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Rhee Swings the Ax

Less than two months into the new school year, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has fired her first principal. In an e-mail to parents at Shepherd Elementary School Friday afternoon, she announced the dismissal of Galeet BenZion, hired by the chancellor in July.

As is customary with personnel matters, Rhee did not explain her reason for the abrupt move, which sparked a torrent of e-mails and phone calls to The Wire from angry parents. Clara Canty, instructional superintendent for the cluster of schools that includes Shepherd, wasn't any more enlightening at an afternoon meeting with parents, attributing the firing to "unforeseen reasons."

BenZion, former director of The Hill preschool, found herself at odds with central office administrators on at least a couple of fronts. Parents said she fought to restore French and Spanish classes that had been cut over the summer after teachers were fired for not meeting requirements under No Child Left Behind. She also had to fight for a kindergarten teacher after a staffing problem left the Northwest school short one instructor on opening day.

BenZion was not the first choice of a school community panel that screened principal candidates this summer. But Rhee chose her nonetheless. Even so, several Shepherd parents said this evening that BenZion had won wide respect and had brought some stability to a school that had two interim principals last year after a mid-term resignation.

"Dr. BenZion took her job seriously and believed it was her job to advocate for the resources we needed, said PTA president Earl Yates. "You have to speculate there was some head-banging."

BenZion did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. In a message she sent to the Shepherd listserv, Friday afternoon, she said:

"My Dear Parents,

You have heard by now, that the Shepherd school community has lost its principal today.
According to the Chancellor I am not the right fit to this community and it is best for the children that I am replaced.

I feel as if the flower has just began to bloom and was just stepped on.
It has been a privilege to get to know each of you.

You are an amazing community and I applaud your commitment to high quality education in the District. I am truly sorry that I have disappointed you."

Rhee announced that Jamie Miles a "school improvement specialist and a principal coach" for DCPS, would replace BenZion.

Bill Turque

By Marcia Davis  |  October 11, 2008; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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Comments

note to self: after being hired at the whim of one person without explanation, never forget that you can be fired at the whim of one person without explanation. Especially after they fire you.

Posted by: jfc1 | October 11, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

This is at-will employment teachers; this is the green tier...principals already have assumed that risk. Somehow, it seems Dr. BenZion, in advocating for her children, got on the wrong side of the Chancellor and then WHACK! Gone.

Sounds like Dr. Art Siebens, who at Wilson SHS often spoke out about discipline issues at that school (since his advice was never taken, Wilson had experienced a rise in violent incidents).

So, teachers beware: vote Green, get fired for no reason. Advocate for both your salary increase AND the right to be fired only if you're not performing (not if you're just a gadfly; Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Hamilton, Revere, Tubman, Clay, Rayburn, Moynihan, King, Angelou, Schwarzenegger, E. Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Kucinich, Siebens, and many others, were gadflys, people who spoke up, and they were great because of it).

Posted by: TeachersNext | October 11, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

If she wasn't going to work out, for whatever reason - reasonable or not, then getting rid of her promptly is the right thing to do!

Posted by: RoseG | October 11, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

None of us have ANY CLUE why this principal was fired, so perhaps we should reserve judgment. The worst part of all of this is that the administration is barred from explaining its reasons by existing privacy laws and by our obscenely litigious society. If Dr. BenZion has been wrongfully terminated, then it is clearly in her best interests to waive her privacy rights and demand that the reason(s) for her termination be released by the administration. But of course she won't do that - it's so much easier to play the victim of the big bad Chancellor Rhee, and many of the Post's readers are happy lionize her in that role.

Posted by: two terrific boys | October 11, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

How many of you would like to fired without a reason?

Posted by: Kevin1231 | October 11, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Teachers beware of at-will firing. This is the reason for the union and for process for both hiring and firing.

Money doesn't equate with job security and $100,000 salary if you only get it for a few months before being fired isn't really worthwhile.

Posted by: concerned citizen | October 11, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Another day, another principal fired. This one has a doctorate --clearly better educated than Rhee herself...

Posted by: RegisUrgel | October 11, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Go Rhee! Let's finally fix DC's schools once and for all! Don't give in to the community gripe sessions or the council. Do what you need to and make our schools something to finally be proud of.

Posted by: Supporter | October 11, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"How many of you would like to fired without a reason?"

No employer can afford to fire people willy-nilly- without reason.

The correct question is: How many of you would like to be fired and have that reason spread over the internet by the person who fired you?"

Because that's the alternative you seem to be advocating for.

Posted by: downtown rez | October 11, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Good thing they fired her! Did you catch all of those grammatical errors in her letter to the school community?

Posted by: Eric | October 11, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

How come she was okay in July and no good in October? Apparently she thought teaching French and Spanish should be continued in Shepard Elementary.

