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Rhee: Not All Laid Off Teachers "Poor Educators"

When Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee first announced plans for teacher layoffs last month, she made clear that she was using what she described as a $43.9 million budget shortfall as an opportunity to rid the system of ineffective teachers.

"As we are having to downsize staff are we [looking at] people who add the least value? Absolutely," she said in a September 23 interview.

In the latest issue of Chancellor's Notes, her news letter that went up on the DCPS site late Friday, she puts a somewhat different spin on the mass firings. As she has said before, they were based on "school needs, principal-rated performance and contributions of staff, supplemental professional experiences, such as training, as demonstrated on the job, and seniority."

Then she added:

"I hope to be clear to any who are making assumptions about teachers who lost their jobs, that this approach does not mean that all DCPS former staff were poor educators. Performance was not the only factor in a decision to lay off an employee. For example, if two strong educators held positions at a school that could support only one due to low enrollment, a talented educator with less experience than his or her colleague would have lost his or her job to the struggling economy."

Rhee also used the news letter to rehearse some points she'll undoubtedly make at Thursday's D.C. Council hearing. She defended her decision to hire 934 new teachers over last spring and summer, a move that union leaders and some council members charge was part of a strategic effort to force layoffs this fall.

Rhee said she had "full budgetary authority" from the council for filling the jobs. She added that the hiring grew from a decision, also approved by the council, to change the way schools were staffed and "to push more money" away from the central office bureaucracy and toward the classroom.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  October 26, 2009; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Next: New Haven teachers pact: message to Rhee?


A budget nobody understands? YOU LIE!

Posted by: candycane1 | October 26, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rhee is still dancing around the fact that it was incompetence on the part of Ms. Rhee and her staff in mishandling the school budget so badly that it was necessary 6 weeks after the start of the new school year to fire 5 percent of the experienced teachers because too many new teachers were hired.

In fairness to teachers, Ms. Rhee should have simply let go of the new teachers that were incorrectly hired and had only 6 weeks of experience to make up for such incompetence in handling the school budget.

Incompetence created the problem of over hiring and then more incompetence was shown in dealing with the problem.

Ms. Rhee and her school administrators could have simply used reassignment to deal with the problem of over hiring.

Instead she has created an environment where Ms. Rhee and her staff are not accountable for their mistakes and teachers must pay the prices for those mistakes.

This is not the first case of administrative failure by Ms. Rhee.

Ms. Rhee should be asked to resign as there is no possibility of educational improvement in a school system where the entire school system is thrown into such disruption by the failure of the head of the school system to manage the school budget.

Ms. Rhee showed in incompetence in her managing of the budget and Ms. Rhee only displayed further incompetence in dealing with problem caused by her inability to manage the budget.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 26, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Do you think Rhee would have changed her tune about the laid off teachers if the community, Chairman Gray, the WTU, the parents and students hadn't called her on it? She only "explained" when she had to. What she didn't do was apologize and take the blame she deserves for messing with the lives of teachers, kids, and families when this crisis could have been avoided with competent management.

Posted by: GoDoZo | October 26, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

It's nice to see her on the defensive at last.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 26, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

So, it was either the Anti-Deficiency Act violations or it was illegal termination practices. Either way, it was poor timing and a poor exercise of judgment.

1. "Rhee said she had "full budgetary authority" from the council for filling the jobs."
2. "She added that the hiring grew from a decision, also approved by the council, to change the way schools were staffed and "to push more money" away from the central office bureaucracy and toward the classroom."

1. If the Council gave her 'full budgetary authority,' why is a hearing being held for questions? If she had their authority they would be able to explain what she has done.

2. The Council must have wanted to "change the way schools are staffed" in a legal way, not a way that comes across as racist and as age discrimination. If they want less money to be at the Central Office, make Rhee pink slip some of the many six-figure assistants she has. That would do it!!

"Ms. Rhee should be asked to resign as there is no possibility of educational improvement in a school system where the entire school system is thrown into such disruption by the failure of the head of the school system to manage the school budget." AMEN TO THAT!

Posted by: southyrndiva | October 26, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

As a result of the recent RIF, the Special Education Coordinator at McKinley High School was terminated. This was a full time staff position. Now, it has been announced that an assistant principal will take over the duties of the Special Education Coordinator. Assistant Principal is also a full time position. I am still trying to understand how one person is going to competently handle two full time positions at the same time. I suspect the level of service will diminish, yet again. This makes the entire school weaker.

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | October 26, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

On Thursday Ms. Rhee has a date with the District council to provide explanations.

Ms. Rhee needs to explain how more teachers were hired than could be paid for by the school budget.

Ms. Rhee needs to explain why this situation was not dealt with before the start of the new school year and instead was allowed to disrupt the education of thousands of students and almost the entire school system 6 weeks into the start of the new school year.

