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Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 02/ 7/2010

D.C. schools close: Better late than never

By Valerie Strauss

I don’t know what happened in the two hours between the announcement by D.C. Public Schools that schools would open two hours late Monday, and the announcement by D.C. Public Schools that schools would be closed (like all the other school districts in the region as well as the federal government), but clearly, we’ve got a problem here.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee reconsidered the decision (as my previous post urged) and concluded that the better part of valor was not putting kids and adults at risk by braving snow and ice-filled streets to get to school.

But the process that resulted in the initial decision needs to be reviewed. So, for that matter, does the decision to keep administrative offices open tomorrow, one hour late, without any mention of leniency for those who can't get in.

Here’s what the latest announcement says:

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2010: All DC Public Schools will be closed. All administrative offices will open one hour late.

I appreciate the instinct of DCPS officials to keep schools open whenever they can so that children who receive free and reduced price meals because of their family’s low income can be guaranteed breakfast and lunch. But that can't outweigh the possibility of thousands of kids traveling on dangerous streets.

Read my previous post for more discussion of why the initial decision was just plain wrong.

And let me know what you make of the DCPS reversal.


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By Valerie Strauss  | February 7, 2010; 10:00 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  dcps  
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Next: Up to Montgomery County principals to challenge fliers


It's always ego with the Fenty administration. Thankfully, they finally made the right choice.

Posted by: dcresident12 | February 7, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Parents need to stop thinking of schools as babysitting services and feeding centers. Too many people have children and then rely on government services to raise and care for their children. Schools have a tough enough job being academic services, why should they have to be health and human resources too? Schools need to do what is best for the safety of the students AND the staff. The federal government is closed. DC public schools should be closed for central office staff as well.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | February 8, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

I agree with dcresident12! Also, I think Fenty & Rhee have issues!!!!! Or are they just DUMB? How will people get work???? Slide? Ski? Sled? Metro has limited services. The Federal and other local Governments, business and banks are closed too! The north east corridor is in a state of emergency! Give the DC residents a break!!!!!!

Posted by: dcrez1 | February 8, 2010 1:59 AM | Report abuse

I agree with dcresident12! Also, I think Fenty & Rhee have issues!!!!! Or are they just DUMB? How will people get work???? Slide? Ski? Sled? Metro has limited services. The Federal and other local Governments, business and banks are closed too! The north east corridor is in a state of emergency! Give the DC residents a break!!!!!!

Posted by: dcrez1 | February 8, 2010 2:00 AM | Report abuse

Is anyone surprised that Fenty and Rhee were going to open schools? Please! These two are NOT concerned about people--only data and their own egos. How much longer will we have to endure the wrath of Michelle Rhee? They both are complete asses and don't have a clue about managing people. Does anyone NOT see this now?

Posted by: UrbanDweller | February 8, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

I think Rhee saw this as another opportunity to show how she is all for the "best interests of the children". Of course, it was a colossally stupid idea to keep the schools open. Rhee likes to be thought of as a maverick, bucking the trend, etc etc etc. The initial decision to keep the schools open was about as stupid as one could get.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | February 8, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

It amazes me that Ms. Rhee continues to forget about our special needs students, many of whom have to rely on bus transportation to get to school each day. Tell me, Ms. Rhee, do you think the streets are drive-worthy this AM, so as to ensure the safety of the school system's most fragile students??

Posted by: hnjhat | February 8, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Rhee is used to saying crazy things and making wacky decisions and being praised for them or at least getting away with them.

Maybe she thought if she ordered the schools opened, the kids would miraculously get to school just the way saying her Baltimore students made huge gains in academic achievement made it so.

She is “bold” remember, and there’s nothing bold about saying “school’s cancelled.” Perhaps she envisioned national headlines praising her for putting children first while chiding Obama for closing the Federal Government over a little ice.

Certainly she saw an opportunity to show that she doesn’t mind making adults uncomfortable when it serves the best interests of children.

