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District Teachers Lawyer Up

While the Washington Teachers' Union has gone to court to block the District from laying off 266 teachers and staff, other D.C. educators are taking action on their own.

Among the first of what is likely to be a wave of wrongful termination suits landed in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday. It tells the story of Michael T. Green, a second-year English teacher at Dunbar High School who is asking for $2.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Green's first day as a DCPS employee was characteristically chaotic, according to the suit's statement of facts. Ten minutes after completing his paperwork on Aug. 28, 2008, he was in front of an English class at Dunbar. He worked hard outside the classroom as well, taking students to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Senate and House galleries. He also co-founded a "male summit group" designed to help Dunbar's young men talk to faculty about the importance of academic achievement, self-respect and personal growth
By the school year's end, Green seemed to be on his way. Even though Dunbar's staff was being overhauled last spring by its new outside operator, Friends of Bedford, Inc., he was invited to stay. A May 14 letter from DCPS' human resources office, included as an exhibit in the suit, said: "Your flexibility and commitment to all the students of the District of Columbia Public Schools is greatly appreciated. We are confident that you will continue to make a valuable contribution to the academic gains of the school and your students."

In June, Dunbar assistant principal Sharon Farmer's evaluation said that he'd "met expectations" and she "reassured him that he would be teaching at Dunbar during the 2009-2010 school year," according to the suit. Over the summer, he attended seminars at American University to improve his classroom skills.

It's not clear what exactly happened when the new academic year began on Aug. 24. The suit says that Green spent the first week co-teaching an Algebra II class with Friends of Bedford CEO George E. Leonard. After that, he was named In-School Suspension coordinator, tutoring students ejected from class for misbehavior. On Oct. 1 he helped "diffuse [sic] a situation that could have become violent and destructive" when students staged a walkout to protest the impending layoffs, the suit said.

The next day, he was fired.

After Green was informed of his dismissal by Leonard and principal Stephen Jackson, he had to "negotiate with a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer to retrieve his personal possessions before he was removed from the school. Green "felt as if he was in confinement and was being detained for an act of wrongdoing."

And while Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said in a statement Wednesday that stories of teachers being escorted from school building were "rumor," Green's suit asserts that is exactly what happened.

"Two officers were sent to escort Green from the building after his meeting. The officers were equipped with weapons and Green was in complete compliance," the suit said.

Green is alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract, intentional affliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment/arrest. He did not return a phone message left at his home number Wednesday evening.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  October 7, 2009; 8:05 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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It's about time teachers and students begin to push back against Rhee and Fenty. They both are incompetent dictators who don't know the first thing about leadership. I hope all are victorious in their lawsuits and that they bankrupt the District of Columbia's coffers!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | October 7, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to you Mr. Green! Continue in the struggle.

Posted by: shank2sb | October 7, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

it's unfortunate the actually terrible DC teachers will try and glom on to this effort...two beyond terrible young (white) teachers were finally dismissed from a school I know too well, they turned on principal after principal, and when they begged Rhee to lose their last it was their epitaph -- good riddance (to some)

Posted by: modern5 | October 7, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

modern5 - if these teachers were "beyond terrible," why weren't they dismissed last year via the 90 plan instead of bringing them back and assigning them classes, which now have to be shuffled around. If what you say is so, this has been very badly managed by the principal.

Posted by: efavorite | October 7, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Rhee's plan was poorly implemented and was a disaster from the start. Now DC taxpayers are going to have to pay lawyer fees for all of these law suits and lots more money if the RIFed teachers win.

She continues to be untruthful with her claims that no teachers were escorted out by the police. Now DCPS is going to be bogged down with addressing lawsuits and the fallout from the RIFs.

The lies and half-truths have got to stop. This is not the way to run a school system!

Posted by: letsbereal2 | October 7, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Was he an English teacher and then assigned to co-teach Algebra? They set him up right there. They got him out of his area of certification. Did he start the year in his area of certification? Then they made him In school suspension coordinator? That was a clear set up by Farmer and Leonard. They used him to help with discipline but he wasn't in the budget at that position therefore he was expendible. Classic. Sue them!!!!!

Posted by: candycane1 | October 7, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

efavorite -- one of my favorites! because the darn school has had four different principals in 4 years, so each one has a learning curve, and each new principal had to learn the hard way...can't read a good educator in a week. By the time the principal would catch on (usually by Nov/Ded), and their reviews reflected the truth, the well punctual, well dressed and pleasant adults who preteneded to be teachers would work the union against the principal. This time it didn't work out for them, and the school is better off.

Posted by: modern5 | October 7, 2009 11:58 PM | Report abuse

modern5 - flattery will get you nowhere.

Posted by: efavorite | October 8, 2009 6:55 AM | Report abuse

Candycane1 - I can assure you he wasn't set up by Mrs. Farmer. I know her personally and she too is one who's lawyering up (so to speak), as she was assured she'd retain her job and was let go as well w/only one year left to retire... She did her part in giving him the "met expectations" evaluation, she had no part in him (or anyone) losing their jobs.

Posted by: missboo | October 8, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Teachers who work for DCPS are a complete joke. How dare you even THINK that what you deliver is quality instruction when only 8% of DCPS 8th graders are proficient or above in math! Or when DC black kids in 4th grade are 6 YEARS behind their white peers?

Frankly, most of you who claim to be "teachers" in the DCPS do no more than further a true crime: the continuance of the poverty cycle through poor education.

To the 229: good riddance!!

Posted by: RL67 | October 8, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

RL67 - First, in the last year 29.85% were proficient in 8th grade math up from 29.26% and 6.97% advanced up from 4.74% with total at or above grade level was 36.82% up from 34.00%. Is that something to celebrate, no but it is more than 4 times higher than you claim. You can check the numbers at I know at our school which did better than that, we had a large influx of kids from a nearby charter that made AYP for the first time. We know if the kids they dumped on us had been kept they would not have made AYP. At our school one third of our kids below basic were from that charter and one half were charter dumps, or private school expulsions. Of course we got the kids after the charter got the money for them, and we got no money for them.

Also, there is no evidence that the teachers let go were let go because they were incompetent. Each Principal was given a number of teachers to fire and told to let go the ones that would have the least impact. I know at our school one of the teachers had large classroom management problems, but the others were great teachers but they either had a very small class that could be absorbed by other teachers or was seen as being "less mission critical". I also know that our principal was overruled in her first choices of what we could do without. And she has made AYP always, and actually has experience managing a school unlike the Chancellor.

Posted by: qazqaz | October 8, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

The figure of 8% of 8th graders proficient in math are results of the NAEP test, a nationally administered test and not DCCAS scores.

Posted by: chelita | October 8, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

"29.85% were proficient in 8th grade math... Is that something to celebrate, no but it is more than 4 times higher than you claim."

So DCPS doesn't totally suck, is that what you're saying? It just partially sucks?

Posted by: goldgirl96 | October 8, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

goldgirl96 -

I was clear that the numbers were not great but saying they are 4 times worse than they are is disingenuous. I see nothing to indicate that Ms. Rhee is doing anything to improve schools. Fire, fire, fire is a strategy to replace personnel, not to insure good personnel.

Training and evaluation are the way to build a good teacher core. She has not developed a credible program for either.

Posted by: qazqaz | October 8, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

efavorite: was I flattering you? or are you just thin skinned and one-sided? temper, temper.

Posted by: modern5 | October 8, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

modern5 - it seems like an odd choice - either you flattering me or me being thin skinned.

I thought you were using flattery as a device to appear open to discussion.

Posted by: efavorite | October 9, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

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