Ms. Rhee needs to explain why new teachers with only at the most 6 weeks of experience were not fired instead of firing older teachers and leaving the District open to the liability of possibly numerous expensive law suit based upon age discrimination since higher paid older teachers were fired instead of less paid newly hired teachers.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 26, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Linda, I hope you're right about Rhee finally being on the defensive, but I'm afraid she's preparing for a bravura performance at the City Council Thursday (PS you can watch it live, online).

This is an Olympic gold medal performance for a star prevaricator like Rhee. She’s a natural talent, she’s been practicing and honing her technique for years and she loves performing in a high stakes situation in front of a big audience.

It will be quite a show. I’m hoping she slips on the triple lutz.

Posted by: efavorite | October 26, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Backtracking, misleading, covering up... this is what Rhee does when she is exposed.

Special education services in many schools is an absolute joke yet one would never know since she has her 'magicians' downtown covering everything up and working so called miracles.

Just like things came crashing down on Wall street so will DCPS succumb to charter schools and be completely privatized.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | October 26, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

southryndiva: Bulleye on all points!

I find it very interesting that the conversation has been sliding away from "ineffective" teachers because a RIF has to be based on budgetary contraints. She and Fenty went hard on that in the beginning but if you notice they don't say that as much now. I just hope that if it is found that she is guilty of violating any laws she is indicted and prosecuted.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 26, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Bullseye, Southyndiva and you too, candycane. Rhee and Fenty and the washington post ed board too (of course) all went hard on incompetency, then changed their tunes. Fenty also made a point of saying how it wouldn't affect classroom teachers. Right. Let's see how how Vince Gray and the gang hold up this time. They will never be as slick as the Chancellor, but they've got experience now in how to deal with her and best of all they have facts that she can't deny forever.

Posted by: efavorite | October 26, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm not surprised that Fenty and Rhee are backing down from their initial claims that the teachers fired were ineffective. Such spurious contentions exposed them to a class action defamation of character lawsuit. The administration might be incompetent, but its not entirely inept.

I'm not sure they may be entirely out of the woods, though. It's difficult to "un-ring" the bell. Rhee's circumlocutions just might be for naught, and she may be slapped with a--or some--lawsuit(s) anyway. . . that is aside from the one already filed by the WTU.

Posted by: vscribe | October 26, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

50 years of utter failure in DCPS. 50 years of city councils, teachers unions, and administrative bureaucrats destroyed the public schools and the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. Rhee fires a few hundred adults and all the usual suspects who never said a word for 50 years are up in arms.

Posted by: jy151310 | October 26, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

To Jy151310:

Now, if Rhee would just fire herself, she'd finally be on the right track.

As for the Mayor, we the voters will hand him a pink slip in due course.

Posted by: vscribe | October 26, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Good for Michelle Rhea! I'm enjoying this! The DC school system has been a National laughing stock for 20 years. With the highest per pupil expenditures in the area (by thousands). Barry created Washington's employment agency for the unemployable years ago and finally someone has the guts to go after it. Nice job Mayor Fenty. Now all you unemployed union workers wining on this blog, go find a job suitable to your true qualifiactions, Wal-Mart is hiring..

Posted by: genbarlow | October 26, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

So, Mrs Rhee is arguing that those "good" teachers who were letgo, were not as good as her summer hires?
She and the principals were able to determine this in six weeks?
Did they use test scores to come to this conclusion?

Posted by: edlharris | October 26, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Hey, genbarlow - Your enjoyment is likely to continue. Soon DC will be a national laughingstock again when the public learns how they've been fooled by the charlatan, Michelle Rhee.

Posted by: efavorite | October 26, 2009 11:02 PM | Report abuse

There is seriously something wrong with some of you. For the first time in years the education in DC is headed in the right direction...
- DC CAS scores are going up district wide
-the achievement gap has closed from 70% to 50%
-23 underenrolled schools were closed saving the district millions of dollars
- a new teacher evaluation system has been designed based on research and growth
-the national test scores showed an increase while the rest of the nation remained flat
- DC 4th graders showed the most growth in the nation on the national tests
- Ineffective teachers and counselors are being removed from schools
- Professional Development is being offered monthly
- Communication has improved significantly

***Do you want to succeed or are you just stupid?

Posted by: teacher6402 | October 26, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Ineffective teachers and counselors are being removed from schools
"***Do you want to succeed or are you just stupid?

Posted by: teacher6402"

It's too late. You already put your foot in your mouth.
Mrs. Rhee herself said not all the laid off teachers were "poor educators"
Nor did that come thru according to this article earlier today by Jay Matthews:
"They protected their classroom slots and instead cut, with regret, administrative and counseling personnel"

As for the test scores, you don't know of what you type.
The NAEP scores show continue gains in DCPS, gains that preceded Mrs. Rhee ( thanks to Janey???)
And at Shaw Middle School, whose principal was hand picked by Mrs. Rhee last year, their scores dropped.
But, surprise, surprise, Mrs. Rhee claimed they went up.

