker would not hold elections.

Saunders withdrew his appeal, and Davis and Peterson were installed in their posts on August 1. Peterson was previously elected as the union’s general vice president under Saunders in 2010. He removed her without the required union recall procedure, she said. Peterson won a union arbitration in September 2012 but was not reinstated to serve out her original term. “Your votes were stolen,” Peterson told the church “Listening Post” participants. “I became very demoralized. The lesson of my story is, don’t give up, get back up. The race is not won by the swift but by those who persevere. I believe in the god of second chances.”

 Audience members expressed alarm over school closings, consolidations and “reconstitutions” resulting in hundreds of jobless teachers who are “excessed” or given 60 days to find work in other schools. They decried the proliferation of un-unionized charter schools, and the effect of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system, initiated by former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, in reducing numbers of seasoned educators. They also denounced, as one audience member put it, management’s “dangerous obsession with standardized testing” which, they said, discourages creative teaching. Some noted with irony the District students’ significantly improved DC CAS test scores, announced at a news event earlier that day by Mayor Vincent Gray. Historically, District teachers have been blamed for students’ substandard academic performance. “If test scores have risen, why are 400 excessed teachers looking for work?” asked Peterson.

 Angela Thompson-Murphy, a self-described excessed teacher formerly with Ward 8’s Patterson Elementary School in Southeast, charged that public schools closed in Wards 7 and 8 “were closed for no rhyme or reason other than that they were in Wards 7 and 8. Then charter schools move into school buildings that closed.” “We’re fighting for quality veteran teachers,” Thompson-Murphy said. The mass layoffs of older teachers, female teachers, and teachers of color constitute “backdoor discrimination,” she said.

 Eugene Branch, Jr., 43, who grew up in Southeast and teaches at H.D. Cooke Elementary School in Ward 1, previously taught in Virginia. “The District’s teacher professional development program is the weakest I’ve ever seen,” he said. “People who only have two to three years of teaching experience try to instruct teachers who have taught for 20 to 30 years.” Branch, who has taught teacher recertification classes, suggested to Davis and Peterson that such courses include training on IMPACT, a program system for accessing the performance of teachers and other school-based staff. “I’ve noticed that many veteran teachers don’t understand how IMPACT works,” he said. He also suggested that veteran teachers be trained to use computers as part of classroom instruction.

 Davis said that under her leadership, the WTU will strive to mobilize the District around common education concerns. She said she has heard too many people say that the union exists to “protect bad teachers” or that it is only focused on higher teacher salaries. “We are poised to organize,” said Davis. “We have access to 40,000 parents and 100 schools. We have to do our homework.”

Jul 30, 2013

400 DCPS Teachers RSVP'd For July Job Fair

Wilson Senior High School
By Candi Peterson

In April, DC Human Capital Chief, Jason Kamras testified before the DC City Council that 500-600 DCPS teachers would be excessed this school year. With the advent of 15 school closings in 2013 and two school reconstitutions at Patterson Elementary and Cardozo Senior High, it comes as no surprise this many teachers are having their positions eliminated. 

DCPS held its final job fair for teachers and school personnel on July 29 at Wilson Senior High School in their open space atrium from 3-6 pm. Four hundred teachers RSVP'd for this event according to Brooke Miller, DCPS Manager of Teacher Recruitment and Selection. 

The lines for mini interviews with school principals from 33 schools were long. Teachers came with stacks of resumes in hand and many complained of not being able to find a principal interested in hiring them, despite a minimum of five interviews which is required by the school system. 

A teacher who requested anonymity shared her disappointment as a certified French teacher as there were a limited number of positions in her area of concentration. 

According to the WTU Collective Bargaining Agreement ( CBA) teachers have 60 days to find another position or choose from 3 options of an extra year placement, early retirement or a $25,000 buy out. These options are only available to teachers who have earned permanent status and have an effective or highly effective rating.

Teachers who accepted the bonuses for being highly effective or probationary status teachers will be subject to separation by DCPS if they do not find a position within the 60 day time frame. The clock is ticking on them as we face the re-opening of school for teachers beginning August 19.

Those teachers who fall in the newly created category of Developing, which previously represented an effective rating up until school year 2012-13 are now subject to separation if they are unable to find another position in the allotted two month period. It begs the question, how does a school system alter its evaluation rating system mid stream? Had there been an IMPACT evaluation pilot, these kinks would have been worked out before using teachers as guinea pigs.

© Candi Peterson 2013

Jul 28, 2013

WTU Listening Post To Be Held July 30

Davis (left), Peterson (middle) & Education Advocates @ first WTU Listening Post
Elizabeth A. Davis and Candi Peterson, the newly elected President and General Vice President of the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) invite you to attend the second in a 4-part series of "Listening Posts."

