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Fired DC principals go to court again

District teachers are not the only ex-school employees turning to the courts for redress. Last week a group of principals and assistant principals dismissed by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee in 2008 refiled an $84 million lawsuit alleging, among other things, age and race discrimination, defamation and civil conspiracy.

The plaintiffs include former Takoma Educational Center principal Mary Q. Grant; former Dunbar High School principal Harriet Kargbo; former Woodrow Wilson High principal Jacqueline Williams, and Marta Guzman, who headed Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, where Rhee is both chancellor and parent of two.

They are among about two dozen principals dumped that year by Rhee, including 13 who headed schools deemed to be failing under the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

The suit, originally filed last June but dismissed because of a technical error, names Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty as defendants. The ex-principals claim they were dumped without justification because they were over 40 and African-American or Hispanic, then publicly maligned by DCPS so that they couldn't find new jobs.

The school system engaged in "public distortions which cause the Plaintiffs to be perceived as pariahs, trouble makers, and lazy ineffective administrators."

Rhee said this week that the allegations are "absolutely untrue."

The suit asks for $50 million in compensatory damages, $34 million in "emotional distress damages," reinstatement to their old posts and promotions to jobs they would have attained but for the wrongful firings.

At least one of the affidavits is riddled with grammatical errors.

Describing the meeting in which Rhee fired her, Grant wrote: "Rhee stated to me that her concern with me was political it had nothing to do with academics and how I successful ran the school."

Also: "No one would tell me the reason why and that it was the CEO power let anyone go when she felt the need."

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  October 27, 2009; 2:46 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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What you callriddled with grammatical errors, I'd call punctuation errors and two spell-check defying oversight ("successful" instead of the intended "successfully" and the missing word "to")

I certainly wish the writer had consulted a copy editor before submitting her affidavit and I just as fervently wish that you hadn't used this opportunity to humiliate her publicly once again.

Maybe you could just delete that last part.

Posted by: efavorite | October 27, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

efavorite, I was thinking the same thing... was that even necessary? Horrible humor that detracts from the meaning of article, probably purposely done.

Posted by: missboo | October 27, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post doesn't cover the news, they cover up the news. This is Bill Turque's latest assignment to write on the DC Wire so it doesn't have to get buried in the Post's metro section. Little wonder why The Post subscriptions are down so significantly.

Posted by: teacherspet | October 27, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

The comments about grammar are aside from the point of the matter. I agree with Efavorite and Missboo. Why embarrass a person yet again?

Posted by: southyrndiva | October 27, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

If you're going to file a legal brief, it would behoove you to get simple spelling and punctuation correct. How can you expect to be taken seriously if you can't take the time to get the basics correct?

Posted by: IMGoph | October 27, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

The comments regarding grammatical errors and punctuation errors are relevant to a school principal who feels that she was wrongfully dismissed due to incompetency. Turque isn't the source of the embarrassment -- Grant is. If you don't want your abilities to be dissected, don't file lawsuits and affidavits. The statement is a reflection of her incompetency.

Posted by: bravesguy95 | October 27, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree, IMGoff - it was wrong not to have that proofed.

How would you like your last poorly proofed document quoted in the newspaper?

Posted by: efavorite | October 27, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, I get the irony here - it's not acceptable.

However, Bill noted "at least one" was riddled with grammatical errors - what does that mean? Did you read them all and only find one, or are there more that you didn't quote? Exactly how many did you read with/without errors? It's almost as if you're alluding that most of them have errors, surely to embarass them. I dont even know why I waste my time trying to decipher anything in the post.

Posted by: missboo | October 27, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Didn't like that comment Turque. I do however wish them luck. They were not re-appointed without the benefit of evaluations and/or cause. Due process was denied and I didn't hear the council ever say one thing about it and they were silent about the 95 that were marched out of central with police escort. Lots of lawsuits behind this chancellor. She will be remebered for that as well.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 27, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Looking forward w/interest to hearing how this and other related lawsuits play out in court...

