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Small Group of Teachers Protest at Union

This morning's teacher demonstration at union headquarters turned out to be more of an intimate chat.

All of eight public school teachers, interested in the sizeable salary increases placed on the table by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, turned out at Washington Teachers Union headquarters on L'Enfant Plaza. They met for about 90 minutes with union president George Parker and emerged satisfied that they eventually would get a chance to vote on the pay package, which offers $100,000-plus salaries for tenured teachers willing to risk dismissal by going on probation for a year. Teachers unwilling to relinquish tenure would still get significant raises under the proposal.

"All my questions were answered," said Heather Migdon, a fifth-grade teacher at Nalle Elementary in Southeast. "I feel better about things." Migdon said that she wasn't concerned about the sparse turnout, and that it was to be expected with teachers still scattered on vacation and the last-minute notice (the gathering was called yesterday afternoon).

The teachers were upset by a report in The Post and on the D.C. Wire last week that Parker regarded the probation requirement as a serious obstacle, possibly "a dealbreaker," according one union source.

Parker told them -- and reporters afterward -- that probation might be acceptable if teachers who were fired had an appeals process that was "expeditious" and conducted by a neutral party.

"I'm hoping we can work out the appeals process with the chancellor," Parker said.

Rhee, reached by e-mail, said: "I can't comment on our current negotiations."

Bill Turque

By Marcia Davis  |  August 14, 2008; 12:49 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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There was more press than people. Did you count ten? If you did there's a job waiting for you at the district's SYEP program.

Posted by: Math | August 14, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

When the leadership of the Wash Post allows its own reporters to report on their decades of anti-union and anti-workers rights positions, I will have a tiny bit of confidence in their reporting about the WTU.
Until then, we should all expect The Post to dish out the negative slant demonstrated in this blib.
And the reporter doesn't seem to be able to count to 10. As in "Ten WTU members" or "Ten DCPS teachers" or "Ten supporters of the new contract". Instead we get "All of eight public school teachers". And which school system do they teach for?
Which union do the belong to?
Shoddy, just shoddy. Which is no surprise.

Posted by: Unions Help | August 14, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

George Parker needs to sign this agreement so we can discuss it's merits. And then we can discuss why we have him as our union President.

Posted by: jcan | August 14, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Bill is correct that there were 8 teachers present.

Posted by: | August 14, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Unions help? In what way? By standing in the way of a segment of its members, wanting a contract proposal to come to a vote, like what the WTU is doing? Just because they are against it? Because there is a power struggle between the WTU president and some of the members of the executive board? Teachers are not stupid. We can read over the informational packet for ourselves and make up our minds whether we want this contract and whether we'll take the protection of red or the gamble of green, a gamble that may well pay off for all concerned, teacher and most importantly students with increased learning. The WTU is just out for themselves and not for students. They hate Teach for America, the DC Teaching Fellows and any innovation that may be new, but that has a chance of improving students' lives apart from them. Let's vote.

Posted by: Sasha | August 14, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Get a clue. Read a bit of history.
Read about the life of the non-union working class in the US of A before unions and after.
Read about the people that died so you and I can have the benefits of union membership and union contracts.
You want to go back to "the good old days"?
Unions are a positive force or a self serving force depending on the dues paying membership.
My faith in the WTU leadership went down the drain when the former President stole 4-6 million dollars of OUR money.
I believe what Claudius, Emperor of Rome said remains true. "Trust no one".
I think we agree that we want the proposed contract to come up to a vote of the dues paying membership. We have a RIGHT to vote on it.
And I will go Green when its ratified.

Posted by: Unions Help | August 14, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Just because I'm a DCPS teacher doesn't mean that I'm ghetto-ass stupid and uneducated. I know about the sweatshops in NYC, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, the coal miners, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Wobblies (IWW). I've read about and studied general US and world history regarding workers organized into unions to bring fair working conditions. But I got a master's and don't really consider myself working class. It's just that the WTU is really showing that it's outlasting its usefullness in DCPS and is actually a roadblock to real educational reform. It's Rhee and her gang of ex TFA and Teaching Fellow types who are the real reformers, not the hacks in the WTU who can't use the internet and don't know what a blog is.