Our next event on Tuesday, July 30 will take place 'East of the River' in Ward 8 at Union Temple Baptist Church located at 1225 W Street SE, Washington, DC 20020 from 6-8 p.m.. These events have been developed to hear from supporters and education advocates across the District to prioritize, confirm and clarify the top issues of concern to teachers, parents and educational stakeholders.

Participants will be able to review and re-prioritize the top DAVIS-PETERSON platform issues that we successfully ran on, and provide feedback on issues of concern.  They will also be asked to participate as volunteers on ISSUES FORUMS where comments can be uploaded to the DAVIS
PETERSON TRANSFORMATION website, or deliver content directly via public comments.

Please REGISTER NOW by clicking the Register Now link in red. You can also contact me @ to get on our mailing list.

Hope to see you there!

Jul 22, 2013

WTU Prez Nathan Saunders Wears Out His Welcome & Refuses to Gracefully Accept Exile

August 1 deadline approaching
By Candi Peterson

Teachers have been asking why deposed Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) President Saunders (whose constitutional term ended June 30, 2013) still remains a hold over in the union office despite the WTU Constitution and by laws time frame for newly elected officers to assume office on July 1. Elizabeth (Liz) Davis who ran for WTU President and Candi Peterson who ran to reclaim her seat as WTU General Vice President are the newly elected officers and are still awaiting the keys to the castle. Davis and Peterson and their board will not be installed by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) until August 1 in a private ceremony at the parent organizations' headquarters. 

Typically, if WTU elections had been conducted as laid out in the WTU Constitution and By Laws, officers would have been installed in May and would assume office July 1, 2013. The Saunders friendly WTU Elections Committee modified the election timeline at the end of the WTU run-off period and granted Saunders an additional four (4) week transition period, which extended his time in office until August 1. Davis slate members speculate that this was a last ditch effort to give Saunders extra time in office.

 Since none of the candidates received a majority of the vote in the initial election as required, a run off election was held among the two candidates who received the most votes. The run off was scheduled at the end of June and ballots were counted on July 1. A complaint was filed by the WTU President elect, Elizabeth Davis after an extension was granted to Saunders by the WTU Elections Committee. Subsequently, AFT appointed a representative to facilitate the transition process. AFT encouraged both Saunders and Davis to work collaboratively during the transition period. 
By the July 12 challenge deadline, defeated WTU President Saunders and his slate lodged an election challenge to the certified election results where he lost to Elizabeth Davis by 459 to 380 and his running mate lost to Candi Peterson with 470 to 360 votes. Saunders has yet to cooperate throughout the transition process which generally requires that an outgoing president work collaboratively with the incumbent on executive decisions, in addition to, providing critical information to ensure that there is an orderly transition process.
Saunders defiance of the process so far creates an unnecessary power struggle and makes a transition nearly impossible. "This is Saunders last power grab to maintain control. It's ironic that Nathan is stealing a play from former WTU President George Parker's playbook", stated a WTU member who requested anonymity.  As the August 1 deadline quickly approaches, it remains to be seen whether Hold over WTU President Saunders will exit the office voluntarily and leave behind a legacy he can be proud of or whether he will go kicking and screaming and have to be escorted out. I hope he chooses the former so the Davis slate can get on with the business of serving its members. Our members are tired of the drama.

© Candi Peterson 2013

Jul 17, 2013

WTU 2013 Installation of Elected Officers & Board

By Candi Peterson

The installation of Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) 2013 elected officers Elizabeth (Liz) Davis who ran for WTU President and Candi Peterson who ran to reclaim her seat as WTU General Vice President and their board will be held on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) headquarters in a private ceremony in Washington, DC.

© Candi Peterson 2013

Jul 4, 2013

Reformers Win DC Teachers Union Election!

By Candi Peterson

A change is a coming! Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) Hold over President Nathan A. Saunders is not ready to move out of our WTU house, at least not yet. But it will happen either voluntarily or involuntarily. I hope for the sake of his legacy, Saunders chooses the former. 

Here's an article about our recent election win as written by Bhaskar Sunkara of Working In These Times.

WEDNESDAY JUL 3, 2013 2:31 PM

Reformers Win D.C. Teachers Union Election, Make Gains in Newark

The district's push for so-called education reform has long been a sticking point for the Washington Teachers Union, as evinced by this poster criticizing officials Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty from a 2009 rally. The perceived capitulation of several WTU presidents to such an agenda has forced them to leave office.

