Jan 28, 2016

DC Public Schools Imposes Longer School Year in Some Schools Without Stakeholders' Input

By: Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own. 

It seems like DCPS is forging ahead with the extension of the school year for the 2016-17 school year for some of the District’s lowest performing schools. According to inside sources, some Ward 7 and 8 junior high schools will be on the list to be converted to a longer school year including Hart Middle School and Johnson Middle School in SE as well as Kelly Miller Middle School located in NE. Randle Highlands Elementary School in SE has also been confirmed by inside sources.

2/2/16 Update: Other low performing schools (known as (40/40 schools) will likely be affected, however, exact numbers have yet to be confirmed. I anticipate that Chancellor Henderson will likely be making an official announcement sometime soon. 

 It disappoints me that as an education stakeholder, I am learning of the news in this way. I searched the DCPS website to see if there were any updates on the proposed extended school year news. Nary a word. Needless to say, I am not shocked or surprised.

Raymond Education campus became part of a DCPS pilot where the school year was extended beginning with the 2015-16 school year. Teachers who worked at Raymond were given the option to get a placement at other schools if they did not want to work the longer school year at Raymond. The  Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) filed a grievance regarding the unilateral extension of Raymond’s school year without bargaining with WTU as sole and exclusive bargaining representative for teachers.

Extending the school day and school year have been high on Chancellor Henderson’s list of top priorities for some time now. Over the last couple of years, some of the lower performing elementary schools have extended the school day by an hour.

There has been widespread disagreement over  union contract language on how extending the school day and year can be accomplished. DCPS and WTU do not agree  and have argued whether the non traditional scheduling clause in the WTU contract allows elected teachers (members of a school advisory committee) to vote on a proposal to extend the school day with a 66 2/3 % majority vote. On the other hand, WTU argues that it is the sole bargaining representative for all matters related to pay, wages, benefits, hours of employment and working conditions for teachers. It remains to be seen how this matter will be resolved through the grievance and arbitration process.

Obviously, there are pros and cons to the debate on whether public schools should extend the school day/school year. Even President Obama and former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have weighed in on what’s good for other peoples’ kids. – especially America’s poorest.

The point that must be made is that our public school system is set up to serve the public. Not just the administrators, not just the students, not just the parents and community, not just the teachers and staff, not just the politicians and unions but all of the public. All of us benefit from a great public school system where all of the education stakeholders get a say in what happens in our schools.

Taking the approach to unilaterally impose a longer school year and school day in this top-down management style is no way for DCPS to run a school district and retain good teachers/staff and families. Remember the exodus of families/students under the Michelle Rhee administration when parents were disengaged in the process to close schools and modify elementary and middle schools into a K-8 model?

Haven’t they (DCPS) learned from past mistakes this is no way to run our schools? Many stakeholders I know are asking questions whether these decisions can be unilaterally imposed by DCPS ? Was the WTU and other unions notified prior to these decisions being made? What are the criteria for extending the school day/ school year? Will teachers and school staff be guaranteed another position like the teachers at the pilot school (Raymond EC)?  Will teachers be subject to finding their own mutual consent placement as outlined in the union contract? Has DCPS considered that the decision to lengthen the school year could contribute to higher teacher turn over?  Do education stakeholders get a say? When will the public be notified of these changes? Will there be hearings held on the changes made to the school year? What is the source of funding for lengthening the school year?

One thing I think many of us can agree on, mayoral control of public education has not been the "cure all" for our schools. Certainly, the education gains promised have not been realized. Taking the power away from our elected school board has not been the 'panacea' that some thought it would be.

I would love to hear your comments on the manner in which the extended school year is being handled by DC public schools. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on this subject and the extended school day. Teachers, school staff, parents, students and community are welcome to write me c/o thewashingtonteacher@gmail.com

© Candi Peterson, 2016

Jan 10, 2016

Did You Know?

Response to Coach Spinner
By: Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own. 

The recent emails you have received about me from Coach Spinner are accusations, half-truths and lies intended to mislead teachers as we approach union election season 2016. Coach Spinner continues to be a “campaign surrogate” for former president, Nathan Saunders. Remember they ran together and lost in 2013.  It seems dishonesty is a normal part of any election cycle.