Posted by: Sasha | August 14, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

The problem with WTU and some of their members (of which I am one) is that too many of them are from the Mayor for Life era, and think they deserve a job for life.
Hopefully enough of us will be able to vote in the next union election that we can bring in a progressive, forward looking leadership team. People that will stand up for the newly ratified (hope, hope) contract.
To throw out the union paradigm because of a cabal of self serving loud mouths is, uh, not smart.
Children First. Unprofessional, unskilled teachers need not apply to DCPS. And those that think they have a right to work here need to rethink their priorities.
Same for administrators, janitors, secretaries, support staff, etc.
If you're not about the kids, you can go to PG, Mont. Country or Tiera Del Fuego for all I care.
Unions help when their members make it happen. So let's make it happen. And be a model for some time to come.
By the way, a Master's Degree makes you not working class? Where did you learn that, and what's wrong with working class?

Posted by: Unions Help | August 14, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

No, I am not working class. I am not blue collar. There's nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't describe my class background nor that of my family. Teachers aren't working class, but white collar professionals.

Posted by: Sasha | August 14, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

The use of the phrase "all of" prior to the count of teachers present is an indication of journalistic bias. Otherwise, why not just begin the sentence, "Eight public school teachers..."?

As far as I'm aware, this piece is not an editorial. Mr Turque, you're a journalist; please write like one.

Posted by: Kelly5612 | August 15, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Eight teachers present, informed at the last minute through a blog with very small and specific circulation at a time when teachers are on vacation, either out of town or going to the doctors appointments they can't make during the school year. Yes, it was a modest amount. But the fact that the WTU president invited everyone in to talk shows he knew there were many others out there and not in attendance who were of a like mind.

Posted by: Toby | August 15, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The Post gushes its bias against DCPS teachers and the WTU on a continuous basis.
They avoid any opportunity to cast the teachers or students in a positive light. There are actually a lot of very positive things going on in classrooms around the city. But you'll never read about them in The Post.
While indignation toward DCPS has been earned after decades of failing the students and families of the District, it is only fair to highlight the bright spots.
That is where The Post fails miserably in their journalistic responsibilities.

Posted by: Post Watcher | August 15, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

The Post gushing bias against DCPS, DC teachers and the WTU? Bias? I thought they were just reporting the facts. And the facts, maybe too negative for your sensibilities are absolutely staggering. And no matter what we want, DCPS, the WTU and the teachers often don't look too good. Like how DC is in the toilet when it comes to student achievement nationwide. How our per pupil expenditures are so high with so little to show for it. Like when the former WTU president got sent to the big house for stealing teachers' union dues.
If a large percentage of DC students aren't on grade level, is it bias to report it? Or wouldn't calling attention to it hlep solve the problem? Do you advocate the Post sweeping it under the rug and not reporting it because it makes the kids and teachers look bad? Do you think the Post has a vendetta against DC? Who? Specific reporters? Their editorial board?
What kind of good news do you want? Here is some real good news from my own experieinces as a DCPS teacher. But I don't think it's newsworthy to millions, only to the kids, their parents and to me. After weeks of trying to sound out words, Sandra (not her real name) finally learned how to read thanks to her reading resource teacher. First grader Jason (not his real name) finally learned that there is an inverse relationship between addition and subtraction. Adding is going up the number line and taking away is going down. José in the third grade learned that multiplication is a short cut for repeated addition. Justin figured out that ph = f and not the p + the h sound, like in phone. Sarita learned how to make an s go around and around and how a t is a tall letter. There is good news, especially on the small scale. And I'm sure DC teachers throughout the system have similar anecdotes. But our test scores still need to be much, much higher.

Posted by: Sasha | August 15, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Sasha, your characterization of WTU is no different from what I hear from locals all over the country. "They don't represent me", "they don't listen to me", "they don't ask me my opinion", "They're useless," "They aren't worth my dues," and so on and so on.

The union cannot represent every voice all of the time, but they certainly can't represent your voice if you aren't speaking up and communicating with your local. Doesn't matter if you're a blue collar guy on a production line at American Axle, a Steamfitter in NYC or a nurse with a master's degree in California, they're all union members. They're all represented by their leadership. And sometimes, they can't win what they need for their membership like in American Axle's case, but they are still the best solution to getting what your boss wants to give you. Because without them fighting for you and your co-workers, you'd have no voice, you'd get whatever you get.

