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Rhee slow walks Fast Company response

After spending most of the day promising some elaboration on her comments to "Fast Company," Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee remained in public relations lockdown Monday. It fell to spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway to announce that it would be Tuesday morning before there would be any response. While the heat is on Rhee's office to formulate a response, rest assured there are many cooks laboring over this stew, including no doubt Attorney General Peter Nickles.

The vacuum created by Rhee's silence was handily filled by Rhee's chief antagonists on the D.C. Council. The charge was led by Chairman Vincent C. Gray, who announced an inquiry into Rhee's assertion that some of the teachers laid off in October "had sex with children," hit them or were constantly absent without excuse.

In a letter to Rhee released late Monday, Gray said he found her claims "alarming and deeply troubling." He set a Wednesday deadline for Rhee to provide each instance since July 1, 2007--the beginning of the Chancellor's tenure in the District--in which a teacher who allegedly sexually assaulted or hit a child was reported to the Metropolitan Police or Child and Family Services--as required by law. Gray also wanted to know what actions were ultimately taken.

"If these accusations are true, then we must act swiftly to ensure children are safe and perpetrators are investigated and brought to justice," wrote Gray, a possible mayoral candidate. "If they are found to be untrue, then these accusations may devastate the lives of many of the teachers who were laid-off in the middle of a school year and who are struggling to rebuild their careers in the midst of a recession.

"My office is therefore launching an inquiry to determine whether the needs of children impacted by the alleged abuse were properly served and whether school communities and parents were properly notified and supported."

Gray sent similar queries to Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and CFSA director Roque R. Gerald.

Rhee also faced a demand from Washington teachers Union president George Parker for an apology.

"In one blanket, accusatory statement, you have potentially damaged the reputations of 266 teachers in a way that disregards fairness and deprives them of an opportunity to defend themselves," he said in a letter sent Monday. Furthermore, your statement has created a public uproar and raises uncertainties about the integrity of all DCPS teachers--not just those who were [laid off]," Parker wrote.

The flap started with a brief "Fast Company" item last week that updated a laudatory profile published in 2008. In the newer piece, Rhee addressed the union allegation that she fabricated the budget crunch to circumvent seniority rules and rid the system of older teachers.

"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" she said.

Gray was joined by two other Council members--Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and Harry F. Thomas (D-Ward 5) -- who have been sharply critical of Rhee's management style -- in pressing her for details.

"I agree that you should fire teachers who molest and abuse students," Brown said in a statement. "I join other parents with children in DCPS who want to know immediately if their kids were in class with a suspected sex offender or child abuser. Have these people been prosecuted?"

"I'm disappointed by the Chancellor's lack of judgment in making these comments," said Thomas. "The Council will use all tools at its disposal to investigate these allegations, and I will be asking the US Attorney to substantiate the claims of abuse."

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By Bill Turque  |  January 25, 2010; 7:16 PM ET
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Good Idea, get the U.S. Attorney's office involved. If there are teachers sexually abusing students, or who HAVE sexually abused school children in the past and the school system knew about it and did nothing about it they they would be just as culpable.

However, my guess is that the Chancellor was talking out the side of her neck and in doing so tarnished the reputations of 266 school teachers. That was unprofessional and unfair.

Even if the accusations were true, Rhee had no right to make such a public statement if she were not prepared to specify who she was speaking of to protect the innocent from the assumption of guilt.

Perhaps she was thinking about her Mayor Fiancee who is facing charge of taking indecent liberties with a minor.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | January 25, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

FENTY, RHEE AND NICKELS continue to show total disrespect to ALL CITIZENS OF DC.

They story they are trying to SPIN--she tried to tell the Council will not fly. Remember her testimony was TAPED.

This truly a sad time in DC. A mayor who cannot understand plain English, a AG whose job is to find loop holes in the lies and a Chancellor about to marry someone who was accused of the same crime she proudly lists of a reason to fire teachers.

Please deliver the citizens from the MADNESS.

Posted by: bnew100 | January 25, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Too much granstanding and the damage is done. The real tragedy is that she loves this kind of chaos. As long as she can promote herself, that is all that matters. She needs to leave this city now!

Posted by: candycane1 | January 25, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Wow, sounds like Nickles is going into full damage-control mode. Rhee made a horrible mistake. She either lied (and slandered all those teachers) or she didn't report these alleged criminal acts by teachers to a law enforcement agency.

I'll bet my next paycheck that she lied to Fast Company to try to deflect attention from her bogus decision to lay off good teachers in order to keep her young and relatively inexpensive TFA workers.

I hope this signals the end for Rhee in DC. And I pray she takes Fenty down with her when she falls.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | January 25, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

sorry for the typo grandstanding. The lady has a serious problem and she is bad for our kids. Her behavior is inexcusable. Just because she has responded doesn't mean it's over. She still needs to be investigated.

