Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Michelle Rhee Raises Ire of D.C. Parents

Maybe she was just being flip, but Michelle Rhee's comments about the DC teachers she laid off in October were irresponsible and careless.

In an interview with Fast Company magazine, Rhee said:

After the October layoffs of 266 teachers and staff, the union claimed Rhee used a budget crunch as a pretext for dismissing veteran teachers, since seniority rules don't cover cuts for fiscal reasons. "I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," Rhee says. "Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?"

Her comments naturally raised the ire of DC parents who want to know why she used a reduction in force issue to terminate teachers who hit children or sexually molested them.

Rhee now says, in an attempt to clarify her comments:

"Student safety is our highest concern," Rhee wrote in the letter, "and we have thousands of teachers, principals and staff members who share that commitment and treat our students with great care and respect every day." She added that the examples she cited in the February issue of "Fast Company" magazine "involved a very small minority of the teachers who were terminated in the budget reduction."

Even if it is a "very small minority" questions still remain as to how those cases were handled; were they reported to the police as required by law? Echos of Kevin Jennings, anyone?

D. C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray wants to know. He's given Rhee a Wednesday deadline to prove how those cases were handled.

Rhee, you may remember, is the fiancee of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson who has been involved in his own brouhaha with the AmeriCorps scandal. Inspector General Gerald Walpin was terminated by the Obama administration because he questioned a settlement made with Johnson over misuse of AmeriCorps funds.

Rhee, for her part, has refused to apologize for her careless remarks about the terminated D.C. teachers which has prompted the Teachers' Union to offer this response:

"In one blanket, accusatory statement, you have potentially damaged the reputations of 266 teachers in a way that disregards fairness and deprives them of an opportunity to defend themselves," he said in a letter sent Monday.

"Furthermore, your statement has created a public uproar and raises uncertainties about the integrity of all DCPS teachers -- not just those who were" laid off.

I'd agree that an apology is in order. Her response? That she basically didn't mean ALL the teachers terminated could be characterized that way and she had made that clear already. Apparently we were too dense to get that.

The old "smarter than you" defense.


yukio ngaby said...

So it takes a budget crunch to get "rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school"?

What, do these people have tenure or something?

Oh, and I love that oh-so-carefully worded response. "Student safety is our highest concern." That's why we kept these people on until we could quietly get rid of them due to budgetary concerns.

Rhee expects people to buy this BS? Come on.

Most likely, she got rid of older teachers who are resisting the newer (and at times agenda-laden) techniques being thrown at them, then made some lame excuse about physical abuse, sexual abuse, and absenteeism to deflect the question.

If not, then why in the world did she wait to get rid of sexual deviants and child abusers?

Rhee and Johnson are made for each other. Thank God they found one another...

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how the country views this lady and the work she is doing in DCPS. She has done a wonderful job at causing confusion, and chaos to a system that is in dire need of a leader to bring about change that will include all stake holders. People don't know what to do or how to do it. There is so much micro managing that the true nature of teaching is lost. I think that people should talk to the people in the mist of this reform to get a real sense of what is going on.