Posted by: edlharris | October 26, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Keep pushing the money away from the central administration to the classroom!

Posted by: Smore | October 27, 2009 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Is the goal of DCPS to keep teachers employed (at all costs, literally!) or to educate kids? DCPS have fallen short of their educational goals for YEARS (remember the year when there were no books for the kids? Where were all the complainers then?).

Ms. Rhee inherited a decrepit school system, filled with years of mismanagement & inept teaching. Obviously, the status quo wasn't working. It's about time someone did something about it.

Fire some teachers and people are whipped into a frenzy. Deliver sub-standard education, & people are silent. Huh? Read _A Hope in The Unseen_ for a good portrayal of how DC has been letting kids down & creating unnecessary learning challenges for kids for too long. Wake up, people!

Posted by: kmh2 | October 27, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

"Ms. Rhee inherited a decrepit school system, filled with years of mismanagement & inept teaching."

According to the DATA from the NAEP math scores, things have been getting better before Mrs. Rhee:
DC NAEP Math Scores

4th grade
2000 – 192
2003 – 205
2005 – 211
2007 – 214
2009 – 219

8th grade
2000 – 235
2003 – 243
2005 – 245
2007 – 248
2009 – 254


Posted by: edlharris | October 27, 2009 1:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm taking bets on the fact most of the posters in the comments section are pro-union (read: ineffective) teachers. No one with half a brain cell would think that Rhee is out to get anyone...except bad teachers. It's time we put kids first - I don't acre if 229 adults were layed off. Get over it, move on, let's focus on the kids.

Posted by: RL67 | October 27, 2009 4:28 AM | Report abuse

It is a recession. City budgets everywhere have been cut. I know plenty of people who work for private companies who have lost their jobs in a RIF.

But their bosses did not announce in advance that they were using the RIF to rid the workforce of incompetency. That is the problem here. Rhee never should have said it, just like she never should have posed with that blasted broom on the cover of a national news magazine. Discretion and tact. She needs a lesson in both.

Posted by: trace1 | October 27, 2009 6:17 AM | Report abuse

a nation without justice .. that stupid RL67.. a verygood educator.. teach not only academics..they need to teach the kids .. what is honesty..dignity..what is respect..and what is honor..if michelle dont focus on this subject.. what kind of amercans weve got on the next generation.. yahh your right RL67..stupid americans

Posted by: bongtatay | October 27, 2009 6:17 AM | Report abuse

criminals had due process,,rapist..drug addicts.. bad parents..a corrupt politician..why michelle rhee..fired teachers without due that how you respect the teachers...RL67 ..did you went to school..??

Posted by: bongtatay | October 27, 2009 6:25 AM | Report abuse

To all the people astonished at the Rhee hate here, the formula goes like this:

Rhee speaks. They twist and turn everything she says into some sort of evil plan. Its not some grand plan you see. The evil plan changes with every new bit of news from Rhee, even if it completely contradicts the old plan.

For instance, the plan one day could be "Rhee wants to fire all the old teachers". Then the next day, when Rhee defends her high estimate of student enrollment and even later when the count comes in correct, she is deemed to be wrong, or lying, or up so something else that is no good. This second plan is hard to pin point, but it is not good. That is all they know. Nevermind that a high student count is in the best interest of everybody because it means (or should mean) more money for schools that would allow old teachers to keep their jobs, which is completely in disagreement with the grand plan of firing them all.

Don't try to figure it out. There is no logic to their ramblings.

Posted by: makplan20002 | October 27, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse


People on this board who will bash Rhee no matter the issue are akin to those conservatives at a recent conference who cheered when Chicago lost its Olympic bid. Just as these partisans hate Obama more than they love their country, people posting here hate Rhee more than they care about the fact that DC kids, for decades, have been left behind by most of their teachers, past superintendents, school board and city council members. For decades, vast numbers of DC kids have gone nowhere but to prison. Doesn't this bother anyone? Anyone up in arms about that?

People in both groups need to examine their hearts and minds for racism.

Posted by: trace1 | October 27, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

DC NAEP Math Scores

4th grade
2000 – 192
2003 – 205
2005 – 211
2007 – 214
2009 – 219

8th grade
2000 – 235
2003 – 243
2005 – 245
2007 – 248
2009 – 254


Posted by: edlharris | October 27, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Hasn't anyone on this board worked for a company who has laid people off? It happens a lot these days.

And it's quite healthy for the organization...

How many people work with someone who has not done anything bad enough to fire, but nobody wants to work with them? Raise your hand...If you're not raising your hand, you're lying (or someone else is raising their hand about you.)

