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Rhee in Denver: Media to Blame for Teachers' Contract Holdup

rheepicture.jpg
NYC schools chief Joel Klein introduces the Rev. Al Sharpton today at the Denver Art Museum as Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee look on.

DENVER--Funny thing about D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. The media seem to love her (or at least they are fascinated by her hard-charging managing style); PBS followed her for a series during her first year. Newsweek is planning a cover story.

But Rhee does not seem to love the media.

Today, she and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty appeared with NYC Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer and the Rev. Al Sharpton for panel discussions on education reform. The panel discussions were heavy on "special interest" bashing (i.e. the teachers' union, special education lawyers and so on), and the panelists mostly hailed each other for being tough, reform-minded mold breakers.

But Rhee woke up the room when she railed on the "media" for wrecking her collective bargaining agreement with the Washington Teachers' Union. She has offered the union a new merit pay contract that would allow teachers to opt into a plan that could pay them a lot more money if they relinquish their seniority rights. The contract has been extraordinarily controversial with some teachers supporting it, but others angrily denouncing the plan.

Panel moderator Jonathan Alter, a Newsweek columnist, asked Rhee where the negotiations stood.

"We have not rolled out a tenative agreement yet. We were very close to doing so and then the media got in our way a little bit. That caused us some problems," Rhee responded.

Alter looked surprised. "What do you mean by that?" he followed up.

"Well, I do think it's a signficant problem for us," Rhee said firmly. "The media reported incorrect information about the contract and what that did was just raise all these alarm bells among the rank and file who started to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the teachers' union president; when he was ready to roll it out, he took a step back. So it's been a hard road over the last few weeks."

(Click on the jump to read the rest of her comments.)


Rhee continued: "But we know now we're at the point we have to either fish or cut bait. We put our last offer on the table. They can either choose to accept that or reject that. If they don't, we've got a Plan B teed up and ready to go. The bottom line is that we have to hold the adults in this system accountable for producing results for children no matter what. I would like to pay teachers more and reward them; if I can't do that, then I will find other ways to do that."

When D.C. Wire caught up with Rhee afterward, as she rushed out of the event before it ended to catch a flight back to Washington for the first day of school Monday, Rhee stood by her comments.

"I don't think the media should report on something from sources not willing to be named with incorrect information. I think that's incredibly detrimental," she said. Rhee added that she would enact "Plan B" in the next few weeks.

"I can't wait forever," she said. "We've got to move and I'm going to do so aggressively. If we can do it through this contract, great. If not, then I've got a Plan B."

Asked to elaborate so the media would not mess up the reporting on Plan B, Rhee declined to provide more details.

By David A Nakamura  |  August 24, 2008; 7:47 PM ET
 
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Comments

we love ya, michelle! keep pushin' those selfish unions!

Posted by: tom courtenay | August 25, 2008 6:40 AM | Report abuse

What is Rhee doing in Denver when schools aren't ready to open??

Why isn't she in town using her vaunted "hard-charging managment style" to get THAT done?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2008 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Rhee's kids live in Denver, where she also used to live. THAT is partly why she was there.

Posted by: anonymous | August 25, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

This people just want the fame and not do the work. Fenty sold us this change notion, just like Obama and now we are in this hole that we can't get out and he is just digging deeper. I hope THE AMERICAN POPLE DON'T MAKE THE MISTAKE WASHINGTONIANS MADE PICKING THIS UNEXPERIENCED PERSON TO LEAD, AND DO ON-THE-JOB TRAINING. I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE FEEL GUILTY FOR ALL THE HARDSHIP CAUSED TO AFRICANS IN THIS COUNTRY, BUT IT WASN'T YOU WHO DID THIS, YOU WOULD HAVE DONE IT DIFFERENT. DO NOT HAND THE NATION TO THIS NOVICE THAT TALKS ABOUT BEING THE UNITED AND CAN'T EVEN UNITE HIS PARTY. HE IS NOT GOD, HE IS JUST ANOTHER POLITICIAN TRYING TO GET OUR VOTES TO GET IN TO SCREW THE PEOPLE, LIKE ADRIAN FENTY. VOTE AGAINST OBAMA.

Posted by: Anoymous | August 25, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Rhee's children DO NOT live in Denver. In fact, they each attend the same DCPS. You'll remember at the end of last school year, WaPo reporting that Rhee had dismissed the principal of her children's school. How could she do that if they lived in Denver? So "THAT" is not why she was in Denver. She was there to be seen... just like the rest of them.