She should have let the parents advocate for the school and just kept quiet. Fewer educators and more bureaucratic administrators. That's what we need to improve the system.

Posted by: Ed | October 11, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Number 1...keep counting more will take place in the coming weeks! At-will you gotta love it!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

"How many of you would like to fired without a reason?
Posted by: Kevin1231 | October 11, 2008 1:33 PM"

in an at will state, how mnay of us have not been fired without a reason?

Posted by: DwightHCollins | October 11, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I wish the journalist had taken some more time to look into the principal's past employment. I applaud Rhee for correcting her mistake.

Posted by: Hill Preschool Parent | October 11, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

What the heck kind of name is Galeet BenZion?

Posted by: mortified469 | October 11, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I wish the journalist had taken some more time to look into the principal's past employment. I applaud Rhee for correcting her mistake.

Posted by: Hill Preschool Parent | October 11, 2008 5:58 PM

- - - - -
Care to elaborate?!?!

Posted by: ShepDC | October 11, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Rhee remains our last, best hope to fix the DC schools. She has great judgment and is fearless. Trust me, she had a very good reason. Personnel and privacy regs preclude a public airing.
Principals and teachers need to get used to accountability. There must be a reason that the schools are terrible, and the finger points at some of them. Rhee will find them. Others have a chance to improve and even excel.
So please get over this firing, for the sake of our children and for our city. You will be glad that you did.

Posted by: axolotl | October 11, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse


I thought Ben Zion was a great principal,

And none of the people who are on here applauding her demise offer any explanation of why she was bad.

She was a hard worker.

Posted by: J | October 11, 2008 9:12 PM | Report abuse

I thought Ben Zion was a great principal,

And none of the people who are on here applauding her demise offer any explanation of why she was bad.

She was a hard worker.

Posted by: J | October 11, 2008 9:12 PM

Really - this latest firing means she was fired from her last three jobs.

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-983197161.html

Posted by: Really | October 11, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

"I am not the right fit to this community"

"I feel as if the flower has just began to bloom"

After reading her note and her grammar possibly there were good reasons she was let go.

Posted by: Andy | October 11, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse

I am far from being a PhD as is Dr. Ben Zion. Nonetheless I believe my basic skills allow me to appreciate the I expect any school principal to write well. When I read Ben Zion's letter to parents, I was unsympathetic because she expressed herself poorly, at least compared to my expectations for a school principal and doctoral graduate. I have put into parenthesis my version of her sentences as an example of how they might be imporved. I could be wrong but shouldn't our educators serve as strong examples of well educated letters?

"My Dear Parents,

You have heard by now, that the Shepherd school community has lost its principal today. (Today, Shepherd school lost me as its pripcipal.)
According to the Chancellor I am not the right fit to this community and it is best for the children that I am replaced. (Chancellor Rhee believes that I do not fit well into the Shepherd community, and for the children's benefit, I must be replaced.)

I feel as if the flower has just began to bloom and was just stepped on.
It has been a privilege to get to know each of you. (The Chancellor's view is hers but my view differs. I viewed our Shepherd community as a just blooming flower whose fullness was cut short.)

You are an amazing community and I applaud your commitment to high quality education in the District. I am truly sorry that I have disappointed you." (If I have dissapointed any of you during my tenure, I ask your forgiveness. You were for me an amazingly committed community and I deeply value your dedication to the highest quality education for every student in District of Columbia schools.)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze how arrogant some of you posters are. You criticize the principal for errors and your own posts are error laden! Such snobbishness has no place on these posts. One anonymous poster even went to lengths to offer an "improved" version of Dr. BenZion's letter and it was awful. Stick to the issues.

Posted by: B4 Real | October 11, 2008 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Does she have any plans for the academic growth of students? We know that she has the power to hire and fire.

Now, what is she going to do to really fix the school system? The teachers and principals aren't the main problems with DCPS.

I can't wait for Fenty for fire her without an explanation after she destroys the morale of the school system. She has an ego issue, and she doesn't like her subordinates to disagree with her.

I hope she offers a buy-out for teachers at the end of this school year. I am running for the hills to a school system that is more stable.

Karma is real. Mark my words. 'Be not deceived, you shall reap what you sow.'

Have fun firing and scaring people, Rhee. You are sowing seeds for your own destruction.

Posted by: lisa marie presley | October 11, 2008 10:43 PM | Report abuse

I agree, these people are ignorant and cowards. Big talk in front of a monitor and at a keyboard safely behind closed doors. What do you mean? Does her name pre-determine her career path? Ignorance, not so bliss. I hope you don't have children.

Posted by: noneyah | October 11, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

By the way Galeet BenZion is Israeli by birth, or are you going to be anti-semitic too?

She learned English as her second language in Israel and Europe. And I thought her phrasing was elegant and appropriate given that context. (oh, and that she was FIRED about 2 hours before she sent the message)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2008 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Good Luck, Jamie Miles.