This week, Washington Teachers Union (WTU) members elected a reform slate, ousting incumbent president Nathan Saunders in a run-off election.
With the vote, the WTU follows in the footsteps of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which elected the insurgent Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), led by Karen Lewis, in 2010. Like CORE, the DC reformers promise to resist school closures, privatization efforts, and the proliferation of high-stakes testing.
The WTU certified the results Monday night, with Elizabeth A. Davis winning 459 votes to Saunders’ 380.
Davis’ running mate, Candi Peterson, spoke to In These Times by phone this morning. This is Peterson’s second time assuming the office of WTU’s General Vice President, after being elected on a reform ticket with Saunders in 2010. In that campaign, Saunders and Peterson accused the incumbent WTU President George Parker of running a business union and critiqued his allegiance to American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, who had encouraged the union to accept an unpopular contract—which included the implementation of IMPACT, a teacher evaluation system —supported by then-school chancellor Michelle Rhee and mayor Adrian Fenty.
Reflecting on her first stint as general vice president—she was dismissed by Saunders in 2011—Peterson says, “Saunders didn’t share my vision of what a participatory union looks like.” She paints a picture of a union that was run by one man and failed to sufficiently engage members to advocate for their own rights. This time, Peterson hopes, will be different; she and new president Elizabeth A. Davis promise more rank-and-file participation.
On certain substantive issues, the camps are not too far apart. Saunders remained hostile to many aspects of the corporate reform efforts, but it wasn’t enough to appease members. Speaking to the Washington Post, he said, “They want more aggressive change than what I was dishing out.”
That isn’t to say the former president’s tenure wasn’t filled with fireworks. Though Peterson was directly elected as general vice president in 2010, she was removed by Saunders the next year without any recall procedure, which violates union guidelines. She won in arbitration in September, but was not reinstated afterwards to serve the duration of her original term. Even now, she’s having trouble assuming office. The WTU constitution allows for no lame duck period, and when Saunders was elected in late November 2010, he took control of the union the next day. Yet Peterson and others in the reform slate were denied entry to the office yesterday. Peterson described the transference of power as a “hostile situation,” but while Saunders declined to comment, a staffer within his camp told In These Times that he believes the old leadership would not vacate until the end of the month.
The nationwide push to standardize, privatize and shut down public schools has sparked an opposition movement both inside and outside teachers unions. Though media attention has focused on the actions of teachers and students in Chicago and New York, fronts have been opened in places like Newark and Washington, as well. In Newark, facing challenge from reformers local President Joseph Del Grosso was elected by margin of just nine votes last Tuesday. The challengers, like the Washington teachers, were openly inspired by the example of CORE, and still won a majority of executive board seats.
As has become common in American union elections, only 1,200 of 3,000 Newark Teachers Union members cast ballots, but the showing against a long-time incumbent surprised many. The result there, like the one in Washington, will cause some alarm for Weingarten and her team. Not unlike tactics used years ago in Washington, the AFT leadership had recently mobilized national organizers in Newark to promote a contract that won the acceptance of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
The results in Newark and DC, long laboratories of neoliberal education reform, represent part of a grassroots backlash to these kinds of policies. It remains to be seen, however, whether these local efforts will be enough to stop what has long been a national push to redefine public education along corporate lines.

Jul 2, 2013

Washington Teachers' Union President Nathan Saunders Loses Run Off Election to Davis

Davis Slate wins WTU 2013 Run Off Election 
By Candi Peterson

Washington Teachers Union President, Nathan A. Saunders loses to Elizabeth Davis (known as Liz) in the July 1, 2013 WTU Run Off Election. With Saunders defeat by a margin of 459 to 380, Saunders was forced from his union post. Saunders narrowly defeated Davis in a first round balloting of the WTU election last month, but failed to win a 51% majority which led to a run off election between the two top candidates.

 In addition, Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice Preisdent who was summarily dismissed by Saunders in 2011 before her term expired paired up with the Davis slate, in a bid for election to her former post. Peterson defeated her opposition, Keith Spinner by a margin of 470 to 360 in the WTU Run Off.

According to the WTU Constitution and by-Laws, the winners are due to take office on July 1st. More details will be forthcoming.

Jun 19, 2013

No Debate For You: WTU Prez Saunders Bows Out Presidential Debate Amidst Confusion

Playing games with WTU members
By Candi Peterson 
Vote Davis Slate for WTU
Liz Davis /Candi Peterson
WTU Can Be Better!