Posted by: Ayesha | August 25, 2008 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Anon@8:24 - You appear to have lost your way onto the Fix or the Trail. Please head back there rather than posting random screeds against one candidate or another.

Rhee appears to have learned from politicians First and foremost, blame the media. It's lazy thinking.

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | August 25, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

How does Rhee claiming that the media got this story wrong translate to her "not loving the media"? Are journalists so collectively touchy that they can't abide criticism, even though as a whole they have gotten many major stories these last eight years completely wrong? Look up the Post's and the NY Times' reporting during the build-up to the Iraq war if you want just a single example.

Quoting unnamed, unaccountable sources is endemic among journalists, and everyone knows it is a serious problem.

Maybe the old saying should be "If you can't do or teach, then report."

Posted by: Ash | August 25, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"I can't wait forever," she said. "We've got to move and I'm going to do so aggressively. If we can do it through this contract, great. If not, then I've got a Plan B."

Asked to elaborate so the media would not mess up the reporting on Plan B, Rhee declined to provide more details.


No, you media moron, she's not going to reveal Plan B until the demise of Plan A.

You go, girl. You're right about the media (WaPo?) and their unnamed sources.

Rhee apparently has no patience for the traditional pi$$ing and moaning of the teachers' union; nor does she have patience for the sparse reporting of the "paper of record" and its penchant for using unnamed sources.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | August 25, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Fascinating, just fascinating. She goes to the DNC convention but prefers McCain's education plan? And she attends a panel devoid of any teachers' unions? Excellent. Says a lot about her and Fenty.

At what point will Rhee and Fenty start holding parents accountable for the kids and their behavior in school? Blaming teachers is the easy and lazy way of holding kids and their parents accountable for the educations they are afforded. School life should be paramount to all of our lives. Parents, grandparents and kids should be serving in volunteer posts, running school groups and showing up to open houses and all the rest of the time. Until we're doing this, nothing is really going to change. And holding teachers accountable for kids who don't succeed, is absurd when they are the only ones being held accountable.

Posted by: uniongal | August 25, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

DCPS SCHOOLS OPENED TODAY, AS SOMEONE ELSE MENTIONED. WHY THE HELL IS SHE IN DENVER. IF OUR LEADERS PUT POLITICS ASIDE AND PLACED THE WELL-BEING OF YOUTH AS THE TOP PRIORITY, DECISIONS AROUND THE BOARD WOULD BE VERY DIFFERENT.
And for the record, Rhee, like the Mayor, does not shun media attention IN THE LEAST.

Posted by: Err? | August 25, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Is a LaConfora "source meter" needed here? What was here before hasn't worked. Give her a chance, you can't satisfy everyone. Just about everybody will have a gripe or 2 with anybody who is in the position.

Posted by: Cliff | August 25, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Rhee is in town. She was at my child's school this morning.

Posted by: DC Parent | August 25, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Michelle was in Washington for the opening of schools. She is great. I'm only worried she will burn herself out. She is working into the middle of the night, raising two kids, and fighting some powerful entrenched forces who don't want any change. good luck to her!

Posted by: JAY | August 26, 2008 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Rhee in Denver: Media to Blame for Teachers' Contract Holdup

NYC schools chief Joel Klein introduces the Rev. Al Sharpton today at the Denver Art Museum as Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee look on.

DENVER--Funny thing about D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. The media seem to love her (or at least they are fascinated by her hard-charging managing style); PBS followed her for a series during her first year. Newsweek is planning a cover story.

But Rhee does not seem to love the media.

Today, she and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty appeared with NYC Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer and the Rev. Al Sharpton for panel discussions on education reform. The panel discussions were heavy on "special interest" bashing (i.e. the teachers' union, special education lawyers and so on), and the panelists mostly hailed each other for being tough, reform-minded mold breakers.

But Rhee woke up the room when she railed on the "media" for wrecking her collective bargaining agreement with the Washington Teachers' Union. She has offered the union a new merit pay contract that would allow teachers to opt into a plan that could pay them a lot more money if they relinquish their seniority rights. The contract has been extraordinarily controversial with some teachers supporting it, but others angrily denouncing the plan.

Panel moderator Jonathan Alter, a Newsweek columnist, asked Rhee where the negotiations stood.

"We have not rolled out a tenative agreement yet. We were very close to doing so and then the media got in our way a little bit. That caused us some problems," Rhee responded.

Alter looked surprised. "What do you mean by that?" he followed up.

"Well, I do think it's a signficant problem for us," Rhee said firmly. "The media reported incorrect information about the contract and what that did was just raise all these alarm bells among the rank and file who started to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the teachers' union president; when he was ready to roll it out, he took a step back. So it's been a hard road over the last few weeks."