Posted by: ntlekt | October 27, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

The principal's grammatical errors are not relevant here. What is relevant is the fact that this is an American citizen with civil rights. She also has the expectation that she will be treated with dignity, ethics and compassion. In the United States, principals and teachers are not fired in the middle of the year and then publicly shamed. That's not our way. Frankly I find it troubling that so many posters seem to condone Rhee's contemptuous treatment of district employees. If these people are incompetent, it's up to Rhee to know the legal and fair way to dismiss them.

A word to the plaintiffs: A good lawyer would have helped you edit the affidavit. Make certain you have the best legal representation possible. Good luck! California is rooting for you!

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 27, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Anybody keeping score on these employment suits -- who wins, how much they're costing us?

A federal judge threw out the DPR (OES) suit yesterday. I thought some of the OAG lawyers won on wrongful termination. And it seems as if fear of losing in court lead Rhee to reinstate some of the teachers terminated based on 90 day plans.

Posted by: smithhemb | October 27, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Her grammar when submitting legal documents is absolutely relevent to her job as she is expected to act as a professional. The higher up you are in the hiearchy the more professional you are expected to act. Any legal document should be proofread before submission. Students who are writing papers need to proofread their work, so their educators should be held to the same standard. As citizens' we are all her employer in many ways so this should be important to us too, as these kids need to have a good education. Something that is more important than a principal's job security.

Sure there are proceedures for firing employees but, if she can't even find the time to proofread her work. How on earth can she do her job? There is an argument for not embarrassing her in front of the public by printing her grammar in the paper but, this doesn't means she should keep her job. If she can't even hold herself to a professional standard, how can she lead teachers and high school students?

Posted by: persimonix1 | October 28, 2009 1:38 AM | Report abuse

DC schools have been failing for years. Neither the teachers nor the principals want to accept any responsibility for the failures. Although we left the system this year, my daughter went from pre-k through 2d grade, and I was frankly surprised at the poor command of English grammar by her native English-speaking teachers. And I do find it pertinent that an educator claiming competence could not only submit, but resubmit, a statement that is so grammatically flawed. DC schools are full of teachers and principals who believe they are entitled to their jobs, despite the fact that thousands of children have suffered and are suffering from substandard education. Michelle Rhee is trying to do something about it. What are you doing?

Posted by: aliigoe | October 28, 2009 1:39 AM | Report abuse

Does it matter to anyone here that parents and students at Wilson HS are thrilled that Williams is gone and Pete Cahall has taken over?

Probably not. In the comments on this Board, the so-called "rights" of employees always trump the right of children to get an education.

And to all of you who would attack Rhee at the drop of a hat, but liberally excuse principals who cannot form a proper sentence, shame on all of you and I can only assume one thing: you don't have kids in DC public schools.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 6:16 AM | Report abuse

To all the apologists for incompetency here: It is not just "proofreading." It is syntax. Such a weak grasp of written language would not constitute incompetence for a bricklayer or a plumber. It is, in fact, disqualifying for a leader of an educational institution -- or would be, in any system other than DCPS.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 7:00 AM | Report abuse

These court filings are public documents. The fired principals humiliated themselves in public, not the reporter who simply covered the salient facts.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 7:02 AM | Report abuse

It does matter that the principals were fired. While the system has the right to non-renew. It does not have the right to do so without following procedure. Nor does it have the right to do so and demean the individuals non renewed. Rhee did not have the right to give interviews to many, many large media outlets around the nation disparaging these principals as poor workers. Nor does Ms. Rhee have the right to bad mouth these individuals so badly that they, two years later, still cannot find work. Nor does the system have the right to continue to deny them unemployment benefits.
Yes, our children have to be educated, yes, it is the child's right to be educated. But the employees have rights too. Too many times, individuals such as Trace1 will allow illegal actions under the guise of "change". Wait until it happens to you. One would have thought we learned something in WWII.
The principals terminated were over the age of 40, were part of a protected minority group, and were strong individuals who would not have sacrificed their principle's in order to keep their position. That's why they were terminated, they weren't pretty enough, and they weren't young enough and they had not participated in the new mafia, New Leaders for New Schools.
These principals will more than likely win their suit. The others will win as well, and when the system is bankrupted by the actions of a dictator mayor and an incompetent head of schools, then maybe people will stand up and listen.