Didn't take too long for you to get your chance to make a difference. Remember though, snakes bite.

Posted by: Johns Hopkins Cohort | October 11, 2008 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like just two ol' women cat fighting between each other...

Posted by: Teachers are overpaid | October 12, 2008 12:44 AM | Report abuse

How many of these comments mysteriously appear to have the same timbre, vocabulary, and voice as . . . Chancellor Rhee? Shouldn't the Post make sure she isn't posting these herself? Amazing.

Posted by: MikeKell | October 12, 2008 4:32 AM | Report abuse

Chancellor Rhee is just using DC as a stepping stone into the Obama administration. Is it really about the kids, or moreover, a quest to satisfy her personal ambition?

Posted by: Fortuneteller | October 12, 2008 5:09 AM | Report abuse

I am sure Chancellor Rhee had a levelheaded explanation for firing Shepherd's principal. Ph.D's do not excuse poor leadership or pedagogical mediocrity. Here's a good example: I accompanied a DCPS elementary school principal on a daily walk-through, and asked, "What, exactly, are your walk-through goals; what are you looking for today?" The woman looked at me like I was crazy, and retorted, "Huh?" I said, "Are you observing differentiated instruction, cooperative learning, classroom management, pacing, etc.?" She stated, "Oh, I'm just doing my rounds, I have to walk-through the building at least two times a day to see what teachers are doing in their classrooms." The problem, here, is this: the woman had no 'goals' for her walk-throughs; she did not know what she was looking for. Before we give incompetent, so-called practitioners a six-figure salary (our precious tax dollars), we should seriously think about what kinds of people we want in front of our children.

I commend Chancellor Rhee for taking action, as there are a lot of substandard principals in the system who need to be weeded out. Our kids' lives, the current state of leadership, and the economy depend on it.

Posted by: RashidJ | October 12, 2008 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Chancellor Rhee should at the very least provide a specific explanation to the parents and community as to why she fired the principal. After all they have struggled to keep principals in the school. If future principals advocate for student and parent resources might they be fired too? Who knows since no clear explanation has been given to the parents. Mont. Co. parents would demand to know the reason, as they should, and would be provided with a just explanation. There is no school system without parent and community support.

Posted by: Cheryl, Chevy Chase MD | October 12, 2008 7:37 AM | Report abuse

How funny! Most posters here complain about BenZion's dismissal "without reason," yet go on and on about "the reasons" she was dismissed. What's that expression: "Don't bother me with the facts, I've already made up my mind?" Why do you need "reasons" when your own gossip can raise questions and answer them at the same time?

Posted by: Rodin | October 12, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

What kind of name is Galeet BenZion? Israeli. Her last name means "born of/son of Zion" - kind of a hint.

How many times have I read the WaPo comments on DCPS without encountering covert or overt racism? Zero.

Posted by: DC Teacher | October 12, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

We know Michelle Rhee. There is absolultely NO WAY she fired BenZion for NO REASON AT ALL. So get off your high horse. There was likely not only a reason, but a damned good reason for this firing. I put my faith in Michelle Rhee, who is the first and only administrator in the DC schools who has been willing to take on unions, entrenched personalities and turf protectors for the good of the students. As for not wanting to be subject to at-will employment, what the heck makes you so important that you shouldn't be subject to the same rules as 92% of the rest of working Americans? Protecting bad teachers is precisely why DC schools have sucked for so long. I for one, am delighted that Rhee is getting rid of dead weight. And until proven otherwise, I will assume she has a good reason for her actions, instead of the other way around.

Posted by: October10s | October 12, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

No, no -- you really don't know Michelle Rhee. The behind closed doors Michelle Rhee is very different than the public image she has carefully portrayed as a reformer.

Unless you are one of her acolytes and don't blaspheme her behind closed doors or in public you're fine and like the taste of the Kool Aid.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

To the poster who took upon him/herself to rewrite Dr. BenZion's letter (the Anonymous coward)... check your first two sentences. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Idiot!!! For what it's worth, we met Galeet when she was Director of the Hill Preschool. She seemed very interested in putting the children's needs above all else. I would like to think that she was let go for some valid reason(s). Our family wishes her the best!!!

Posted by: DC Parent | October 12, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

What some don't realize is that Rhee tries to rule by fear and initimidation. In response to many of you, when you're at-will, she does NOT have to give a reason for your termination. (Think back to the firing of 100 IT employees this past summer. When one asked why he was being fired, her minion told him, "The contract allows it.") Rhee is an egomaniac who talks loudly in order to hide her lack of knowledge of education and to appear that she's tough. Well, guess what? The teacher's union is tougher and will fight her until she's gone!!