(Click on the jump to read the rest of her comments.)


Rhee continued: "But we know now we're at the point we have to either fish or cut bait. We put our last offer on the table. They can either choose to accept that or reject that. If they don't, we've got a Plan B teed up and ready to go. The bottom line is that we have to hold the adults in this system accountable for producing results for children no matter what. I would like to pay teachers more and reward them; if I can't do that, then I will find other ways to do that."

When D.C. Wire caught up with Rhee afterward, as she rushed out of the event before it ended to catch a flight back to Washington for the first day of school Monday, Rhee stood by her comments.

"I don't think the media should report on something from sources not willing to be named with incorrect information. I think that's incredibly detrimental," she said. Rhee added that she would enact "Plan B" in the next few weeks.

"I can't wait forever," she said. "We've got to move and I'm going to do so aggressively. If we can do it through this contract, great. If not, then I've got a Plan B."

Asked to elaborate so the media would not mess up the reporting on Plan B, Rhee declined to provide more details.


By David A Nakamura | August 24, 2008; 7:47 PM ET
Previous: Under Pressure: Lanier in the Post Magazine | Next: Fenty Staying at Obama/Biden Hotel

CommentsPlease email us to report offensive comments.

we love ya, michelle! keep pushin' those selfish unions!

Posted by: tom courtenay | August 25, 2008 6:40 AM

What is Rhee doing in Denver when schools aren't ready to open??

Why isn't she in town using her vaunted "hard-charging managment style" to get THAT done?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2008 7:53 AM

Rhee's kids live in Denver, where she also used to live. THAT is partly why she was there.

Posted by: anonymous | August 25, 2008 8:20 AM

This people just want the fame and not do the work. Fenty sold us this change notion, just like Obama and now we are in this hole that we can't get out and he is just digging deeper. I hope THE AMERICAN POPLE DON'T MAKE THE MISTAKE WASHINGTONIANS MADE PICKING THIS UNEXPERIENCED PERSON TO LEAD, AND DO ON-THE-JOB TRAINING. I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE FEEL GUILTY FOR ALL THE HARDSHIP CAUSED TO AFRICANS IN THIS COUNTRY, BUT IT WASN'T YOU WHO DID THIS, YOU WOULD HAVE DONE IT DIFFERENT. DO NOT HAND THE NATION TO THIS NOVICE THAT TALKS ABOUT BEING THE UNITED AND CAN'T EVEN UNITE HIS PARTY. HE IS NOT GOD, HE IS JUST ANOTHER POLITICIAN TRYING TO GET OUR VOTES TO GET IN TO SCREW THE PEOPLE, LIKE ADRIAN FENTY. VOTE AGAINST OBAMA.

Posted by: Anoymous | August 25, 2008 8:24 AM

Rhee's children DO NOT live in Denver. In fact, they each attend the same DCPS. You'll remember at the end of last school year, WaPo reporting that Rhee had dismissed the principal of her children's school. How could she do that if they lived in Denver? So "THAT" is not why she was in Denver. She was there to be seen... just like the rest of them.

Posted by: Ayesha | August 25, 2008 8:31 AM

Anon@8:24 - You appear to have lost your way onto the Fix or the Trail. Please head back there rather than posting random screeds against one candidate or another.

Rhee appears to have learned from politicians First and foremost, blame the media. It's lazy thinking.

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | August 25, 2008 9:31 AM

How does Rhee claiming that the media got this story wrong translate to her "not loving the media"? Are journalists so collectively touchy that they can't abide criticism, even though as a whole they have gotten many major stories these last eight years completely wrong? Look up the Post's and the NY Times' reporting during the build-up to the Iraq war if you want just a single example.

Quoting unnamed, unaccountable sources is endemic among journalists, and everyone knows it is a serious problem.

Maybe the old saying should be "If you can't do or teach, then report."

Posted by: Ash | August 25, 2008 9:44 AM

"I can't wait forever," she said. "We've got to move and I'm going to do so aggressively. If we can do it through this contract, great. If not, then I've got a Plan B."

"Asked to elaborate so the media would not mess up the reporting on Plan B, Rhee declined to provide more details"

Believe me THERE IS NO PLAN B. Fenty/Rhee have not had a plan since he told office. There are no secret meetings or undercover plans...she is just trying to hold her head above water. They hire interns to run the system. I must say that she is quick on her feet because she has a freakin answer for everything...right or wrong.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 27, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Interesting because Rhee is the biggest celebrity in the world next to Parris.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

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