Posted by: duonoir | October 28, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

To the posters, who, once again seem to know nothing about "due process" but throw around the term randomly anyway:

DCPS principals have one-year contracts. They sign on the bottom line, as does DCPS. Don't know what kind of "due process" you are talking about, because they can be fired for any reason that is not discriminatory, which is why they are bringing a Title VII case, along with other assorted civil causes of action, such as defamation. (Don't forget, folks, truth is a complete defense to a defamation claim.)

And if they are trying to make the case that they were fired based on race or age -- those affidavits surely will undermine their cause.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

If Rhee didn't follow proper procedure in terminating the principals, they would have brought a breach of contract claim. Apparently, they did not.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 7:12 AM | Report abuse

I understand the raw feelings by teachers and principals, but I think it is more than high time that those who educate children live up to the performance and workplace expectations that apply to the rest of us.

Most people in the US can be fired at any time at their employer's discretion. That is not a violation of their civil rights- it is the way the real working world works.

Second, let's keep in mind that the DC school system is utterly failing. There needs to be accountability for that, and it ultimately rests with the teachers and principals. Everyone knows there are some terrible teachers and principals in the system, people just biding their time and hiding behind union regulations and seniority to protect their jobs. You can't change a failing system by keeping the same failing teachers in place.

Posted by: qmckew | October 28, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

People Who Live In Glass Houses

As a regular reader of the online Post, I've frequently seen "spelling and grammatical errors" in articles that are far more egregious than those cited here.

Posted by: cm06acf | October 28, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Assumption One:
"If Rhee didn't follow proper procedure in terminating the principals, they would have brought a breach of contract claim. Apparently, they did not."

Trace1, once again you have 'assumed.' Here are the facts:

"The term "at-will" employee has been thrown around a lot. But what does it really mean? An "at-will" employee is someone an employer can terminate at-will for any reason, or for no reason at all. Under a formal employment contract, however, individuals are not employed "at-will," and the terms of the contract govern the employment relationship."

Translation: under a formal employment contract, individuals are not employed at will.

Assumption Two:
"If Rhee didn't follow proper procedure in terminating the principals, they would have brought a breach of contract claim. Apparently, they did not."

"There's also an enormous body of federal and state law limiting an employer's ability to terminate employees for reasons having to do with race, ethnicity, religion, marital or disability status and, in some cases, sexual orientation."

Translation: It's not always what you think you know, it's what you can prove. If no white principals were terminated, even one who had a 30 on his evaluation, it's what it looks like.

As much as you'd like it to be, it isn't about grammar, although the report should have been proofread, which is an undeniable truth. Your point three:

"And to all of you who would attack Rhee at the drop of a hat, but liberally excuse principals who cannot form a proper sentence, shame on all of you and I can only assume one thing: you don't have kids in DC public schools."

Here's the legal bottom line:

"The bottom line is that an employer cannot fire employees in any way that constitutes discrimination, a violation of state public policy, or contradicts any actual or implied promise regarding the criteria or procedures for employee termination. Just be sure you know the law, apply your own policies consistently, and document everything when terminating an employee."

So I leave you with a few questions:
Did Rhee know and follow the law?
Were policies applied to everyone consistently?
Was everything documented?

Source of information copied above:

Feel free to consult it, read and learn! Knowledge really is power!!

Posted by: southyrndiva | October 28, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

It is clear that the principals who were fired were not perfect. The ones who currently hold positions in DCPS aren't either. Now,let's discuss what the case is really about - the legal transgressions of the Chancellor. No one is saying that some principals should not have been fired, but it is well settled in the law that there are steps that must be taken before a person can be fired. If the Chancellor failed to follow those steps, she and the Accountability Mayor need to accept the consequences of their behavior.
Moreover, the Chancellor is not perfect and when Ms. Rhee has made mistakes, she was not summarily dismissed. Ms.Rhee was given an opportunity to learn from her mistakes as one of the WaPo's articles revealed. Why aren't others afforded the same opportunity? Her answer to developing her employees professionaly is to fire them and hire new employees. That is not exactly the "best practice" approach Ms. Rhee demands that her employees follow. She also needs to accept responsibility for a broken administrative system that did not allow principals to effectively provide services for their students. If Ms. Rhee was truly a "reflective practioner" , she would acknowledge this, apologize to those she has wronged and take the corrective action that the situation requires.