To lisa marie presley, please don't leave the system. We need good teachers who are invested in our students' success. Rhee will be gone soon. Her lack of substance, disregard for parents, and poor results will be her undoing! DCPS is only a stepping stone for her. She's spoken on more public platforms than any of her predecessors. The sooner she leaves, the better!

Posted by: Not a Believer | October 12, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I think it is healthy that we question the motives of people in power. I think that we can never just take for granted that people in positions of power such as Michelle Rhee are looking out for the average citizen. Since, the taxpayers pay both BenZion's and Rhee's salaries, we are owed a justification for any firing. When we are not given those justifications, it only stirs the pot of doubt, slander and abuse of power.

Also, it is shameful that the people have made horrible comments about the name of BenZion. I wonder how these same people will react if Barack Obama becomes President.

As I said before, as a taxpayer, I expect and demand justification for the actions of our administrators as we all should and not take for granted that they are acting on our behalf.

Posted by: Eric L | October 12, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I think it is healthy that we question the motives of people in power. I think that we can never just take for granted that people in positions of power such as Michelle Rhee are looking out for the average citizen. Since, the taxpayers pay both BenZion's and Rhee's salaries, we are owed a justification for any firing. When we are not given those justifications, it only stirs the pot of doubt, slander and abuse of power.

Also, it is shameful that the people have made horrible comments about the name of BenZion. I wonder how these same people will react if Barack Obama becomes President.

As I said before, as a taxpayer, I expect and demand justification for the actions of our administrators as we all should and not take for granted that they are acting on our behalf.

Posted by: Eric L | October 12, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Eric L, you statements are on the mark! We should question all public servants to keep them accountable for the good of the people.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

!!!CORRECTION!!!
Eric L, your statements are on the mark! We should question all public servants to keep them accountable for the good of the people.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I strongly agree with October10s statement: 92% of working Americans are employed on at-will status and held to inflexible expectations. Look at corporate America, Google, etc. Why should principals or teachers be any different? Why give principals a two or three-year contract ($300,000) for ruining students' lives? No way! Children will have it bad enough—because of the catastrophic economic predicament George Bush caused. Why ruin the only shot they have: education.

Posted by: RashidJ | October 12, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

This is not the first principal fired this semester. This is the second. The principal at Shadd was fired two weeks ago. Hired after school started, Shadd is a warehouse for the special needs children who would have attended MM Washington. With MM Washington closed, DCPS had no where else to send the children. So they quickly opened Shadd and hired that principal just after school opened. Now that principal is gone and Shadd is still a warehouse for special needs children.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I also heard that the principal of Powell was not fired, but quit a few weeks ago. BTW, I met BenZion as she was one of the candidates we interviewed for our school principal (I'm a DCPS teacher). We wanted another candidate, but BenZion was smart, professional, highly creative and I wish her well. There must be a reason though why she was let go in the beginning of the school year like that. I don't believe it was because Rhee didn't like her shoes, or some other frivilous reason.

Posted by: Sasha | October 12, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

"How many of you would like to fired without a reason?"

There was a reason but Rhee prefers not to discuss these reasons.

If you were fired, would you want the reason printed in the Washington Post for everyone to see and possible danage any chance of landing another job?

Posted by: Alan | October 12, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I also met Ben Zion and found her to be a bit kooky and a loose cannon. Certainly these are minor quirks and not firing offenses. But she has a PhD or an EdD and is knowlegable. I bet other hardworking, decent principals throughout DCPS are scared, or a least taking notice of this. Who's Rhee coming after next?

Posted by: Chloe | October 12, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

How about being held accountable for doing your job and doing it well. As a teacher, if I'm not doing my job well, I'd rather be fired than stay in the position and hurt the future prospects of my students. The same goes for principals. We need to trust that Rhee is doing what is best for kids, as I know she is!

Posted by: Supporter 2 | October 12, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze how arrogant some of you posters are. You criticize the principal for errors and your own posts are error laden! Such snobbishness has no place on these posts.
---------

So you hate the DCPS children that much that you're willing to compare their principal's writing to a bunch of online cranks posting while on a coffee break??? This is why I want to sell my house and move so badly.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 12, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh, they had such grand plans for public education. First the masters of the universe genuflected to their ideological godfather Milton Friedman. In his 1950 book Capitalism, Friedman wrote that "The privatization of schooling would produce a new highly active and profitable industry."

Then fueled with the fire of the Reagan revolution they put the finishing touches on their devious campaign at the Business Roundtable education summit in 1989. Standardized testing would be their primary weapon. The tests would isolate urban schools first and bury them under public posturing for accountability . The corporate vultures from Edison Schools and the others would move in to pick up the pieces and impose their gospel, the business model. Vouchers and charter schools would even redirect public monies to the destruction of public schools .