I have prided myself as an excellent communicator and have expressed my views about public education and our union for the past 8-½ years as The Washington Teacher education blogger starting during the Michelle Rhee era. I welcome you to check out my blog @ http://thewashingtonteacher.blogspot.com/

I’m compelled to respond to many of the half truths and lies that have been written about me as well as rumors that are spreading around.


Allegation: Peterson’s “lack of negotiation experience and inability to lead has created the poor state of affairs of the WTU.”

As the WTU General Vice President (GVP), I AM NOT A MEMBER OF THE WTU CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS TEAM. The members of the Contract team are: Elizabeth Davis, Chief Negotiator, Rob Weil, AFT, Jason Edwards, AFT, Chris Bergfalk, Thomson ES,  Janice Brown, Speech Pathologist, Alicia Hunter, Wilson SHS, Mark Montgomery, Plummer ES, Signe Nelson, Whittier EC, and Michael White, Neval Thomas ES.

The union President is the Chief Negotiator of the WTU Contract.  This is one of the primary duties of the WTU President,  to secure a contract during his/her three-year term.

The last union president to secure teachers a contract was George Parker in 2010. Former President Saunders DID NOT secure a contract in his term during 2010-2013, and neither has President Elizabeth Davis, to date. Coach Spinner was on the WTU Executive Board during 2010-2013 when Nathan Saunders was in office, a fact he left out of his blog.


Allegation: “How can our union have solidarity when two people most responsible for solidarity are constantly fighting?”


This is an out and out lie. While I have philosophical differences with President Davis, I am not constantly fighting with her. In fact, due to the demands of representing teachers, many times I only see President Davis in passing. We have had disagreements within our Executive Board meetings as this is the proper forum to hash out and air differences of opinion in order to set policy. This does not carry over to our day-to-day-work.

Solidarity was not one of the platform issues that the Davis/Peterson administration ran on and it’s a false issue as the General Vice President (GVP) plays an important governance oversight role on the WTU board.


Allegation: “Maybe she (Peterson) just hopes teachers are not aware of her part in the WTU failure. Maybe she just hopes teachers forget that her job includes helping the WTU President.”

Response: When requested, I have undertaken all initiatives and tasks assigned by President Davis.

The roles and responsibilities of the General Vice President (GVP) are delineated in the WTU Constitution, Article  VIII, and Section 2:

A. Perform other duties as delegated by the President or assigned by the Executive Board.
B. Oversee and assist the building representatives in their duties.
C. Supervise the field representatives and other employees as designated by the President.
D. Co-sign checks and other financial documents in the absence of the President or the Treasurer and serve as a fiduciary of the Union. The General Vice-President shall be
bonded and such expense shall be borne by the Union.
E. Perform all the duties of the President in the absence of the President.
F. Complete the un-expired term of the president should the office become vacant. G. Convene the Elections Committee.

Unfortunately, in my elected role- I have been marginalized once again and the majority of my constitutional duties have been assigned to Ms. Egbufor, WTU Chief of Staff.


As the General Vice President I was forced to file a complaint due to unfair labor practices. I did not want to file another complaint against WTU; however, in good conscience, I had no choice because I am not a victim. Last summer, the WTU Executive Board passed a motion during July, 2015 to stop President Davis from willfully interfering with the duties of the General Vice President (GVP) ; however, to date-President Davis has refused to  honor that motion.

Subsequently, I filed an unfair labor practice with the Public Employee Relations Board (known as PERB) against WTU and President Davis for marginalizing my elected duties as General Vice President (GVP), as well as, failure of the WTU President to hold timely elections of the WTU Elections Committee and unauthorized payment of union funds.

The reason the orderly convening of the elections committee is critical, without them teachers will not be able to vote on a contract or hold union elections of officers in 2016. The elections committee elections should have been held in May 2015. WTU elections are eight months overdue.
DID YOU KNOW? That due to the poor staff management and morale, there has been wholesale turnover in key WTU staff positions that has required the General Vice President to function as a de-facto field representative?

When four of our Field Representatives resigned in June 2014, I filled in as WTU Filed Representative covering 40 + schools. Given that Field Services Department is still understaffed, I continue to serve in a dual role as Field Representative even though that is not part of my constitutionally mandated duties.


Allegation: Peterson “deliberately undermined three WTU presidents (Parker, Saunders and now Davis) all the while crying the victim.