Posted by: uniondiva | October 28, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Southyrndiva: Your endless blathering has not contradicted a single word I said. If the principals were fired in violation of the terms of their contract, they would have a breach of contract claim. Turque's article has not mentioned this particular cause of action.

If they were fired based on race, sex, age, or any other protected category, they would have Title VII or DC Human Rights Act claims, which is what they have apparently filed. Evidence of incompetence and poor performance will seriously undercut these particular claims.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse


Really? Settled in the law that certain "steps that must be taken" before these principals could be fired? Please educate us. Other than laws banning discrimination, on which we agree, please point to another law.

In addition to Title VII-type laws, where written employment contracts are involved, employers need to comply with that contract's terms regarding employment separation. I assume that was done here, otherwise a breach of contract claim would have been featured prominently in any lawsuit.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Trace1, please don't sink to the level most Rhee supporters do by making personal attacks. If I were to take on your acidic manner of attacking others I would remind you that you're the one who blathers on and on and always in Rhee's defense. I might remind you that the Post says comments that include personal attacks will be removed. What you're doing is childish. Let it go.

Posted by: southyrndiva | October 28, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Trace 1 you seemed to be cut from the same arrogant cloth as the Accountability Mayor and the Chancellor. I wish you perfection in all your pursuits.

Posted by: uniondiva | October 28, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Southyrndiva: I guess you haven't read all of my posts. I have been critical of Rhee -- just today, in fact, on another thread.

I cannot say the same for many of the posters here, who always blindly criticize Rhee, no matter the situation.

Reminds me of the ultra-conservatives who cheered when Chicago lost the Olympics. Their blind hatred of Obama was stronger than their love of country and concern for fellow Americans, whether in Chicago or anywhere else. I see a lot of the same tendencies here on this Board, but substitute hatred for Rhee for hatred of Obama. We all need to keep personalities out of it and keep our eye on what really matters -- the education of the children of the District of Columbia.

Personally? I don't want my kid in any school where the principal does not understand basic grammar and syntax. It says a lot about the rigor and standards that will be insisted upon at that school - particularly in the Humanities.

If we were all being honest here we would admit that we would NOT want such principals at the helms of our children's schools.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

"The ex-principals claim they were dumped without justification because they were over 40 and African-American or Hispanic, then publicly maligned by DCPS so that they couldn't find new jobs."

There's always going to be pushback when you try to clean out the stables. Of course, when you have to play the race-card, you're pretty much admitting you have no case.

Buh-bye, deadwood.

Posted by: antontuffnell | October 28, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

"Second, let's keep in mind that the DC school system is utterly failing. There needs to be accountability for that, and it ultimately rests with the teachers and principals."

You're assuming too much here: the anti-Rhee forces don't see DCPS as an entity whose primary purpose is the education of District children. They see it as a secure jobs program for Maryland residents.

Posted by: antontuffnell | October 28, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I am "arrogant" because I am asking that you support your statement that certain legal "steps must be taken?"

I take it that means you don't have anything to support your statement.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Trace1, I totally understand the point about grammar and syntax. I agree with you on that. Your point is undeniable.

What I do have a problem with is the fact that it appears the law was not consulted or followed when these people were terminated. When I posted the "blathering," I went to a legal source to answer my own questions about at-will employment only because I find it hard to believe that any person working for a government would not have rights.

The children should be the focus of all of our endeavors. I don't believe that poor grammar and syntax mean that a person is a poor leader but I do agree that it's important.

Posted by: southyrndiva | October 28, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

From the affadavit, this bears restating:

"Rhee stated to me that her concern with me was political it had nothing to do with academics and how I successful ran the school...No one would tell me the reason why and that it was the CEO power let anyone go when she felt the need."

Someone who could write something like the above has no business being involved in education AT ANY LEVEL.

