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Making More Plans Against Fenty, Rhee Reforms

Education activists say they may have for now lost their battle to stop Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration from closing 23 schools and to play a larger role in plans to overhaul 27 schools with low-achieving students, but their work is just beginning. There certainly seemed to be evidence of that last night at Shaw Middle School.

School and labor activist Roger Newell (Dion Haynes)

Nearly 100 of them - representing teachers, parents and labor organizations - met in the school's auditorium in Northwest to direct their anger into an action plan against city and school leaders. Among the ideas: community organizing, rallies, strikes, a ballot initiative, a recall against Fenty and campaigns against D.C. Council members seeking reelection.

"If [elected officials] think you're going to organize against them, you can get things done," Rick Powell, political and legislative coordinator of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, said at the meeting sponsored by the Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools.

"There are things we can do. You are not powerless," he added.

Teachers, making presentations from the stage and commenting from the audience, expressed frustration with the school closings and school-improvement plans being carried out by Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

"Part of the reason [teachers] are so silent is that we've been beaten down," said Kerry Sylvia, a government teacher at Cardozo High School in Northwest. "Teachers are raked over the coals."

Nathan Saunders, general vice president of the Washington Teachers' Union, told the audience that he and union president George Parker were deeply divided over how members should respond to Rhee's initiatives. (D.C. Wire reported on that earlier this week.) Saunders said he thinks the union should fight, while Parker seeks cooperation with the administration.

"The WTU has got to do more. The WTU is a $3.5 million organization funded with your dues," he said. "You've got to say to George Parker and the executive board to get off your tail and provide leadership."

Benita Nicholson, a librarian at Green elementary in Southeast and Thomas elementary in Northeast, said: "Teachers understand that change needs to come. But change for the sake of change is not good change."

Dion Haynes

By Dion Haynes  |  March 27, 2008; 1:11 PM ET
Categories:  Education  
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It's funny how these folks become involved only to combat Fenty and Rhee.

Where were these people over the past four decades when our school system became the worst in the nation?

Really. They need to sit down, shut up, and work with Rhee to improve the schools.

Posted by: HillMan | March 27, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Etch | March 27, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Etch- you stole the Amen that came to my mind when I read the 1st post :-)

...Amen again...

Posted by: ArmchairGM | March 27, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse


It's funny how these parents groups seem much more upset that they weren't able to get meetings with Rhee so they could feel important, than they are about the state the schools are in. These people aren't upset about the schools being bad, they just want an excuse to get up off the couch, turn off their Soaps and be able to blather on about nothing. You all had your chance to do something over the last 20 years when our schools fell to the bottom of the nation, you did nothing, now shut up and let somebody fix them.

Posted by: cambel1 | March 27, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

The parents won their battle to streamline the broken school system. I'm just sorry the teachers keep looking at us as the enemy here. They need to refocus their energies toward creating a positive environment for DC's new generation, but they keep backpedaling and talking about our kids like it's 1987. My son can read English and Spanish books, with difficulty, at age 4. Literacy and related skills are not a problem for today's DC kids.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 27, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"almost 100" does not sound like an overwhelming number. Seems like the post is trying to make a very small, loud group, whose own ox has been gored, sound like a movement.

My guess is that the story should have started out:
A small contingent of dissatisfied individuals gathered to rail against the first serious attempt to reform and improve the DC Public School System in some decades.

That might have put the story in much more accurate perspective.

Posted by: mikes1 | March 27, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Where have YOU been?
There have always been Parents and Teachers and community activist even students crying out for help in DC Public schools from the beginning. Teacher's can't get Parents to attend PTA meetings about their own children so you know its hard to get community support for the schools there children attend. Parents are active and can afford to contribute time and money to fill the gaps Wards 3. As you may know Chancellor Rhee would not dare think of closing a school there even if the ratio were 5 to 1 in a class. We never had a Mayor or City Council that would allow separation of funds and responsibility as Fenty has. The Mayor has made it easy for Chancellor Rhee, she now only has to focus on the education aspect for the schools,she has the Mayors ear. Someone has hired handle the buildings, maintanance and contracts. She has been given money and direct sole authority to hire a competent staff to work with her, authority to hire,and fire as she pleases. Chancellor Rhee has a good game plan. She has a city council that half are up for re-election soon and are as jelly backed and uninformed as they come. Chancellor Rhee is not doing any thing new or special she is just taking all the ideas and plans from all her predecessors who never got funding, authority and cooperation. Through Mayor Fenty and the City Council she has received the go ahead to implement.


Posted by: pilafel | March 27, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

These are the folks that have been there from day one. Where have you been? (Where have I been for that matter, though I did work for DCPS.) Honestly, in many cases the people that are the most outspoken on either side of the issues is the wrong players to have involved! Their ego or drive to be in a leadership position is a personality flaw that clouds logical/rational thought. Rhee and Fenty have an agenda where many kids are going to be lost.

The WTU has really turned into a pansy organization and I think the memberships knows it. the current leader has given the last superintendents everything they have wanted, and can only imagine what Rhee will get from him.

The parents involved are very representative of the voters. Meaning they need to be more politically savvy versus just wanting to march and picket.

Posted by: oknow1 | March 27, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I can't really say it any better than HillMan already has (Amen!)

These people are more interested in having a job than they are at educating our children. It's time for the games to stop and to help Rhee get on with the business of fixing these schools. Playtime is OVER!

Posted by: hoos3014 | March 27, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

As you may know Chancellor Rhee would not dare think of closing a school there even if the ratio were 5 to 1 in a class.