Toxic wastes, like incessant testing and mindless data collection and merit pay plans, would be pumped into the public school environment to sicken both teachers and students. And bye and bye the privatizers would have their brave new education system to serve their global economy.

And they were so close. They had their blueprint for legally closing public schools, the No Child Left Behind Act, in place. Billionaire Bloomberg and his CEO sidekick Joel Klein were in control in New York City. Mayor Daley and Arne Duncan were strangling the Chicago Public Schools. Mayor Villariagosa and Admiral Brewer were trying to get their hands around the throats of the Los Angeles Unified Public Schools. Jeb Bush, in and out of office, was calling the shots in Florida. Bill Gates had succeeded in winning Washington D.C. for Mayor Fenty and he in turn introduced the nation to a new level of ruthlessness and brutality in the person and policies of Michelle Rhee. Eli Broad's superintendents dotted the landscape from Vallas in New Orleans to Crew in Miami, chirping over the achievement gap and with grave voices declaring "the children of Singapore are eating our kids lunch." Many of those pesky democratically elected school boards had been eliminated.

Then just as the campaign appeared ready to bear fruit, their rationale for being, their precious global economy, crashed! Their pride and joy is burning as you read. It was supposed to be immutable. It was eternal! When the men of the Business Roundtable came down from their Charlottesville, Virginia education summit they were imbued with the Reagan Revolution's confidence. Now that's all gone.

A forlorn John Castellani's mug has been all over TV for the last couple weeks. He's the president of the Business Roundtable. Who could have imagined that less than twenty years after their education summit these same men would appear on their knees, hat in hand, to desperately plead with every public school teacher, parent and student to give them $3,000 as their share of a $700 billion public bailout. Goodness, what happened to their vaunted business model? Somehow these proponents of data driven education have no idea what their collateralized debt obligations (CDO's) and structured investment vehicles (SIV's) are worth. Most shockingly, the poster boys for accountability who pranced around with their noses in the air chanting "no excuses" over the battered minds and bodies of poor children, now beg for sympathy and want to be rescued by their victims!

Well it will take some time to clean up this mess, and we will suffer for their folly, but there is now some light ahead. Our corporate tormentors will soon slink away to lick their wounds and we will have the chance to rebuild the public schools, make them truly places of learning. Imagine there's no pacing guides, it's easy if you try. Our time under these sanctimonious, hypocritical blowhards is over! They have forfeited their right to any influence in our schools and in our lives.

Mail your No. 2 pencils to the Business Roundtable, swords into plowshares, standardized tests into poetry contests!

Long live Douglas Avella! http://www.talkbx.com/tag/douglas-avella/

Posted by: natturner | October 12, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rhee has definitely painted a target on her. As a public official, I'm pretty sure that she has prepared herself for receiving such heave critisim from the outcrying community. While I'm not defending her, we're only getting a one-sided (teacher-sided) point-of-view. We have not heard she side of the story in what she justifies these firings. However, Ms. Rhee's silence on the suject does not help. It seems that it is doing quite a bit of harm to her reputation more than good. I think she's affraid that her reasoning for the firings would be more harmful if she were to tell the public. In other words, she may be choosing the lessor of the two evils. I any case, I doubt that she will last long enough to complete her term of office.

Posted by: Bryan | October 12, 2008 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Thank you, IF ONLY SOMEONE HAD CHECKED WITH THE HILL PRESCHOOL all of this could have been avoided. Ms. BenZion wasn't the right fit for the school and there was no love lost between Ms. BenZion and the teachers and most parents. Rhee this was the best thing for all, take it from somone who worked under Ms. BenZion it was worse than being in the army actually it was pure HELL.

Posted by: A HILL PRESCHOOL TEACHER | October 12, 2008 8:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't think any of us from the information that was given by the Post, know really what happened.

But I find it very troubling that some people still have a blind faith in people in positions of power. If anything, with the events that have occured in these recent days with the abuses of the financial companies and politicians, taxpayers should be concerned and not apt to trust anyone so implicitly.

Yes, when you are a public official as Ben Zion was, it should be made public what the problem is. Rhee doesn't have to give a blow by blow description but it would behoove her to give a general description of what her justification is.

Remember people also trusted those CEO's of financial companies that the government is now bailing out. Let us hold everyone accountable no matter what position they are in and that goes for politicians chancellors, presidents and principles.

Posted by: Eric L. | October 12, 2008 9:37 PM | Report abuse

I cannot fathom why so many have such blind faith in Rhee. Many have written that we should trust that she has the childrens' best interest at heart when she engages in ruthless activities. Do tell: What has she done to earn such trust? Is there anything in her background/work experience that justifies her current position, or did Fenty just hire her to do his bidding (i.e., dirty work) by "swinging the axe?"