Response: I am an advocate for teachers and have stood up to corruption within our union and DCPS. I previously served on the Board of Trustees under the Parker/Saunders administration. As a result of my effectiveness as a committed WTU board member and advocate for teachers, Nathan Saunders asked me to run with him on his slate in 2010 as General Vice President (GVP). We both worked to defeat Parker and won in 2010. Coach Spinner was also elected on our then Executive Board. 

Soon after the successful election of Saunders/Peterson, former President Saunders ‘summarily dismissed’ me (fired me without due process) from WTU in September 2011 and requested that Chancellor Henderson  illegally revoke my leave of absence from DCPS. As a result, I had no choice but to return to DCPS. Subsequently, I filed for arbitration against WTU and won my case on September 24,  2012. 

Arbitrator Stanley Mazaroff ruled:
“This legally unstoppable action taken by Saunders was not cured by the similar action orchestrated by Saunders and taken during the following week by the Executive Board, Under the Constitution & By-Laws, the Executive Board’s authority to discharge or otherwise discipline employees did not extend to union officers. Article V of the By-Laws expressly provides that the authority to terminate employees shall not apply to officers of the union. This exclusion recognizes the fundamental differences between union employees and elected officers. In the important democratic values that are embedded in the WTU Constitution. Elected officers, like Peterson are voted into office by secret ballot of membership, and they can only be removed in other words recalled by petition signed by 30 percent of the membership. Thus, neither the president nor the executive board had the authority to under the union’s Constitution & By-Laws to override the will of the WTU membership and or dismiss through termination, Peterson’s salary and authority, to constructively discharge Peterson.”

Saunders refused to reinstate me into office as GVP despite my legal victory. His actions were illegally SANCTIONED by our then Executive Board (including Spinner) and this cost the union thousands of dollars. These actions also stole the vote of members who elected me into office.

For 2 ½ years, I have tried to work with President Davis. I have attempted to try to resolve problems internally rather than externally.  


Allegation: “When 28 Social Workers appealed to her (Peterson) for assistance to save their jobs, she failed them. They were all fired by DCPS in June 2015. Any WTU leadership without her has a chance of succeeding for teachers. Union solidarity is important and she has demonstrated the WTU cannot have any with her. “

Response: Twenty-eight (28) social workers were not fired from DCPS.  The social workers’ case was assigned by President Davis to WTU Field Rep. Consultant, Charles Moore. The President has the discretion to make assignments to staff. WTU has filed a grievance on behalf of DCPS social workers that were fired as well as filed a complaint with the Public Employee Relations Board. Their case is pending a hearing.


Allegation: “ It is crystal clear that a lack of credibility and character on the part of the Davis/Peterson team has led to the erosion of WTU’s credibility. When we are finally presented a contract proposal, we must go through it with a fine toothcomb. I doubt there will be any proposals at this late date. Members cannot unquestionably trust Davis or Peterson given their track record and leadership dynamics.”

Response:  The goal of the Spinner/Saunders campaign is to discredit me. I stand on my record. When I came into office, the union was broke and we inherited enormous debt and a 'white elephant' office building with a 5 million dollars in mortgage loans that required WTU to get a co-signer to keep the property. Our parent organization, AFT co-signed the loan and then designated WTU as a “local in crisis.”

Unfortunately, the office of the General Vice President (GVP) does not give me the power to over-ride any decisions made by the President. I AM NOT THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER. As an Executive Board member, I have 1 vote on our board. Just like a teacher in a school, if the principal makes unwise decisions, teachers do not have the power to overturn their actions.

While I may have not spoken out publicly for the past 2-½ years, I have spoken up internally and have been a voice for teachers on the Executive Board, as well as in our schools.


Allegation: We must vote for competent and proven leadership that can deliver. Vote for leadership that will be honest, open-minded and forward thinking. We need leadership that can solve problems and make decisions that will improve our working conditions. New leadership must have a finger on the pulse of the members while being respected by DCPS and the educational community.

Response:  There is nothing NEW about Coach Spinner and Nathan Saunders. Former President Saunders was the union president from 2010-2013 and General Vice President for two terms. He did not get teachers a contract. Saunders did not prove to be honest, open minded or forward thinking. Coach Spinner was part of the former Executive Board under Saunders. Both have been Missing in Action (MIA) since they lost the last election in 2013.

© Candi Peterson, 2016