Today right before the close of the school day, WTU President Nathan Saunders had a major meltdown and sent out an email blast to WTU members titled "WTU Alerts Teachers About a "Fake Debate Scheduled for McKinley Tech High School." What caught my attention was that Saunders actually sent the first email from his own WTU email account. Followed by a second email blast (see below) minutes later from the WTU Communication Director. Saunders' email to union members stated, "This is yet another attempt by individuals to misinform and mislead our members..... The individuals who are promoting this debate have put WTU members in great jeopardy for not following WTU membership and DCPS guidelines." It was Saunders allegation that someone used the WTU logo to mislead members into thinking that the event was union sponsored. Saunders made a not so subtle threat to  members when he affirmed that WTU could not represent members who trespass on DCPS property for any event unauthorized by WTU. Saunders ended with "We hope to discover who initiated this false information, so that appropriate action can be taken."

 You can't make this stuff up really. So I decided to contact Liz Davis, my running mate for the upcoming WTU Run-Off election. Davis stated in response,"No one ever represented the debate as being formerly sponsored by the WTU leadership, the election committee, or inappropriately used the WTU logo. The organizers had reached out to both candidates and thought the debate was on. It is also not true that private insurance must be posted to hold any and all meetings in school facilities. These are scare tactics are simply being used to inhibit the democratic process."

Michele Bollinger, a Wilson High School teacher who helped organize today's debate added, "I don't speak for everyone to be sure, but when I read Mr. Saunders email about the so-called fake debate- I was shocked and stunned. Personally, I read the threat of an arrest for trespassing for even showing up at McKinley. It reinforced what I already suspected about Mr. Saunders-- that the rumors of personal attacks, unjustified lawsuits, contempt for members' independent initiative were true."

 I'm saddened that WTU members had to endure this kind of chaos and confusion. I do humbly apologize as a longstanding union member to the teachers from Lafayette Elementary School, McKinley Technology Senior High School and Wilson Senior High School for their well intended efforts to organize this debate. Liz Davis and I are both disappointed that in the end Mr. Saunders didn't see it as in his interest to come to the debate. We hope that in the future we can rise above political gamesmanship and make debates a regular feature of WTU elections. The members and the health of our union demand it.

 Please don't forget to Vote Davis slate in the ongoing WTU Run-Off Election. WTU can be better! Ballots have been mailed. If you haven't received one, please email with your name and mailing address.

© Candi Peterson 2013

Jun 17, 2013

Longer School Day & Longer School Year Up Ahead for DC Public Schools Teachers & Students!

By Candi Peterson
Vote Davis Slate for WTU
 Liz Davis /Candi Peterson
WTU Can Be Better!

Earlier in March 2013, DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced to the Washington Examiner newspaper that she was seeking to implement a longer school day and a longer school year. According to a schools spokesperson, DCPS was not ready to release the details at that time since contract negotiations were ongoing with the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU).

On June 11, Confirmation of Chancellor Henderson's plans to lengthen the time DC students and teachers spend in school came when she announced to the City Council Round Table on Public Education, "A LONGER SCHOOL DAY and YEAR IN THE COMING YEAR, WILL SOON TO BE MADE PUBLIC." 

So it seems the details of Henderson's plans as well as information on teacher raises will be revealed in the upcoming Washington Teachers' Union Tentative Agreement (T.A.). It's a shame that WTU's President Saunders failed to mention in his Sunday, June 16 robo call to union members the longer school day/school year, but instead emphasized teacher raises.   The timing of the release of the WTU Tentative Agreement is no coincidence as the news of a longer school day and school year is not the kind of news teachers and school staff want to hear. Saunders knows better than anyone that this kind of news could propel some union members to cast their vote against the WTU Presidential incumbent.

Some union members believe that the Tentative Agreement will be released to teachers after the WTU Run Off Presidential election, which is currently underway.WTU Run Off ballots arrived in teachers' mailboxes at the end of last week.

Be on the look out for a Tentative Agreement. Let a word to the wise be your guide. Before you vote, read the agreement in its entirety, and ask for explanations of anything that you don't fully understand.   Remember the devil is in the details.

© Candi Peterson 2013

Jun 16, 2013

Why are DCPS & WTU President Saunders Downplaying the Excessing of 500-600 Teachers?

DCPS Excess Teachers & Staff Graveyard
By Candi Peterson

Vote Davis Slate for WTU
 Liz Davis /Candi Peterson
WTU Can Be Better!

In the years under the Michelle Rhee and
Kaya Henderson regime, we have seen hundreds of teachers regularly excessed at the end of each school year. With the advent of 23 school closings in 2008 and now 15 school closings in 2013, more teachers and school staff have faced excessing under this administration. Henderson like her predecessor Rhee has downplayed the actual numbers of teachers receiving excess notices.