Posted by: R U Serious | October 12, 2008 10:28 PM | Report abuse

We do not know Rhee's reasoning for firing the principal but there is a larger point here that is being missed and that is Rhee's poor judgment. SHE hired Ben Zion and less than two months into the school year the principal is being fired.

Someone posted that Rhee recently fired another principal from a special ed school that SHE also hired.

And then there is Phyllis Harris, the special ed czar, who was supposed to transform DCPS special education and bring all the private school placements back to DCPS. She has been fired after less than a year on the job. Rhee also hired Harris.

One of the cornerstones of being an effective leader is having sound judgment.

Posted by: AL | October 13, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

"One of the cornerstones of being an effective leader is having sound judgment."
Posted by: AL | October 13, 2008 8:33 AM

Hasn't Rhee shown effective judgment by quickly correcting her mistakes? And strong leadership? Certainly you can not expect all hires to work out! Don't we all know those folks who interview so well and turn out to be disasters? Companies like Google, Microsoft, GE who hire only from the best and most talented pools of people still have a 2-4% involuntary turnover rate.

Posted by: Hill Preschool parent | October 13, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

So what happened at Shepherd that was so egregeous that Rhee got rid of a principal 5 or 6 weeks into the school year? I can see letting principals, who are at will, being let go at the end of the school year. But this seems unsettling for the faculty, parents and most of all the students.

Posted by: Sasha | October 13, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't think we can underestimate the number of comments posted here by Rhee/Fenty's office.

One thing that they have been able to do effectively is PR. They have effectively reduced the argument to reform vs. status quo. If you disagree with them, then you are for the status quo.

Many of us who have been fighting for years to improve education in this city, see things very differently.

You cannot reform a school system from the top down. You need to engage the community--parents, students, teachers, etc. Rhee has been quoted as saying that public engagement is "way overrated".

Instead of engaging the public, Rhee/Fenty have used the media and other sources to sway public opinion to their side.

I believe posting on blogs is one of many strategies that Rhee/Fenty are using in their PR campaign. So, please read the comments with this in mind.

Posted by: Outspoken teacher who would be fired without Union protections | October 13, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Responses to some of the previous comments:

--"Rhee remains our last, best hope to fix the DC schools. She has great judgment...."

Great judgment? Rhee just hired BenZion a few months ago. What does that say about her judgment?

--"One of the cornerstones of being an effective leader is having sound judgment."

This is exactly right. Good judgment is a basic skill and with all of the firings, it seems like Rhee needs to work on screening candidates better.

--Rashidj's comment about looking to corporate America's way of hiring/firing people.

With all that is going on in corporate America, I don't think we should be looking to them for the solution.

--"I think it is healthy that we question the motives of people in power."

EricL you are exactly right. Isn't holding people in power accountable and questioning their actions a basic component of democracy?

As a DCPS teacher who works hard everyday, I am very concerned about the level of fear and intimidation spreading from Rhee's office. It is not healthy. To hold people accountable you don't need to hold an axe to their head.

It is important to show basic respect while holding everyone accountable.

Posted by: Outspoken teacher who would be fired without Union protections | October 13, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

The Shepherd Park Community should be counting their blessings that the administration acted quickly to remove this person from their environment. The next step should be serious review of the Principal hiring process because they should have never placed themselves or the community in this situation.

Along with many others, I pulled my child from the Hill Preschool because this person was an absolute trainwreck...at her best she was merely incompetent. If the DC School Admin did the slightest bit of independent due diligence, they would have run away from this individual.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 13, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I will address the issue of Dr Benzion's letter to the school parents. Dr Benzion was born and grew up in Israel so English is not her first language. Nevertheless, her writing is fine. In this case she had returned to the school to gather her personal things. She shot off the email quickly before the chancellor and company arrived to inform the teachers, PTA etc. of the situation.

Posted by: JD | October 13, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

"In this case she had returned to the school to gather her personal things. She shot off the email quickly before the chancellor and company arrived to inform the teachers, PTA etc. of the situation."
JD
___________________________________
To clarify (from checking the PTA's listserve) BenZion's e-mail came from her personal account -- not the DCPS one and time stamp was well after she left the building.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 13, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

What separates this, and many, principals in the District and Chancellor Rhee.

A Doctorate..a dedication to education that has driven them to achieve the highest educational attaiment available in their discipline.

Chancellor Rhee is like her Boss. Fire people, without cause, and throw them to the bloodthirsty wolves (District citizens)who are so stupid that they believe that pink slips produce better government. All the while, their schools continue to decline into an unstable mess of underperforming students.

Chancellor Rhee's record, thus far, is just as great as the Washington Nationals. Ohhh. They finished dead last.

Posted by: Concernedaboutdc | October 13, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Bill, I should have mentioned this when you called today, but can you put up a post about our petition to get the union to bring the contract proposal to a vote? It's here:

http://www.petitiononline.com/wtuvote/petition.html

Thanks!