Posted by: candycane1 | January 25, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Rhee's lies finally caught up with her. The RIF was brough on by a budget pressure in October but by January the teachers became molesters, abusers and chronically absent for seventy-eight days. Are you serious? What counselor, psychologist or principal would allow people to molest and not report? This is so ironic. Fenty took great pains to make an example of Child and Family Services at the beginning of his reign of terror. Now what will he do with Rhee?

Is she projecting about the acts of sexual misconduct she covered up for Kevin Johnson in Sacramento? It is disgusting how she is so numb to adults like Kevin Johnson are when they allegedly molest children. Because of her, MULTIPLE little girls in Sacramento were taken advantage of and used in a cheap, tawdry way. Johnson offered one young girl $1,000 not to tell. DISGUSTING! She is unfit to lead DCPS for multiple reasons but this latest stunt of hers is so very repulsive.

Either she lied to conceal her lie about the RIF or she is so desensitized that child molestation doesn't bother her. The US Attorney's office has already said they have no complaints about teachers having sex with kids. Did she cover this/these investigations in the same way she tampered with the federal investigation that led to the president firing Inspector General Gerald Walpin? We all know how she gets off on firing people.

This makes every decision of hers questionable at best. She is an inveterate liar whose pants are now on fire.

Posted by: southyrndiva | January 25, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Anyone waiting for Roque Gerald (CFSA) or Cathy Lanier (MPD) to say anything contradicting the mayor's position on this episode of "Rheegate" will be waiting a very long time. Both were appointed by Fenty and I am certain neither of them is going to say anything to jeopardize their livelihood. This is why an independent investigation, a la the DC Council or even Attorney General Eric Holder's office is in order. (There are also federal laws mandating the reporting of child abuse, but since Nickles et al. are beholden to Fenty, other options must be pursued.)

Parents, community members, and educators must not let this firestorm be doused by spin and cover-up. We must mobilize until this collaboration, consensus-building, and cooperation averse tyrant is held to the level of accountability she espouses for her subordinates.

Posted by: schooletal | January 25, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

The residents of this city have long since drank the Rhee/Fenty/Nickles kool-aide. These sheep in this city remind of of the members of the "Collective" from the Star Trek the Next Generation when they were taken over by the Borg... and kept referring to every individual as "we". We are Borg!!!

Posted by: lacairaine | January 25, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Southyndiva says, “Is she projecting about the acts of sexual misconduct she covered up for Kevin Johnson in Sacramento?”

I think you’ve got it. She’s got sex on the brain and not in a good way.

Schooletal says, “Anyone waiting for Roque Gerald (CFSA) or Cathy Lanier (MPD) to say anything contradicting the mayor's position on this episode of "Rheegate" will be waiting a very long time”

You may be right, but people will be able to tell those people are lying and stonewalling and it will be of no help to Fenty’s re-election campaign. People can tell right now that Rhee and company are stonewalling and they don’t like it. Some things are easy for the masses to figure out – like sex and stonewalling. Most people can quickly realize that “what’s best for children” is not for a school leader to hole up for days trying to determine how to respond to inflammatory, throw-away statements she made about teachers having sex with children. People quickly start to realize they’ve been had and then they get pulled into the juicy, seamy sex story that the chancellor has herself introduced. Fascinating.

Posted by: efavorite | January 25, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse


Fascinating, indeed. This is EXACTLY why we need independent investigators involved.

Posted by: schooletal | January 26, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

If Rhee can't provide evidence that any of the fired teachers were charged for sexual misconduct, she should be fired for cause. You can't say things like that in an interview and not be held accountable.

Posted by: almelbe | January 26, 2010 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Tom Sherwood, (20 years ago of the WPost) of NBC New4 got a phone interview with Michelle Rhee.
See/hear it here:

Here are her comments:
“It was never OUR intention, nor did I ever say, it was ALL of the teachers who fell into these catagories...OUR intention was not to paint ALL teachers with a broad brush stroke.”

Notice the use of the words OUR, I ALL OUR ALL
To whom is she referring when she says "OUR" ?
She and Fenty?
Kaya Henderson?
Jason Kamras?

Posted by: edlharris | January 26, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Ed - she's trying to depersonalize it. She didn't do it, some vague "we" did.

Notice she doesn't deny saying the words in the fast Company interview - because the journalist obviously has proof that she did no one's been successful in getting him to recant (just speculating here - but she's certainly been working all angles these last couple of days)

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse

If a person accuses others of a crime they damn well better have the facts to back up their claims. Unfounded claims can ruin not only one's career, but their personal lives.It seems to me that the Chancellor is more interested in getting the monkey off her back by making these outlandish statements. What she has done is a character asassination of a lot of people, who were not given the chance to respond. This type of behavior of the Chancellor is sicking. The sad part is, is that no one has had the guts to call her on these things.