Coddling mediocrity has gotten DCPS to the lowly state it's in, and defending folks who have either egregiously lazy intellects or are borderline illiterate by charging racial discrimination is so deeply offensive to any educated black folk, I don't even know where to begin.

Posted by: antontuffnell | October 28, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Southryndiva: Poor grammar and syntax are indeed proof that a person is a poor leader of an EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

To Linda/RetiredTeacher:

You say to former leaders of educational institutions in the District of Columbia who cannot put a simple sentence together: get a lawyer to proof your work and we're rooting for you from California to get your job back?

I strongly suspect that you would feel differently if your children were students in schools in which those principals were charged with setting and upholding rigorous academic standards.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I really dont know about any of the other principals and am for the most part completely against the way Rhee handled these teacher firings, but I have to say, legal or not, proper channels or not, THANK GOD someone got rid of the principal at Takoma Educational Center. She was a blithering idiot who should not be allowed to oversee pets, let alone teachers and children

Posted by: loladarling | October 28, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Trace1 - I do not "blindly" criticize Rhee. I provide very careful documentation for my criticisms and I think you know that. I’m hoping, perhaps naively, that facts will ultimately trump spin.

I'm afraid you may be writing off valid criticism by labeling it as blind and comparable to ultra-conservatives’ opinions of Obama.

In terms of positives about Rhee - I've always said that she is very intelligent and is especially skilled at public speaking.

I commend her for getting air conditioning put in all the schools.

My continuing criticism of Rhee is not because I hate her but because I think she has made a bad situation worse and I want to see her out before more damage is done. The healing and reconstruction period after she leaves is likely going to be rough. I'd like to see it get started soon - for the benefit of the kids.

Posted by: efavorite | October 28, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Just curious. What is your connection to DCPS? Relative in the system? Parent? Teacher? Administrator?

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse


Here is where your credibility breaks down. It is okay to criticize Rhee on valid points. But then you defend incompetent principals and argue that the reporter should have hidden the fact that at least one of them does not have a grasp of written English. That's where you go over the line. Call them fairly.

Two truths: 1. Rhee makes mistakes. 2. At least one of these principals does not belong in a school building, anywhere.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

One more thing, efavorite.

If you really cared about the kids in this city, you would be glad that a sharp-eyed reporter saw that affidavit and brought attention to it. And you would not ever, ever want her back in a school setting. The fact that you thought it should have been overlooked says volumes about how much you really care about education in this city. Either that, or your bias against Rhee has taken over and you can't even think straight.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse


You are right. I would never have placed my sons in the schools in question, but some causes are higher than others. I am concerned with the civil rights of the people involved. If these individuals were victims of discrimination, I'd like to see them compensated with jobs or money. If they are incompetent, they need to be removed legally.

I believe you are talking about a different issue. You want incompetent professionals to be removed. I agree with that but I want it to be done legally. I see the DC situation as an example of an autocrat trampling on the rights of others, but this is for the courts to decide.

To make my point as clearly as possible: I agree that illiterate and/or incompetent teachers and principals should be fired, but I want it to be done legally.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 28, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse


You earlier said that the principal's lack of understanding of the English language was not relevant. It is indeed directly relevant because she is claiming that she was fired for discriminatory reasons, and not her incompetence.

As for "causes," I do not believe that her "right" to a job is a "higher cause" than a child's right to be educated in order to compete in the world when he or she is an adult.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Attorneys are responsible for the papers they file with the court. However, the court is not so unforgiving as some of the posters on this site. People who are distraught, emotionally strained or upset may not have the same attention to detail that they have when not under such stress. Being unemployed and unable to find work because you have been publicly maligned would be stressful IMHO. In order to know this person's capabilities you would have to look at other work product. Perhaps the papers were filed as they were to prove a point.

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | October 28, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

The Board of Education should get rid of Rhee too. Rhee has poor leadership skills. Her style of leadership is a combination of a bulldozer and a wrecking ball, and that doesn't work in an educational setting. The harm and ill will she is creating will be irreparable, if she remains on the job. Just get rid of that obnoxious, arrogant chancellor and get someone else who knows how to lead and illicit the best from teachers and students.