Posted by: dcteacherchic.blogspot.com | October 13, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

First of all, in response to a couple of comments praising the fact that the principal had a PhD: I have a PhD and I can assure that you can have a PhD and still be a fool. There are lots of them. Many PhDs actually have trouble with things that require common sense.

Second, let's be honest about the DCPS. It's completely dysfunctional and needs a total overhaul. It's not bad to have someone who has high standards and isn't afraid to shake up the system. Anyone who is less forceful than Rhee is going to fail to transform the system.

Posted by: YHW | October 13, 2008 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Those following this story might be interested in the news story aired at 5:30 on Monday Oct 13 on Channel 7 local news.

http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/1008/561119.html

Posted by: Shepherd Parent of 2 red heads | October 14, 2008 12:12 AM | Report abuse

I am furuious!!! I am a parent and a DCPS teacher. My daughter goes to Shepherd!! I can't say much as an educator, but as a parent, write me an email and I will vent there!!!

I am ready to move from this area... DC is going downhill in a spiral fast!!

As a parent.. I can't say much because I am a teacher.. this is sickening!

Posted by: mrshaight@gmail.com | October 14, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

BTW.. I didn't get an email about this happening.... and I missed the news all weekend... so I had to hear it from others.. with my 7 year old in the car, upset this morning on her way to school!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 14, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

p.s... I didn't get the email from Rhee either... as a parent of a child at Shepherd school... I missed the news all weekend...so me and my daughter had to hear this on the way to Shepherd this morning from her grandmother and others who called me upset...

Posted by: mrshaight@gmail.com | October 14, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

To the parents who posted that they did not receive an e-mail from Rhee, one factual error in the story above is that the e-mail sent with notice of BenZion's firing was sent by Earl Yates, PTA President to the Shepherd PTA list serve. If you received a yellow flyer this morning, it contains information about how to sign up for the PTA list serve. Hope to see you at the PTA meeting on Wednesday, or at Rhee's Q & A session at the school on Thursday.

I am in daily contact with Dr. BenZion and she remains ready to return to Shepherd, to work collaboratively with Chancellor Rhee to "get the job" done for our children. Dr. BenZion looks forward to hearing from the Chancellor what the performance issues are, how they can be addressed, and how Dr. BenZion can continue to move the school forward.

Posted by: Shepherd Parent of 2 red heads | October 14, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I've been at Shepherd for 5 years. I love the school and I love the community. In that 5 years, however, we have been charged with a Principal (who was not the Selection Committee's first or second choice), who was there for 4 years and terribly ineffective. We went through a myriad of interim Principals who were servicable but temporary. When we were choosing the next Principal, we chose two other candidates (I know because I was on that Panel). We were given Dr. BenZion. The community inquired the Chancellor about the decision, and her response was curt and direct--she understood our concerns, but she (the Chancellor) knew what was best, and Dr. BenZion was best for us.

Now we're being told that for "unforseen circumstances" Dr. BenZion has been terminated. Barring any criminal activity, no excuse can be given that can justify dismissal in 7 weeks. Dr. BenZion was a new Principal, and new to DCPS. She was not given a mentor that I am aware of.

I am not particularly a supporter of Dr. BenZion, BUT, I question the judgement of the Chancellor having hired her in the first place, and not giving her the resources to succeed. By not given our Principal the tools to be effective, the Chancellor has set our teachers and students up for failure. We are one of a handful of schools East of the Park that performs at the top 10% of all elementary schools in the District despite YEARS of instability. We have our teachers and parents to thanks for that. But how long can we survive in such a climate? I guess our Chancellor takes it for granted that we don't need a strong leader because we've always managed--or maybe she doesn't care.

Posted by: proud shepherd parent | October 14, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I must say that as a parent of a DCPS student Ms. Rhee is doing the right thing. Those of you from the Teacher's Union need to stuff it. Warehousing children with incompetent staff who have tenure is worse than firing those who are not working out. Kids are resilient and will adjust to a change in the principal and even the classroom much better than the teachers and parents. I am not familiar with the situation at Shepherd but do know that many in that neighborhood try to move water to get their kids into other schools.

I am familiar with many parents not understanding what quality education means. It means competent instruction at grade appropriate level along with an understanding of the mental and physical development of kids. My son had a teacher in pre-K who showed Barney videos in English! This was a Spanish immersion program. I tried to recruit parents to go to the principal's office and so many told me that they saw nothing wrong with this and that I was being uppity. I went with one other parent and the principal told us that she couldn't do anything about it. It would step on the toes of the teacher's academic freedom. This same school is fighting tooth and nail to not become an arts magnet school. If you ask the teachers what the major problem with this change would be, it was uniformly stated that the teachers did not want to retrain. We got our son out of dodge and found a great DCPS where they have embraced the changes from the chancellor's office. This school has a diverse student body with 40% of the kids from out of boundaries and 90% or better on their DCAS tests. The kids appear happy and behaved instead of warehoused. My son learns!

