Rhee still perplexing
Now that we know why D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee told a magazine that some laid off teachers had had sex with children and hit them too, I’m still perplexed.
I wonder why Rhee didn’t tell District residents about this when the layoffs happened last October.
I wonder why she didn’t try to explain herself immediately when the controversy over her magazine comments first became public several days ago.
I wonder if and why she still thinks -- despite experience -- that her penchant for secrecy, half statements and surprises serves to further her efforts to reform the D.C. public school system rather than hinder them.
The controversy erupted over the weekend when my colleague Bill Turque wrote a story about comments she made to Fast Company magazine.
“I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of schools," she told the magazine.
That made it sound to many people that many of the 266 teachers who had been laid off were guilty of something.
You might have thought that as soon as the article appeared, she would have publicly explained that she didn’t mean to cast such a wide net. But it wasn’t until this morning that we learn, after Rhee talked to an editorial writer at The Post and NBC4's Tom Sherwood, what actually happened:
Of the 266 teachers off last October--which Rhee said then were due to budget cuts--it turns out, she says now, that one was suspected of having sex with a student. That teacher, she said, was put on immediate administrative leave and a report was made to authorities last May. The investigation continues.
Six of those teachers had served suspensions for corporal punishment and two had been absent without leave on multiple occasions, she told The Post.
Good for Rhee for getting rid of bad teachers.
But why didn’t she tell us last October? Some say that she wanted to tell the D.C. Council last fall but was rudely cut off by members doesn’t exactly cut it. Come on now. She didn’t mention sex to the council, and that’s what got everybody’s attention.
And besides, if she wanted the information to be public, she is more than capable to get it out there, the rude council members notwithstanding.
I’ve seen no evidence that the continued controversy that swirls around her -- a good deal of it brought on by herself -- has helped her carry out her school reforms, which some in the city believe are the last real chance for the D.C. public system to improve.
It is past time for Rhee to recognize that leveling with the public will do her 21/2 year old reform efforts far more good than pretending that the public doesn’t matter.
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