Posted by: fridaolay | October 28, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse


I meant that it is not relevant to the legal situation. Of course it is relevant to her competence. We are really discussing legal issues that need to be addressed by the courts.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 28, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

One more time: that affidavit is directly relevant to the legal case. She alleges that she was fired for a discriminatory reason. The city will rebut that claim and allege that she was fired for poor performance. The affidavit is striking evidence of the latter.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse


You seem to be certain of the facts. I am not.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 28, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

The affidavit is evidence of a weak grasp of written English and that, in turn, bears directly on one's ability to lead an institution delivering educational services, including written English.

That is the only fact of which I am sure, Linda/RetiredTeacher. You are not?

But you just said you would not put your children in a school run by such a person.

Which is it?

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Trace1 -- I’m a DC citizen with an interest in the schools and local politics. I have not defended incompetent principals. While I appreciate good writing, I don’t judge overall competence on the basis of a few writing errors. I understand that journalists and others may differ on that. I generally respect Turque's work but think what he did here was unnecessary and immaterial. I hope the comments here make him think twice before doing something like that again. I don't know anything about the principal and may or may not support her case if I did. Like Linda and concerned-citizen2, I question the quality of the lawyer who would let such errors stand.

I am literate enough to know what an ad-hominem attack is and won’t respond in the future to posts from you that employ this technique.

Posted by: efavorite | October 28, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The Board and superintendent have absolutely no authority over the Chancellor. Actually, the board doesnt have any authority over anything.

Posted by: loladarling | October 28, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Turque's reporting was spot on: A former leader of a school claims she was fired based on race or another protected category. Her affidavit displays a great deal of trouble with written English, which bears directly on her competence and suggests that she was fired for poor performance, not her race, age, gender, or any other protected factor.

Keep up the good work, Mr. Turque.

If we had more real reporting like this, we might never have entered into the Iraq war.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

By the way, efavorite, the lawyer is probably of very low quality, as you suggest. The truth is that they probably could not get a decent lawyer to represent them. That tells you something right there about these claims.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

So, we have DC citizens with no connection to the DC school system and California residents commenting on this Board.

I have 10 years experience as a parent with 3 kids in DCPS schools, before and after Rhee taking over the system.

Maybe that's why I'm very, very concerned about the competency of teachers and principals and they are not.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

You know what I find interesting? No one ever addresses the responsibility of the students and their parents with their success in school.

In nearly every article I've read it's always "blame the teacher/administrator". I've been teaching for 14 years and the kids that are consistently failing are the kids who will not do the required assignments or study time to be successful. Their parents are also usually the ones that are uninvolved with their child's academic career. Rarely is it the issue that the teachers haven't provided the required information, extra assistance and study tools to be successful.

When do the kids and parents start to take responsibility for their actions, or in most cases, inactions?

It brings to mind President Obama's speech for the schools this year on responsibility in education. There ARE kids in the same class that are doing well, so the information and assistance is definitely being put out there - the students are just making a decision to ignore it.

Posted by: kristen115 | October 28, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse


"Rarely is it the issue that the teachers haven't provided the required information, extra assistance and study tools to be successful."

Let's revise this for DCPS, shall we? Remember, I had kids there for many, many years. How about you? I took them all out recently because I learned that I was teaching more than the teachers and had much higher expectations that they did. Anything turned in was "good enough." There were no drafts required, no comments, no modeling assignments, no corrections on the papers. And my kids started taking on that attitude. That was it, for me.

So this might be more apt in one of the worst-performing school systems in the country, where principals are not able to form basic English sentences:

"Often, teachers haven't provided the required information, extra assistance and study tools to be successful."

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Okay, set all comments about grammar aside for one moment and think about the fact that these "highly qualified" educators were released for performance issues. They claim to be good enough to do their jobs, yet they are unable to obtain jobs elsewhere. They claim it is because the Rhee administration is "slandering" their reputations!

What part of this country is not lacking quality educators? If your resume is not getting you in the door...I am thinking career assessments, career changes may be in order....

Posted by: fide | October 28, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I will say this...that the person in question has presented other correspondence that is in the possession of many...and it was filled with grammatical type errors that was enough to make the reader(s) go what happen...