By definition, an "excess is an elimination of a teacher’s position at a particular school due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring or a change in the local school program when such an elimination is not a reduction in force (RIF) or abolishment.”  Under the current Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) Collective Bargaining Agreement, there is a great likelihood that excessing eventually leads to one's termination as there is no longer a requirement for teachers to be placed by DCPS. With fewer positions available due to school closings, it is reasonable to conclude more teachers will be forced out. What the general pubic doesn't understand is that Highly Effective and Effective teachers are among the pool of excessed candidates. Add to this list the number of reconstituted schools (Cardozo High School and Patterson Elementary School) and the number of yearly excessed teachers increases.

We are led to believe by WTU's President Saunders that the majority of teachers will get re-hired without any evidence to support these claims. Erich Martel, a retired DC Public Schools high school teacher ponders- "Why Chancellor Henderson and WTU President Saunders are downplaying the number of teachers getting excess notices this year?"  

© Candi Peterson 2013

"Why are DCPS Chancellor Henderson and WTU President Saunders Downplaying the number of teachers that received excess notices?"
       by Erich Martel, Retired DCPS high school teacher

"Five to six hundred” teachers will be excessed - Jason Kamras, DCPS Chief of Human Capital

On April 26, 2013, the DC Council Committee of the Whole held a hearing on the Teachers Retirement Act Amendment of 2013.  Chairman Mendelson questioned DCPS Chief of Human Capital Jason Kamras.

Mendelson:  “Roughly how many teachers do you think will be excessed?  Roughly.”
Kamras: With the consolidations this year, in the order of five to six hundred.”
Mendelson: “Will it be unreasonable to suggest that maybe a hundred will not find a placement in 60 days and will be affected?”
Kamras:  “I think that’s reasonable.  I don’t have the historical data.”
(Unofficial Transcript, DC Council Committee of the Whole Hearing on the Teacher Retirement Amendment Act of 2013; April 26, 2013; 12:30 PM  (Hr 1; Minute 47 into the hearing)

The most recent list of DCPS staff (2/18/2013) gives the number of teachers (as well as support staff) in each DCPS school.  The number of excessed teachers falls into three categories (see attachment for breakdown): 
1)  273 teachers in the 14 schools that are being “consolidated,” merged or transferred to a charter;
2)  200 to 300 teachers in approx 100 schools; what Kamras calls “our normal [annual] excessing process”; and
3)  The 74 teachers at Cardozo HS and Patterson ES, who had to reapply for their jobs, i.e. all are potentially excessed.  The total number of excessed positions has not been reported.
Thus, 500 to 600 excessed teachers appears to be accurate. 

Spinning the Numbers
After the final list of schools to be closed, merged or transferred to a charter operator was announced in January, some teachers submitted applications to retire or resign.  Others, hoping for another DCPS teaching position were allowed to interview for vacancies that were announced prior to April 1st and those who found a position before a certain date (perhaps before “our normal [annual] excessing process in the remaining 100 schools) will not be counted as excessed.

How many teachers were rehired at Patterson and Cardozo?  Will they be excluded from the count?
What about their colleagues who found a position at another DCPS school?  That was just 16 schools.  There are still 200 to 300 excessed teachers in the other 100 or so schools in Mr. Kamras' “normal excessing process. Will the public get an accurate count or will they be parsed and deconstructed into oblivion?   

The chancellor’s goal of dismantling DCPS is more difficult, if the public sees its full impact. When a union president helps management spin numbers to diffuse their impact, both teachers and parents should be on the alert for serious bad weather.   

Jun 10, 2013

WTU 2013 Election- The Best Kept Secret in Town!!!

WTU's Secret 2013 Election

By Candi Peterson

Vote Davis Slate for WTU
 Liz Davis /Candi Peterson
WTU Can Be Better!

The recent Washington Teachers' Union (WTU)  2013 presidential election was the best kept secret in town. The current Teachers' union president, Saunders kept our union elections on the Down Low (D.L.)  as possible. Members weren't notified officially of this election and there was not any official notice on the WTU website of the first election. Even though the WTU's Constitution & By-Laws requires that the WTU provide a copy of the union's publication, "The Washington Teacher" magazine's Election Edition to members, this print edition did not arrive at members homes until well after ballots were mailed out. If you were not the curious type, and didn't dare to check out the contents, you wouldn't have noticed the candidates bio's buried within the magazine on page 5. Nothing on the front cover suggested that this was an "election edition" or that there was a union election underway. Although promised by WTU, no official notices of elections were placed within our local schools, when I surveyed members from various citywide schools.