If you're unhappy with WTU, let them know, they're willing able and ready to not only listen to you, but to also include you and your voice. And if you don't believe me, head over to my blog:

WTU responded to a few comments by DCPS teachers and are encouraging you to not only participate in the union, but to tell them how they can make things better. So tell them. Get involved. When you're involved, the loss of people like Wesley Everest and Joe Hill is almost worth the sacrifice (almost).

In solidarity.
bendygirl (Kirsten Burgard)

Posted by: uniongal | August 15, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

I know George got a lot more emails than the ones who were present... the Post didn't rep us well in that title but simmered down and cleared things up when speaking to Heather.

I just want this tobe over already...let's have a great ear and great FISCAL YEAR too! :) Go Green!

Posted by: | August 16, 2008 12:15 AM | Report abuse

"The Post gushing bias against DCPS, DC teachers and the WTU? Bias? I thought they were just reporting the facts."- Sasha

The Post prints the facts they choose in order to reinforce the picture they choose the portray. Which makes them no different than any other news outlet.
My point is they choose to print the most negative aspects of DCPS (which should actually be more thoroughly reported. Facts, names, dates, etc) while completely ignoring news worthy stories that reflect positively on the achievements of the students, staff and parents associated wtih DCPS. Trivializing the incremental classroom acheivements you noted by way of suggesting the good things going on in DCPS aren't worth reporting, completely misses the point.
Where are the stories about scholarship winners, community service projects by early childhood students, community members contributing hundreds of hours building gardens surrounding schools, corporate and non-profit partnerships with schools that yield real benefits to the students, schools where diversity is embraced in ways that demonstrate the best this city's people have to offer eachother.
Those stories exist all over this city. And The Post willfully ignores them.
I have no insight as to why or who at The Post is involved in creating, maintaining or executing the policy. But the effects are obvious to anyone with knowledge of DCPS and can critcally observe media coverage.

Posted by: Post Watcher | August 16, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

This is an interesting dialogue going on between "Sasha" and some very pro-union people.

I like the perspective of those who are advocating for Sasha to become more of a fighter within the union than without. There's a need for some Green Tier people to work with Parker and make it clear to folks like Saunders that he's not likely to survive the next election if he's on the wrong side of the issue.

For me, it's pretty simple politics within the union. If there are enough Green Tier people within the union, than vote for Rhee's plan and actively work on voting out the leadership that's stonewalling the process. If there are enough people who distrust Rhee, vote against the plan and work on pushing out Parker who has developed a more than cordial relationship with the Chancellor.

As a concerned observer, I'm supportive of the Rhee plan at present because if it's not passed it's likely that the District will resume it's activist support of Charter Schools that was temporarily suspended. If the union doesn't come up with a plan that *families* respect, families will vote with their feet, head to charter schools, and there will be no more children left to represent.

In the environment of the District, which has to compete for teachers with surrounding jurisdictions and compete for students with charter schools and voucher programs, it's essential that plans are passed that let families know that DCPS is trying to meets its challenges as aggressively as its competitors.

If I was an aging teacher who did not have the ability to easily switch to PG or MoCo, I would be against the plan. The mere existence of teachers on the Green Plan will make it harder for me to keep me job and easier for the system to reassign me to undesirable assignments. It's not just enough to have the guarantee of a job. You want a job plus leverage. The current system gives teachers the leverage over the principals.


Posted by: souldrummer | August 16, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

This is a perfect example of the divide and conquer tactic in action. I just have a few questions for those who are for and against this plan.

1) Why is it assumed that only ineffective and older teachers are against Chancellor Rhee's new salary plan?

2) Why is it presented that newer teachers are for the plan?

3) Does anyone have data to substantiate which teachers are for and against the plan? And why?

4) Is it possible to be against this plan for reasons other than the lost of seniority and tenure?

5) If a teacher opposes this plan does that mean s/he is against providing quality education for DCPS's students?

6) Is it possible to be for the plan and not attack your colleagues who may be against or vice versa?

Posted by: Khathu | August 16, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

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