Also, just guessing here – most of her new young hires live in rental apartments in DC near metro. They would be much more likely to make it to school than vet teachers in the ‘burbs with families, cars and mortgages. A quick head count of who showed up for work today would be further proof – broadcast nationally – that her decision to hire those 900 new teachers last summer during a budget crunch was a wise one.

[I mistakenly originally posted this on Strauss's previous blog]

Posted by: efavorite | February 8, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

My thoughts exactly.

As was pointed out on Valerie's original post, even mid-west & upstate NY schools would be closed.

Posted by: edlharris | February 8, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

The initial decision was nutso, but who comes out looking better, Rhee or WTU?

Rhee can say she tried, was willing ready and able to teach, kept the admin offices open, etc.

WTU says we generated enough angry calls to get school shut down, hurray for the union.


WTU Members,
I have just received notification from Chancellor Rhee that all DC Public Schools will be closed on tomorrow. Thank you for supporting the WTU in our efforts to have the Mayor and Chancellor close DC Public Schools on tomorrow. Your calls to the office of the Mayor and Chancellor expressing your disagreement and outrage has resulted in success! Please read the DCPS Communication below. In Solidarity George Parker


I realize that simplifies things, but not by that much, at least in the ear of the many residents who do not have DCPS students in the home and have mixed feelings about the Rhee-WTU war at DCPS.

The WTU should be as aware as Rhee always is that communications with your own audience (teachers, students and administrators in Rhee's case vs. union members for the WTU) are heard by everyone. By crowing to the members about this great thing the union did for the members by getting Rhee to reverse course and shut down the schools, the WTU risks reinforcing the unfair stereotype that teachers don't want to teach.

I realize this is unfair. I'm just sayin' that's how it may come across.

It does not help the cause when the WTU statement has a glaring grammatical error ("your calls...has'), and an odd colloquialism ("on tomorrow"). That is a self-inflicted black eye for WTU.

Posted by: Trulee | February 8, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, I don't really much care. She made the right decision in the end and that decision was to take the safety of the kids into account. I wish she had made it earlier and without the flip-flopping, but in the end it did work out.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | February 8, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Trulee, only those who already hate the WTU will interpret it that way. Reasonable people will see that Rhee made a really stupid error in trying to open the schools today. The reality of the road and sidewalk conditions trump Rhee's "rhee-ality" of trying to appear more concerned about students getting to school than anything else.

More on "rhee-ality": Chancellor Rhee hired 900 (relatively young and inexperienced, therefore inexpensive) teachers in the summer before school starts, only to fire over 260 (mostly older, more experienced and therefore expensive) teachers in October, claiming an unforeseen budget crises. She defended this move in the on-line publication of "Fast Company" by implying that the fired teachers were made up of child sex abusers and physical abusers and teachers guilty of gross dereliction of duty. The REALITY: Rhee hired many young and inexpensive teachers in order to fire many experienced and expensive teachers in an attempt to save money and bust the union.

More "Rhee-ality": The Baltimore "miracle", where she was responsible for moving a second grade class of students from the bottom of the heap to the highest performing standards. The Reality: zero documentation of the supposed "miracle". And I have yet to read a first hand account from any parent of those students.

The list goes on.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | February 8, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I know all that other stuff about Rhee and I don't much care for her.

I do not hate the WTU, but I am not a member and I don't agree with everything WTU does or says.

My only interest here is as a longtime DCPS parent. With your permission, I am going to count myself as one reasonable person who thinks Mr. Parker's letter did nothing good for the WTU.

Posted by: Trulee | February 8, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Yes, you are reasonable, Trulee! I didn't mean to imply otherwise. I do think the case could be made that the WTU was looking out for the safety of the students AND the teachers, hence the call campaign. But I do see your point about PR and how WTU could have been more careful in the phraseology.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | February 8, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

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