To add insult to injury, a significant number of union members complained of not receiving their ballots to vote." I felt like I spent the day looking for clues before I figured out our union election was being held", stated a union member who insisted on anonymity. Members who hadn't learned that the there was a union election, didn't know they needed to contact the union office for a ballot. WTU members had to jump through a series of hoops to get a ballot including Elizabeth Davis (known as Liz), candidate for WTU President. Although WTU 2013 Election written guidelines indicated that members were to contact a WTU staff member by telephone between 9-5 during the work week to secure a ballot, members who followed these written guidelines were informed that this requirement was modified and to get a duplicate ballot, a request must be made in writing. 

What is really disturbing in this election, is that full dues paying members reported that when they contacted the union office they were advised that they were no longer full dues paying members and were now agency fee members. Union members I spoke to indicated that they never gave their consent or authorization to have their membership status changed. This means that members whose status has been changed to agency fee could not vote in the 2013 union election. Sound like election tampering?? You decide. I bet Ray Charles could see this one a mile away. I'm troubled anytime a members' right to representation is tampered with and you should be as well, if you are one of the people this effected. (more on this later)

Well, in the event you didn't know- there was a Washington Teachers' Union election. The vote count was held on June 7, 2013. Here are the results that you will most likely will only read here on The Washington Teacher blog, since WTU is not releasing the official vote count and only percentages of the vote count. I am supplying it here because union members have a right to transprency:

394      Ballots received from WTU members
  50      Soiled ballots
3000    Ballots mailed to members (according to True Ballot, who mailed ballots/performed ballot count)

Candidates for WTU President

Maria Angala            44 votes
Michael Edgerton        8 votes
Elizabeth Davis       158 votes
Nathan Saunders     175 votes

17 point difference between top two candidates

Due to the fact that neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote, a run off election will be required according to the WTU Constitution & By-laws. The top two candidates will run in the WTU Run Off election. As outlined in the amended WTU Election Schedule and Guidelines, WTU run off ballots will be mailed no later than June 17.

The most important thing is that if WTU members do not receive a Run Off ballot through the mail, contact Alyssa Limberakis @ to request your ballot. Provide your name and mailing address in the request. All requests for duplicate ballots must be in writing and should be requested beginning June 18, 2013.

Remember Vote Davis slate. WTU Can Be Better!

© Candi Peterson 2013

May 29, 2013

Pink Slipping DC's Teachers Does Not Improve Achievement

By Candi Peterson

Vote Davis Slate for WTU
 Liz Davis /Candi Peterson
WTU Can Be Better!

One by one, Cardozo Senior High School teachers and school staff were called down to the Principal's office today to receive pink slips. Just a week ago, DC's Cardozo High School staff were notified that 100% of our staff would be reconstituted and required to reapply for our jobs, with the exception of the school's principal. Later on in the same week, 90 staff members had to submit to abbreviated 5-7 minute interviews and answering three questions by the school's principal.

Today was a solemn day for all at Cardozo High as teachers and staff waited with baited breath to learn of their job status. Many speculated who possibly would get the axe. Even some of the DC contractors described having to observe the process of pink slipping staff bordered on cruel and unusual punishment. It was hard to go own with the business as usual of teaching and learning, despite your best efforts.

Having written about former Chancellor Michelle Rhee dating back to three years ago, I knew all too well that the education plan of Rhee and now the current Chancellor Kaya Henderson administration had been to get rid of a significant share of our education workforce. I have frequently written about how Rhee prided herself on creating a revolving door workforce and was adamant that teaching was not a career. I have known for some time that Chancellor Michelle Rhee was out to get me due to my political activism, representation of DC's teachers/staff, whistle blowing and writing this popular education blog which helped to expose her.

Today at 2:40 pm, The Washington Teacher blogger (AKA Candi Peterson) was given the axe. If you play the lottery, I recommend that you play that number 240, it just might pay off great dividends. I'd figured I'd be excessed and had been anticipating my demise. As a long time whistle blower, I'm well aware that I've had a bulls eye on my chest for some time. I'd do it all over again, if it helped to rid our schools of the likes of Michelle Rhee.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out when the powers to be are out to get you. After I had a disagreement in 2011 with Washington Teachers' Union (WTU)  President Nathan Saunders, Chancellor Kaya Henderson willingly revoked my leave of absence as the elected WTU General Vice President. When Saunders  approached Chancellor Henderson and Human Capital Chief Jason Kamras, stating he (Saunders) no longer needed my services full time, Henderson agreed to illegally revoke my previously approved leave from the school system. Anybody who knows anything about elected union officers knows that the only way an elected official can be removed is through a successful recall. Had I not returned to an assigned position within DC Public Schools, as then DCPS Human Resources Director Regina Youngblood indicated I would be separated from DCPS. In layman's terms that means terminated.

