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Rhee Says Thanks. And Thanks Again

Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has taken pains to build more support within the District's teaching ranks in recent months, convening small group chats to hear instructors' concerns and praising them for their hard work. DCPS has even launched a series of "teacher snapshots" on its website to provide a "glimpse of the talent and dedication of teachers in the DC Public Schools."

To fully appreciate Rhee's change of tune, it's instructive to compare her end-of-the-school-year letter, sent to educators last week, with her 2008 version. Last year's edition is nice enough, but the words "thank" or "thanks" are nowhere to be found. The pronoun "I" appears eight times:

"To all DCPS Teachers,

As we approach the end of the school year the central office staff is busy planning for summer school and implementing the many changes we will be bringing to schools next year. As I work on all of these changes from 825 North Capitol Street, I also remember from my teaching in Baltimore that the end of the school year looks and feels very different for teachers.

By June, as a teacher I felt all of the hours of work that I had put into creating and implementing engaging lessons for my energetic students. When my friends who worked in offices could choose desk work on a bad day, the life of a teacher came with the pressure of being 'on' every day at 8:00 am. At the end of the school year I was glad to see my kitchen tabletop again, underneath the lesson plans and homework that had occupied many evenings and weekend days during the year.

Only other teachers understood that 'summer vacation' was no extra 'perk.' It was a professional opportunity we needed in order to reflect on the year and 'recharge' so that we could bring our best selves to a new group of students the next year. Only other teachers understood the bittersweet experience at the end of a school year, when we could simultaneously feel pride for our students' accomplishments; regret for our human mistakes and determination to do a better job next year; sadness to let go of a class and moment that will not happen again; and at the same time an absolute readiness to relinquish some of our more challenging students to their next teachers the following year! I believe it is this combination that helps good teachers to become better as they reflect, assess and improve with each group of students who pass through their classrooms with each year.

As rewarding as teaching is, there are few professions that require more energy, creativity, passion or patience. Teachers need these qualities in order to hold the weight and pressure of a profession that builds the future choices of so many children. As I work in the central office to make District-wide improvements, I am grateful for your work on behalf of our students this year. Whether you are continuing your classroom presence through summer school, or continuing your professional development and reflection outside of the classroom, I wish you a happy and renewing summer!"

Here's the 2009 letter. The pronoun "I" appears once. "Thank": 20 times.

"Dear DCPS Educators,

As we conclude the 2008-2009 school year, I wanted to take a moment to say two very simple words to each and every one of you: Thank you [italics are in text].

Thank you for your passion, dedication, and creativity.

Thank you for believing in the potential of every last one of your students, regardless of background or circumstance.

Thank you for being undaunted by the challenges that you and your students face.

Thank you for spending precious time away from your family and friends to plan, grade, make phone calls, and take your students on field trips.

Thank you for rolling with BAS, CAS, DIBELS, BURST, Everyday Math, Read 180, data walls, Capital Gains, new read-aloud rules, PeopleSoft, and the teachers' contract negotiations.

Thank you for giving honest feedback at my Question and Answer sessions and at the focus groups we held on the new teacher evaluation process.

Thank you for recognizing the new or unexpected behaviors from your students that were really cries for help.

Thank you for never using labels as predictors of aptitude or ability.

Thank you for doing all the things that aren't in your job description, but that our children need.

Thank you for helping your students recognize and respect their differences, but also embrace their commonalities.

Thank you for supporting a colleague who was having difficulty meeting her students' needs.

Thank you for setting the bar higher than even our students thought possible.

Thank you for being a teacher, mentor, coach, therapist, cheerleader,sounding board. disciplinarian and advocate -- all in the span of one day.

Thank you for coming to school before the sun rises and leaving well after it sets.

Thank you for writing songs about symmetry and poetry about the Periodic Table, just to help your students succeed.

Thank you for showing that you love your students by demanding the very best of them.

Thank you for helping the district move one step closer to becoming the highest performing urban school system in the nation.

Thank you for doing the hardest, but most important, work in America.

Thank you for being a DCPS educator."

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  June 15, 2009; 4:25 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Chancellor Rhee’s Addendum:

Thank you, teachers, for agreeing to being fired at will when I get my brilliant green/red plan approved (in my dreams).

Thank you, teachers, for being so gullible as to fall for my repeated “thank you’s” that if I were saying them in person I’d have the strangest look on my face that even the dullest among you (and you are legion) would suspect something were up, or at the very least wonder if I were choking on something.

Thank you, smart young college grads, whom I’d like to recruit, for not ever finding sites like this, and if you do, for completely disregarding them, in favor of my very convincing propaganda.