Let's be real the color-coded notations on your computer in regards to spelling and grammar is there for a reason to ignore it...only gives credence to the main point to Rhee's justification what is the person's self-worth to the future of the school.

Therefore if the new-age is technology and a current principal does not deem it necessary to use the simpliest of ways of correcting any of her correspondence errors...well let the gavel fall where it may.

Now, really the fired principals are saying that they can't be hired anywhere else in the school system? Have they tried to seek employment with the Charter-school system? I am here to tell you two of the women named have Doctoral degrees...some would think that their educational prowess would garner some type of respect and job security.

Finally, how the line in the sand was drawn so quickly...with Black, Hispanic, Female and over 40...I guess their colleagues who were fired and did not fit that premise...what was there fate??? Could one file their court-papers to reflect that they were "young, not-gifted and black" for their demised.

All I can say we had white flight in the 60's when intergration became prevalent...if you want another version of white flight out of this city, then hire all of the black principals, black teachers, and other incompetent blacks who were school personnel back into their jobs...and I promise you the for-sale signs will begin to pop-up like micro-wave popcorn.


Posted by: PowerandPride | October 28, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

LUKE 6:37

Posted by: shank2sb | October 28, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

@persimonix1 | October 28, 2009 1:38 AM

That would be "relevant",
"citizens" (no apostrophe)
"procedures" (the first "e" is a single e, not double)
"this doesn't mean" (no final "s")

and that is just for starters. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones (are you listening, WAPO?)

Posted by: citizenw | October 28, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse


Nice try, but way off the mark. @persimonix1 is posting on a message board and not submitting an affidavit in court. Completely different animal.

Second, correct me if I'm wrong, but @persimonix1 is not the leader of an educational institution, for whom basic grammar and syntax should be second nature.

Stop making excuses for incompetence in the public schools.

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

@PowerandPride | October 28, 2009 4:10 PM

See my comment to persimonix directly above. Your persuasiveness and influence will be enhanced if you learn how to write cohesively and intelligibly. Writing intelligently won't hurt, either.

Posted by: citizenw | October 28, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

One of the first things Rhee and Pete Cahall (new principal at Wilson) did was fire an absolutely excellent AP Biology teacher (from my personal knowledge, with hard data to back up that description), and then utterly refuse to offer any justification whatsoever. When they start with that bulldozer/wrecking ball approach, they lose trust immediately. I am parent of two former DCPS students who went on to Cornell and George Mason University quite successfully, and one of whom is now pursuing a Masters in secondary science teaching at least partly because of the inspiration of the very teacher that Rhee/Cahall immediately and unceremoniously fired ... and then refused any kind of transparency or accountability to DC citizens for that decision. I don't know about the qualifications of the fired prinipals, but I DO know the qulaifications of that fired biology teacher at Wilson, and he had an absolutely stellar teaching record.
Other than being a DC citizen for the last 35 years, I no longer have a direct involvement in DC schools, since my children are grown, but I still have extremely grave concerns about Michelle Rhee's approach, methods, and qualifications. One doesn't go about "fixing" things as would a bull in a china shop.

Posted by: citizenw | October 28, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I do not work for DCPS - I work for FCPS, but have taught in 5 states and two countries over the past 14 years so I feel I have a good amount of experience to comment on instructional strategies and administrative procedures.

Again, as long as the teacher is presenting the material, study tools and assistance to the class, the child needs to be responsible for learning it and their parents need to support it.

Start holding the students as accountable as the administrators.

Posted by: kristen115 | October 28, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

@kristen115 | October 28, 2009 5:54 PM
Amen! AND the PARENTS!

Posted by: citizenw | October 28, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse


I am sure you are an excellent teacher. But you have no experience with the DC schools. I am telling you that many teachers here do NOT adequately present (or know) their material, or teach appropriate study methods. As I said earlier, we took our kids out of the schools in upper NW because of lackluster teaching and a very weak curriculum. We are certainly not uninvolved parents, but despite our support, we realized that our kids were going to fall further and further behind kids coming out of good suburban public systems, not to mention private schools.