So in the words of Cardozo's former principal, "Don't Cry for Me." I am exactly where this road trip led me to be. My favorite aunt always says: "if someone is aiming a machine gun at everyone, you're bound to eventually get shot."

What bears our critical attention now is not my personal story but what has been happening to our public school system and the purposeful demise of qualified teachers, school staff and principals otherwise known as 'teacher churn'. I urge all of my colleagues to open your eyes and take stock that the yearly pink slipping of DC Public Schools staff should be a wake up call to all. By definition, teacher churn is the turnover of teachers through excessing, reduction in force (known as RIF), yearly Impact terminations, and voluntary separation. The churning in and out of teachers.

Mark Simon, educational analyst and former DCPS parent wrote about this in an Op-ed in a June 15, 2012 Washington Post edition, titled: "Is Teacher Churn Undermining Real Education Reform in DC." This piece called attention to the rate of turnover of both teachers and principals as a huge education reform. Simon argued the turnover rates are so high,  we're losing a lot of our best teachers and creating a hostile culture in too many schools.

 Here are some interesting facts from that story. Simon notes: "Three aspects of the Michelle Rhee-Kaya Henderson reforms contribute to higher rates of teacher churn: unstable school budgets from year to year; greater freedom for principals under the IMPACT evaluation system to identify teachers for dismissal or transfer; and school closings."

Notwithstanding school reconstitutions like the ones that were ordered at Cardozo High and Patterson Elementary have not proven in years past to yield any statistically significant gains in student achievement, despite staff turnover.

When we analyze the data, DCPS is has one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the country. Mark's article revealed that "In DCPS, by contrast, 55 percent of new teachers leave in their first two years, according to an analysis by DCPS budget watchdog Mary Levy. Eighty percent are gone by the end of their sixth year. That means that most of the teachers brought in during the past five years are no longer there. By comparison, in Montgomery County just 11.5 percent leave by the end of their second year, and 30 percent by the end of year five. DCPS has become a teacher turnover factory. It has a hard time keeping teachers who are committed to their school and the community it serves."

Another significant study which Mark's article referred to is one conducted by researchers Susanna Loeb of Stanford University, Matthew Ronfeldt of the University of Michigan and Jim Wyckoff of the University of Virginia  “How Teacher Turnover Hurts Student Achievement.” These researchers concluded that, separate from the relative quality of teachers who may be brought in to replace those who leave, teacher turnover itself harms a school. Turnover affects morale and the professional culture at a school. It weakens the knowledge base of the staff about students and the community. It weakens collegiality, professional support and trust that teachers depend on in their efforts to improve achievement."

So the next time a DC Public School is up for reconstitution, I say we change the formula since the research clearly supports that reconstituting staff does not equate to gains in student achievement. Who should we reconstitute? Let's begin with DC's Mayor Vince Gray and work our way down to Chancellor Kaya Henderson and her minions. Certainly they bear responsibility for some of the failure of DC Public Schools.

© Candi Peterson 2013

May 23, 2013

WTU Ballots Have Been Mailed

By Candi Peterson- Vote Davis Slate for WTU 
Liz Davis/Candi Peterson - "WTU Can Be Better!"

Washington Teachers' Union (WTU)  ballots have been mailed and should have arrived at the home of most union members. Remember to vote Davis slate. I'm running on the slate with Elizabeth Davis as WTU General Vice President.

If you did not receive a ballot, please contact Alyssa Limberakis at WTU @
202-293-8600 between 9 am and 5 pm daily.

May 20, 2013

Cardozo Senior High Teachers Get the Axe!

By Candi Peterson - Vote Davis Slate for WTU 
Liz Davis/Candi Peterson - "WTU Can Be Better!"

Update: I was informed that teachers from Patterson in SW Washington, D.C. also were excessed on 5/20/13.

At the end of the school day on May 20, 2013 - Cardozo Senior High School staff were mandated to attend an emergency meeting in the schools auditorium. An important morning and afternoon announcement was made by the schools principal, Dr. Tanya Roane that required all staff to report to the meeting including the schools’ custodians. It felt as though we were being summoned to the guillotine by the principal’s urgent tone and requirement that all staff report.  