Thank you, teachers, for not storming headquarters with pitch forks and torches, after the way I’ve disparaged you on my national DC Teacher Denigration Tour, including appearing as a witch on the cover of Time, for which I have no regrets, as I stated to reporter Jay Mathews in a recent interview, because I refuse to speak to Bill Turque any more because he doesn’t flatter me sufficiently.

Damn you, Bill Turque, for your doggedness and creativity in getting juicier information from my website and from attending public meetings than you ever did directly from me, back in the day, when I was still granting interviews.

Posted by: efavorite | June 15, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Too little too late. It is so obvious that this is the new strategy for 2010. the mayor has decided to "appear" as responsive and she must "appear" to be supportive of teachers. This is for the upcoming campaign. This is for the next election when the real side of them both must be put aside. However, you cannot be so arrogant and think that a simple thank you or 20 thank you's will change the image. The witch cover on Time will forever be remembered and it's too late to try to sugar coat what that picture meant. When it's dressed like a witch and interpreted as a witch, it usually is.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 15, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

When the end comes for Michelle Rhee her Time cover picture will stand as a small tragi-comic monument to the dangers of bureaucratic hubris. That end is coming up quickly now and Ms. Rhee can feel it.

In effect, the Chancellor said good-bye to the DCPS through Mr. Turque's recent feature story. Listen to her, "If I go down at the end of the day because I didn't play the political game right, that's okay with me," she said. "At least when you're making decisions that you believe are in the best interests of kids, you may not win in the end, but at least you can operate with a good conscience."

The destruction of America's public schools has always been a project of a force President Eisenhower identified as the "military-industrial complex" in his farewell address. There are choppy waters ahead. George Vradenburg, a former AOL Time Warner executive and chairman of the D.C. Education Compact, venture capitalist Jonathan A. Silver, who sits on the executive committee of the influential Federal City Council, and Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata, the former deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, will take it from here. Farewell Ms. Rhee.

Posted by: natturner | June 15, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

The way some of these fools above write you'd think that our students in DCPS were getting a world-class education instead of being taught by the worst-performing teachers in the nation.

Posted by: bbcrock | June 15, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

And I suppose AIDS and cancer doctors should be disparaged for taking care of patients who have the highest mortality rates.

Posted by: efavorite | June 15, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

bbcrock: "blah, blah, blah"
Yeah, that's a crock.
Perhaps you can tell the readers the teaching techniques that Mrs. Rhee is having the teachers use to bring those 4th graders who read at a first grade level.

Anyway, Rhee's broom picture is a reflection of a cartoon that appeared in the Prince George's Journal in 1987. It showed the children leaving the school bus to enter Glassmanor ES and the teachers leaving the school to board the bus.
That principal lasted only one more year there.

Posted by: edlharris | June 16, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse


I don't see you teaching. It's always easy to criticize the driver when you're sitting in the backseat.

Posted by: thebandit | June 16, 2009 6:28 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Rhee finally realizes that she may soon lose her job. I hope so, it's about time! Her behavior with our teachers,parents and students has been less than stellar.Up until a month or two ago it was all about her,someone told her to start to play nice. I don't believe she is sincere at all. She cares about herself and her press. DC deserves better, our children deserve better.

Posted by: DCWatcher3 | June 16, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse


Please elaborate on this:

"The destruction of America's public schools has always been a project of a force President Eisenhower identified as the "military-industrial complex" in his farewell address."

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 16, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Shades of Sun Moon and the Moonies.

Didn't we already have a power crazed Korean brainwashing our children?

Now why do we have a Cuban national in the Baltimore School System and a latter day Moonie running the D.C. schools?

My God, Madame Rhee was barely able to teach, and now she is the Supreme Being? Meanwhile, in Charm City, Senor Alonso spends his days barricaded in his office blasting Cuban music into his Ipod's headphones.

The Answer? Teach for America is a great way to bust unions. The young teachers are so dedicated that they abandon the classrooms to become doctors, lawuyers, or CEOs of urban school systems. Teach for America is not a career, it is a stepping stone to jobs with a future.

After all, if Rhee "loves" teaching, she would be doing it now.

Posted by: teachbyamericans | June 16, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

teachbyamericans - we are a nation of immigrants.

Any useful message you tried to convey is overshadowed by your blatantly racist remarks.

Posted by: efavorite | June 16, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Rhee's Korean heritage nor the gentleman in Baltimore's Cuban background should not be a focus and their borderline racist mention by the above poster distracts from a good point made in the last paragraph.