Posted by: mommyworks | October 14, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

At the meeting with Rhee, be ready for a lot of stonewalling and vagueness. She's quite experienced with these kinds of meetings. She had similar meetings with upset parents when she fired the principal at her own children's school (Oyster) and a beloved asst. principal at Banneker. They didn't "fit" either.

I certainly hope Obama has the sense not to consider her for any job in his administration if he's elected. Unlike him, she is not a community organizer - more like a community destroyer.

Posted by: been there | October 14, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Mommyworks - you son's school sounds great. I wish you had mentioned its name so the Post reporter could check out this wonderful success story. Also it would be good to have the name of the inferior school you mentioned, to check that out as well.

Posted by: been there | October 14, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I wish people would name schools' names. It's so easy to be anonymous on this blog. The above-mentioned school, where the PreK teacher was showing Barney videos (maybe after nap time, during indoor recess or some reward for just a few minutes would be OK in my book), should tell us if that school was in fact Shepherd.

Posted by: Sasha | October 14, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm a DCPS teacher and a union member (WTU) and I actually don't take offense by what Mommyworks said. I know there are DCPS teachers and teachers throughout other jurisdictions, who have tenure and warehouse kids, to quote what she wrote. Rhee is targetting that with her forceful mandate that principals put ineffective teachers on the 90 plan. And the more we look at it, the more the union seems to protect these ineffective teachers. And parents continue to vote with their feet. The upper middle class ones, who haven't deserted DCPS generations ago, send their kids to DC's numerous excellent private schools and some can barely afford them. The upwardly mobile and education-oriented lower middle class parents and others are filling the charter schools. DCPS is hemorraging students and the union doesn't seem to get it: even more cuts are coming next school year, and those will just be for decline enrollments at the local school level, let alone at the schools to be restructured for not meeting AYP for 5 years straight.

Posted by: Chloe | October 14, 2008 5:33 PM | Report abuse

There has been more than one disparagement of BenZion's English usage. Please go to

http://www.shepherd-elementary.org/u1/news2

to read her lengthy greeting, statement of expectations,and promise of resources. Not many here have posted so cogently or otherwise given confidence as educators.

Incredulous

Posted by: Incredulous | October 14, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Chloe - I'm all for getting ineffective teachers out. Who wouldn't be.

I wonder where the effective teachers are coming from - especially if they can be fired at any time without cause and without warning.

And how is "ineffective" defined, or "effective" for that matter? If a teacher assigned to a school filled with kids who can barely read, is that teacher considered ineffective if the kids' reading scores don't rise sufficiently in a year's time? How is that measured? How well do teachers perform if they know they're under threat of being fired even if they're trying their best in a difficult situation?

Posted by: been there | October 14, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Sure, the Chancellor took bold action... to undo her own mistake. So she gets no points from me. How many of us in the private sector would expect kudos from our superiors if we handpicked a candidate for a sensitive position, that person flopped, and we had to fire them in mid-stream?

"Great job for figuring out that your handpicked choice was not up to the task." Huh?

I've generally been impressed with Rhee's results, but I challenge her to build a DCPS that will run well without her micromanagement. Real jurisdictions can educate their kids without a lot of drama or a cult of personality.

Posted by: Fifteenth and Holly | October 15, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

5 principals in 12 months! Rhee has been top dog for over 12 months so she really has shown poor judgment many times at this one school!

The poor students. This sounds like adults putting adult issues before the children.
Too much stress, drama and instability....

Posted by: AL | October 15, 2008 6:21 PM | Report abuse

What was the principle's budget to run her business ? How about the five other principles that are no longer left in that building. A parent of a child that's in the school said that makes principle number five in twelve months. Rhee is headed for a class action law suit that's going to cost the school system and tax payers more than she's worth !Meet all operational needs in your buildings Rhee and take care of the budget your principles need operationally or you will be the only one left to run your buildings. Who are the investors outside of tax payers ? NCLB and 10% ! American Teacher's March in Washington ! How's the law suit going on GS 94-142 ? Rhee is not meeting budget operational needs in her buildings with principles,teacher's and students going without and it sounds like Dr. BenZion let her know it ! Not impressed with Rhee's three legged stool broken leadership business model.

Posted by: Peace | October 16, 2008 3:04 AM | Report abuse

Oh and Rhee,is there another adjective other than "pissed" to describe your educational reform confusion, you can think of while in discussion with the news ? For $300,000 paid in education, think you need to find one.This story is so unreal it reminds me of the twilight zone and hope Lou Dobbs picks it up and the re-authorization board on NCLB.

Posted by: Peace | October 16, 2008 3:30 AM | Report abuse

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