Back on December 20, 2012,  I wrote an article for The Washington Teacher blog titled “What’s the Impact of DCPS School Closures on Teachers and School Staff?’ At that time, I warned teachers and school staff about the DCPS School Consolidation Staffing Overview which was provided to teachers at selected schools due to the proposed school consolidations announced by Chancellor Kaya Henderson in December 2012. The three page staffing overview outlined the following: “WTU members at consolidated schools will be subject to the excessing process as outlined in the WTU contract.” When I walked into the school auditorium today at 3:30 pm and saw Mr. Dan Shea, DCPS Instructional Superintendent- I knew it was a foregone conclusion that our worst nightmare was about to be announced.

Mr. Shea announced that all staff would be reconstituted with the exception of the schools principal. Shea stated “staff will have to reapply for their jobs starting this Wednesday with Principal  Roane and interviews will be held beginning this Wednesday (May 22) through Friday (May 23).” In my estimation, that would amount to about 30 staff interviews daily at 15 minute increments if the principal is to meet her goal of interviewing approximately 90 school staff members by week’s end. Shea was clear that the principal alone would conduct all of the staff interviews.

A letter disseminated by a central office staffer in attendance at the meeting had a list of DCPS Reconstitution Frequently Asked Questions. Among the first question  was “What does Reconstitution mean?” As defined by DC Public Schools “Reconstitution is a process by which a school district may address the needs of the school that fail to make adequate gains several years in a row. When schools consistently under perform over a period of time DCPS may choose to take drastic action to improve the schools.”  Those drastic actions may include reconstituting all or some of the staff, converting the school to a charter, bringing an outside organization to be a management partner, turning the school over to be controlled by the state or pursuing another major restructuring such as getting rid of the schools administrators’.

In response to questions from teachers, Instructional Superintendent Shea reported that no other high school in DCPS is being reconstituted this year. Among some of the reasons given for reconstituting Cardozo, Shea said “We looked at 125 schools and Cardozo has gone backwards. Although there has been some growth, it is not at the pace we want.”  A fiery Washington Teachers' Union (WTU)  Building Representative, Deborah Pearman reiterated that Cardozo’s test scores are not as bad as some other DC Public High Schools like Woodson and Dunbar, etc.. Pearman said “I’ve looked at these scores and I know that other high schools are worse than ours.” Shea noted that the district  looked at other data including the number of seniors graduating on time  within four years.

Pearman inquired why the school district gave notice to school staff so late in the year when other schools had been notified prior to April 1. Chief among Pearman’s concerns, the DCPS job fairs have been held and some schools have already hired their staff for the upcoming school year. Another concern Pearman addressed was the District imposed penalty that teachers who are part of the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) could face if they now choose to retire or leave the school system. The April 1st deadline requires that members of the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU)  must notify the school district by this deadline in a Declaration of Intent or face a $1,000 penalty.

 In response to a battery of questions and concerns, Shea said “I apologize that I didn’t come one month ago to tell the staff.” Pearman, as a member of the Cardozo personnel committee fired back “I am insulted that I have spent countless hours interviewing people for my job.” Staff were optimistic that excessing would not occur since the local school budget revealed an increase in staff positions due to the consolidation of Cardozo Senior High School and Shaw Middle School at Garnett Patterson, scheduled to take place in August 2013.

When I approached some of my colleagues about their responses, one teacher colleague said “We’ve done this before.” There were many horror stories of teachers having survived being excessed as many as five times during their careers. The difference with the 2007-2012 Washington Teachers Union Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is that excessing under this agreement is likely to eventually lead to a teachers termination, despite a Highly Effective or Effective IMPACT evaluation rating. According to the DCPS  School Consolidation Staffing Overview: “WTU members have 60 days to interview for new placements. After that period, WTU members who are unable to find placements may be eligible for an extra year of employment to find a permanent position that is if they are Highly Effective or Effective. These options are only available to WTU members who are in their third year and beyond and whose most recent IMPACT raring is Effective or Highly Effective. All other WTU members who are unable to find positions will be separated from the system.”

By the way Option 2  in the WTU Collective Bargaining agreement (CBA) which  previously allowed  permanent status teachers with a minimum of 20 or more years of creditable service to retire early is no longer an available option due to a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) between WTU President Nathan A. Saunders and DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, signed in December 2012. The MOA changes the early retirement option and calls for Supplemental Unemployment benefits to be paid to eligible teachers over a five year period.

In closing the meeting, Pearman in rare form requested that Shea deliver the message to Chancellor Kaya Henderson that she (Henderson) needs to meet with Cardozo staff directly and not just send her messenger to deliver the bad news. Shea assured the crowd he would take the message back to Henderson. I agree with Pearman, it’s time that Henderson face her troops.

© Candi Peterson 2013