Posted by: dude7 | October 27, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

In this city...more people signed up to testify to the council in regards to acknowledging that same sex unions should be recognized than people acknowledging that teaching is not an entitlement. Again, let's view how many of those RIF'd teachers/staff are District residents. As for Rhee sitting before the council, it is to my understanding that she has already visited each one the council hearing will be genuinely portrayed as a rehearsed speech with cliche' ending.

Confusious says;

One thing for sure...Rhee is like the waitress in the restaurant, don't make her angry or she will definitely make your dining experience, MEMORABLE.

Posted by: PowerandPride | October 27, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

And just how does the "Fire-the-Bad-Teachers" crowd imagine its subtle and intricate agenda will be implemented?

Posted by: dane1 | October 27, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

White male DC public school librarian, mid-30s, three years of senority, fired in this last go around. Why? He and the principal never got along. But he was great with the kids!

Rhee's comments about incompetence were completely off-- at least about this guy. I'm pleased to see that she is correcting her mistake in this recent statement. Her problem was that she was starting to believe her own hype!

Oh, and just so you charter boosters know, their scores are on average LOWER than neighborhood schools. Some are great, but so are some neighborhood schools. Too many of both are mediocre. Alas, charter schools are not the "silver bullet" that will correct the problems in the DC education system.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | October 27, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

As in most work places, especially those with unions, there is 'good', 'very good', and 'excellent'. Sure there are a few below and above, but 99% of workers fall into one of the 3 with the majority in 'very good'. So if you are 'good', start looking.

Posted by: shhhhh | October 27, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Sure you run out of money when Fenty awards million dollar contracts to his buddies and the city council does the same for their pet projects. When they get caught they say its all for the children. My only question is how do I get a piece of this seemingly endless pot of money?

Posted by: KBlit | October 27, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse


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


Posted by: Blackbox | October 27, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

To all the DC School teachers who were unfairly targeted and terminated:We know that the wrong person made the decision about your career but her time is coming up soon to get a pink slip along with her boss.I hope you decide to make sure that happens sooner rather than later.

Posted by: halex8420874 | October 27, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Fenty is not getting re-elected. His pet, Rhee, will be leaving the 825 penthouse one minute after the new mayor takes the office. I am sure her plans are set for San Francisco where she has been spending most of her government paid time. Pack your bags, sweetie. With her record of human capital abuse, no one in their right mind will give her a job of the same caliber. It fits her right after committing this crime against educational human capital.

Posted by: inickdc | October 27, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Trace1 says: “Discretion and tact. She needs a lesson in both.”

Efavorite says: “and she needs a lesson in honesty too.”

RL67 says: “I don't care if 229 adults were laid off. Get over it, move on, let's focus on the kids”

And what do you suppose happened to the kids when the teachers were laid off? They got crowded into classrooms in the middle of the year. They lost a teacher they were involved with and learning from, their course work was interrupted, some had their courses changed completely. Firing teachers disrupts kids.

Yes, Trace1 – it bothers me greatly that DC kids have had it bad for so long. I was incredibly hopeful when Rhee came in. Then I saw that she was dishonest, disrespectful, vindictive and managerially incompetent. Now I can’t wait to get rid of Rhee. She’s made things worse. We can’t begin to get ahead until she’s gone.

Posted by: efavorite | October 27, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Wow -- looks like a lot of comments from disgruntled DCPS bureaucrats here. As a parent of 2 kids now in the D.C. schools system, I cannot agree that Ms. Rhee has made things worse -- at least not for the children, but maybe for poorly-performing teachers and DCPS lifers. I'm sorry, but the purpose of the school system is to educate our children as well as possible. It's not a jobs program. We've had decades of teacher tenure and protection for DCPS bureaucrats and it's gotten us nowhere. It's time to try something different. I believe Rhee and I believe she is doing better by our kids, which, I'm afraid, is the only thing that matters.

Posted by: ConcernedDCparent | October 27, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Yes, ConcernedDCPSparent - it is certainly time to try something new, but not just anything new. Certainly not firing teachers in the middle of the school year so that now other classes are overcrowded and kids have to pick up on lessons and adjust to new teachers and in some cases new courses. This hurts children a lot. Maybe not yours, but while you're caring about kids, please remember all the kids.

And please don't try to brand and discredit people here as "disgruntled bureaucrats."

I notice Rhee supporters coming out of the woodwork with their empty shows of support and empty belittling comments.

Getting ready for the demonstration at City hall?

I think you should look for better arguments and I'm afraid there aren't any.

Posted by: efavorite | October 27, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

This just goes to show that when you are dealing with Black People, you can do anything you like with them. Slavery will never end in D.C. The poor education that DCPS students receive will assist in keeping them and their children in slavery.

Posted by: shortlady2 | October 28, 2009 6:12 AM | Report abuse

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