There is no ratio west of the park that small. The schools are packed with 50-300 student waiting lists to get in. You're living in a dream world if you think a school that reflects the diverse population of DC should be closed in favor of some monocultural school with few students staying open. But you're living in a dream world if you think any Ward 3 schools are 5-to-1, so perhaps you just never visited a DC School yet?

Posted by: bbcrock | March 27, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I agree, play time is over. Change is needed to finally educate our children. In my experience, most of these parents have been involved for years. Historically, they are rarely heard. Unfortunately, they are usually a very small group. I think there heart is in the right place. Let's be mindful, Ms Rhee taught 3 years in B'more and to her own admission, she failed. With that in mind, she probably should have been more attentive to the teachers, parents, and students concerns versus her own by way of her admitted failure to teach. Change is needed no one can argue that, but at the expense of our children via someone who failed in the industry she wants to bring change to in DC. In addition, we ust spent $611 million dollars on a baseball stadium instead the schools. Some of these same parents protested the stadium also. Are they wrong?

Posted by: KEVIN_JENKINS | March 27, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

KEVIN_JENKINS wrote Let's be mindful, Ms Rhee taught 3 years in B'more and to her own admission, she failed.

PLEASE GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT. She admitted to failing her first year. After working with parents, students and a fellow teacher, her students reached new heights of success. She held them to a higher standard and they met and exceeded those standards. Rhee sees education as a civil rights issue and is dedicated to the children. Don't let adult issues cloud the fact that DCPS has been failing our kids. Let Fenty and Rhee focus on the children and let these adults rail against the system. From what I've heard, good teachers will be rewarded and given the support they need. Only the bad teachers should fear their jobs. And the Union should be ashamed for supporting bad teachers.

Don't let these loud "activists" who are more concerned about glory and being quoted by bad Post reporters confuse the facts. Have we heard anything since September about the schools having no heat, having no books, having no computers or anything else the students need to succeed?

Posted by: tlpatt70701 | March 27, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

"In addition, we ust spent $611 million dollars on a baseball stadium instead the schools. Some of these same parents protested the stadium also. Are they wrong?"

Yes, they are wrong. And so are you.

The average DC taxpayer spent NOTHING on the baseball stadium. That was paid for entirely by a special tax assessed ONLY on large businesses, the considerably majority of which supported the tax.

They simply would not have supported yet another tax to spend yet more money on DC schools.

Lack of money isn't the problem. We already spend more than nearly every other school system in the entire nation, per pupil.

Incidentally, the ballpark investment will actually end up funding things like schools. The cost of building is being born only by the large business community, yet the massive development that has come because of the ballpark will be providing tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions in tax revenue for decades.

So, really, you have an investment paid for only by big business, and the massive tax proceeds go to everyone, including the schools.

How is this possibly a bad thing?

Posted by: HillMan | March 27, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

And please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying there haven't always been school employees and parents that have tried very hard.

It's just that this particular group seems awfully self-serving, especially if their primary goal is, as it seems, political (recall efforts on Councilmembers, etc).

The Rhee plan is a done deal, whether people like it or not. Fighting it at this late stage is counterproductive. All that energy could go instead toward making sure the plan is as effective as possible.

Posted by: HillMan | March 27, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

This article shows one thing for certain, the small number of people who oppose the school reform agenda are certainly more organized and are better able to get media attention than the vast majority of DC residents who voted Fenty into office when he ran on a reform agenda. If you are interested in showing your support for the school reform effort please go to dcschoolreform(dot)org . There is an online petition of support up at that web address.

Posted by: alex.lawson | March 28, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

It is most unfortunate that many of you who post here anonymously- more than likely failed to show up at our educational town hall meeting on Wednesday. We would have welcomed your input had you been in the audience. It is easy to criticize what we are about based only what you read about on this blog and or heard through the rumor mill. The Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools (CSONS) supports educational reform of our schools. Whether we were around years or not is beside the point as we are here now. What should be unacceptable to all is that all of the critical stakeholders have not been included in the process as we were lead to believe we would be by Mayor Fenty and the DC City Council beginning with the selection of Chancellor Rhee which required input by LAW and great weight (a legal term) from the Washington Teachers' Union. Since then, most of the promises made to our city by this Mayor have been broken not only in the educational arena. What is abosolutely illogical to me is why people continue to argue that in DC, teachers, students, parents and community members should not have a voice in those decisions regarding the educational reform of our schools like people do in more affluent communties throughout this country. In all other communities, reform is inclusive. Matter of fact it is the expectation. Frankly, I am tired of the rhetoric that all DCPS teachers and staff are being painted with a broad brush that they are incompetent. Incompetence abounds in all school systems, it just gets less press by the Washington Post. No one retorts this same rhetoric when the Montgomery County Gazette reported the Montgomery Co. Public Schools cheating sccandals that have gone on during standardized testing or AP cheatin scandals or when they can't close the minority achievement gap in all these years since the installation of well paid Superintendent Weast.
Let's stop the negative rhetoric and even if you don't agree with coalitions, then at the very least give credit for involved parents, students, teachers and related school personnel who care enough to be involved in the educational decisions that will utlimately impact their children's lives. I also encourage all of the anonynmous bloggers to come out to our next Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools event. Then after being trully informed about what we stand for, I will welcome an informed discussion with you. Until then I remain,

Candi Peterson
Member, CSONS

Posted by: teacherspet | March 28, 2008 10:39 PM | Report abuse

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