Listen, I don't have any experience with FCPS and wouldn't attempt to comment on what happens there. You apparently don't have any knowledge of the quality of instruction overall in DCPS, but you feel free to opine that the teachers are doing their jobs?

What do you think of children not being assigned a single book to read until 6th grade? That's what happened in my kids' elementary school in DCPS, upper NW, natch. The kids' fault? Parents fault? OR THE TEACHER'S FAULT?

Posted by: trace1 | October 28, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

What this appeal amounts to is that a higher up can NEVER fire/dismiss a subordinate who is a minority regardless of his/her performance ability. What a bunch of BS.
Reminds me why the Post is NOT covering the 2 high school principals in VA (Langley & Robinson HS) who are guilty of bilking some 40 teachers/fools out of about $40K each. Why are they still on the payroll.
Get busy Metro reporters and earn your salary.

Posted by: giuseppe59 | October 28, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

CitizenW - It sounds like the teacher you mention is the same one featured recently on the "thatsrightnate" satirical blog

Posted by: efavorite | October 28, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Trace1 appears to be a stay-at-home mom with nothing better to occupy her time than commenting. 24 postings beginning at 6:16 am. Wow! Is that some kind of record? I see that you made time to fix dinner and get the kids started on their homework. You believe that being a parent of children enrolled in DCPS somehow makes you an authority on all that is good or bad in the schools. Have you ever had responsibility for leading a school? If you had, you would know that there is a lot more involved than writing that was not proofed. The world is full of people who look at teaching and school administration and say, "I can do that", yet lack the skills. The individuals that have the training, knowledge and experience are the ones who do it everyday and do it with great capacity. Your discourse reflects a personal problem or history you have with one of the principals. Stay with issues of substance. All else makes you appear weak and untutored. Well, there's always tomorrow's opinions. Tell the kids I said hi!

Posted by: lightkeeper | October 28, 2009 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Trace1 & Persimonix - Good points!

A lot of the other comments, however, seem to be from the usual group of disgruntled former teachers and DCPS lifers. (A lot of free time these days?)

What about the interests of the children? (For those of you who value a secure job at all costs, please find work somewhere that won't jeopardize the future of our children.)

And how exactly are the many grammatical, spelling and syntactical errors in a former principal's legal filing not highly relevant (or maybe even dispositive)? Please.

We've tried unlimited teacher (and principal) tenure and job security and teachers' union rules for decades, and all it's gotten us is comfortable teachers and failing schools and under-educated, ill-prepared students. Now let's try it Chancellor Rhee's way for a while and see where we are in couple of years.

Posted by: ConcernedDCparent | October 28, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

People on this list took the bait of the vague and unsubstantiated reports reference to 'poor grammar' so easily. The Post routinely fails to report anything of real substance but simply manipulates people into drawing spurious conclusions. I live in DC and have had a child in the public schools for over 8 year. In the past 2 and a half I've been able to observe quite a a few thing that are never reported in the Post.
The Post will never hold Rhee tuly accountability for the impact of her decision making on students outcomes. Many of the schools that were closed were making AYP goals for students in 2007 & 2008. Yet consolidated schools under Rhee after the closings have not. In fact some like the Brookland/Bunker Hill consolidation were down from 55% students being proficient in 2007 & 2008 to only 40% proficiency in 2009. Yet we onlly hear the sound bites. Rhee has often talked in the press about expanding innovative programs yet when one asks about program expansion such as IB one quickly find out that there has not been any expansion beyond two schools in NW that have historically had the programs prior to Rhee's tenure.

It is clear to me as a parent that what is happening has little to do with providing a quality education for my child or building a sustainable school system.Its just about media and false manufacturing yet another publically sellable reform rock star. (uh oh grammar errors)

I hope the principals who were denied not only due process but basic human dignity are successful with their case.
And I hope the Washington Post begins to actually care about the children of this city rather than the people in its boardroom.

Posted by: janetcamillebrown | October 28, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse read my response and understood it quite clearly. Now for your comprehension that is where you might need tutorial help. Does the "W" stand for wimp?

Posted by: PowerandPride | October 30, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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