Posted by: chelita | June 16, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation
January 17, 1961

"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. "

Posted by: natturner | June 16, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse


How does that destroy public schools? I would think a military industrial complex would want to educate children so thay can make better weapons. Unless you are referring to the diversion of tax dollars from education to military spending, I dont know what you are getting at. Sounds like a reach to me

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 16, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Its pretty obvous that all these thanks are intended for the minority of DCPS teachers who actually performed these tasks. The majorty of DCPS teachers need not read

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 16, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I hear the Chancellor is very good about reading and responding to her email.

To determine exactly which teachers she meant to thank, perhaps she could be emailed and and then her response could be published here.

Posted by: efavorite | June 16, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

My kids are grown, and so I don't really have a dog in that fight any more. But I know that D.C. public school teachers are a lot better than they get credit for.

Posted by: tm7333 | June 16, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse


so what are they bad or average instead of very bad? dc and other poor areas need the BEST teachers to overcome the many challenges they face. right now, they dont have it.

maybe i go overboard from time to time, but nobody can convince me that good/great teachers accept lower/equivalent pay, worse commutes, and more challenging/dangerous circumstances to come teach in dc and therefore their teaching corps cannot be improved.

poor urban schools do not get their choice of talent. there might be a few teachers who like the challenge and seek it out, but not enough of them. higher pay is the only way to attract more applicants and better teachers. that shouldnt come without pay for performance.

your kids might have turned out ok, but who knows how much better they could have been?

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 16, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Rhee only taught 2 years. That would mean she only ever had one summer vacation as a teacher. Well, that one summer provided a lot of insight, I suppose. Or, maybe the image consultants hired some other former teacher to write this.

Posted by: emrj | June 16, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

the more i read these comments the more convinced i am that lots of dc teachers didn't realize they could have already had a significant raise plus a retro raise and their tenure

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 16, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Classic Rhee: 20 thank you's went out yesterday. My sources told me that the termination letters to teachers started going out today. Of course they went out to the targets.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 16, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Race should not be a matter in this situation at all and I agree with you on that, Chelita. However, in the case of Rhee, she used the race card and commented time and time again that she was sure people were wondering why this Korean woman was leading the school system. She brought race into it, not the other way around. I am sure Candycane 1 is right: the termination letters were sure to have rolled yesterday, after a point of due process for the teachers. They may as welll join the other hundreds of lawsuits against Rhee because there are plenty of others. Emrj is correct, too: one summer vacation sandwiched between two whole years of teaching experience -- mind you where there was another teacher in the room -- is such a long time for her to become "wise." Eye roll ...
Efavorite, I agree with you on the letter. All of those thank yous were so insincere and disingenuous, especially since she was thanking teachers for doing things she has accused them of not doing in the national arena, such as being intelligent and capable. If she was a white or black woman, no one would have a problem with accusing her of the blatant racism and elitism that so obviously courses through her veins. However, with her initiating her tenure with the race card, everyone stands back and just lets her wreak havoc on DC's children.
Teachbyamericans, you're so right. If teaching and concentrating on teacher efficacy was truly her passion, she would concentrate on hiring and firing teachers which she seems to get off on. At least she has a track record with that in terms of TNTP.
My question is how many times does she get redeemed if Dr. Janey could be fired at the witching hour of Fenty's hostile takeover of DCPS?

Posted by: southyrndiva | June 16, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Candycane, or someone else in the know -- what teachers can she be terminating? probationary teachers not in long enough to have tenure? Those would be the young smart ones who are going to turn the place around - hired on her watch (for the most part).

I suppose there are some older new teachers too. It will be interesting to know the ages of the ones fired -- and the ages of the ones hired in their places.

Posted by: efavorite | June 16, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

My sources tell me that some are new hires and that some are the "you better have somebody on the 90 day plan" targeted teachers. Some are veterans. We know that some teachers are ineffective and some probably are being terminated for the right reasons if and fact the process was used correctly, but there are the others, veterans with maybe one to three years before retirement.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 16, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Rhee would not know about any of the letters because she doesn't write her letters. She has a writer. Today teachers, next are principals

Posted by: TeacherDC | June 16, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Principals already received their letters.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 17, 2009 4:16 AM | Report abuse

I don't care who she thanks or fires! The point is you people in D.C. need results. Is firing the answer? I don't know. I can only hope that D.C. does what they need to do to educate their children and prepare them to become productive citizens. I do not want them to one day make it to my neighborhood and commit crimes. So to Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty, improve the school system and KEEP D.C. residents in D.C. We would GREATLY appreciate that!

Posted by: shortlady2 | June 18, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

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