Posted by: skyjumperdave | January 26, 2010 1:06 AM | Report abuse

The damage is done. None of the 266 will ever find work as an educator again. Rhee has destroyed all the savings from layoffs because now the District will be sued for the lost wages of the people who Rhee wrongly accused. What school system will hire them now?

Posted by: blasmaic | January 26, 2010 6:17 AM | Report abuse

The damage is done. None of the 266 will ever find work as an educator again.

Rhee has destroyed all the savings from layoffs because now the District will be sued for the lost wages of the people who Rhee wrongly accused. What school system will hire them now?

Posted by: blasmaic | January 26, 2010 6:18 AM | Report abuse

Just to play devil's advocate, let's say that Rhee's statement is true. Shouldn't someone be asking why these physically or sexually abusive teachers were RIF'd for *budget* reasons -- complete with severance packages and other benefits -- instead of terminated?

Posted by: capital_tee | January 26, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I hope that Councilman Gray takes down both Rhee and Fenty. Rhee is a criminal and Fenty defends her. Wonder how much that costs her in favors.

Posted by: mbrumble | January 26, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Are chickens coming home to roost? Early in D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee's tenures, there have been people in the District community who have strongly spoken out and written against Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee. However, the media in this town largely ignore them and do not print comments against Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee on District public education. Chancellor Rhee's incompetence and irrational statements are not unknown to those active in District public education advocates. Sadly, education writers did not want to the hard work to fact check Chancellor Rhee. There have been people in the District telling the truth about Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty. However, because there are some who dare to challenge reporters to be fair and accurate are "blacklisted". "The truth crushed to Earth shall rise again."

Robert Vinson Brannum

Posted by: robert158 | January 26, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe the lack of support, for Chancellor Rhee. Some of you folks are pothetic. you don't care about the kids, you just care about your lousy union jobs. I would agree, that teachers need representation in the workplace, that said, if you are inaffective as a teacher, you have no business teaching. I live in rural Georgia, and our schools are considered some of the worst in the nation, but we are trying to change that. In my veiw, what Chancellor Rhee is doing, is the right thing to do. she is closing schools that need to be closed and getting rid of the dead weight. If your a teacher that is just hanging out for the check, you need to find something else to do; and make way for people who want to teach. I'm sick and tired of teachers who don't want to teach, and I'm tired of students running the classroom. You teachers blame the administration, the administration blames the teachers, and the parents, blame both, when in fact, most of you parents think of the schools as free childcare. It is a shame that it costs over 13000.00 dollars a year to educate students in D.C and at the end of the day, the kids can't read or do Algebra; this in a city where the resources should be more than adequate. I just wish we had a Superintendant like Michelle Rhee in my district. Moreover, I would consider myself lucky to work for. In my veiw, the teachers and their union reps. are just angry because she demands results and that is the way it should be.

Posted by: fmingram | January 26, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, one last comment, I have been following the career of michelle rhee, since she was appointed as D.C. public schools Chancellor. we are following what she does closely. at this point, most teachers in this part of the country are impressed with her leadership. Most of us believe, a lot of you teachers in D.C. public schools expect a whole a lot, without giving a lot. no offense intended.

If you have a comment for me my e-mail is

Posted by: fmingram | January 26, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

@fmingram - You want Rhee, please post the name of the jurisdiction from which you are writing and I will buy her a ticket to wherever you are.

Posted by: duonoir | January 26, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I suppose Mr. Gray and others like him are proud of the long, sad history and poor performance of the District's public school system. I cry for the children-- and parents who want something better for them.

Posted by: Watersville | January 26, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Gray and most of the local elected officials (going back years) treated the public schools to benign neglect. They didn't care in the past, and even now they don't care. The executive leadership, Fenty/Rhee/Nickles, don't give a damn about the kids. It is all about the billions of dollars in construction funds that they can manipulate to their personal benefit. "Vince and the Incompetents" (the DC City Council) spent the last three years with their "pants on the ground" bent over before King Fenty. And now, after hearing complaints from citizens for years, in the last few months some of them have finally found their testicles. How convenient, just in time for the next election cycle. THROW ALL OF THE BUMS OUT!

Posted by: duonoir | January 26, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I am no longer surprised or taken aback by anything Rhee or Fenty does. The question is... where are the checks and balances that are supposed to protect citizens from politicians who abuse power. I find myself becoming angry at the Council for not taking stronger measures with this so called "inquiry" into Rhee's comments. It appears to me that she is more accountable to the media (her late night Friday talk with Tom Sherwood) then our own legislative body. Another bad example of this is Fenty's payment to his frat brother in the midnight hours of Christmas Eve to circumvent Council directives--with little to NO consequences.

It appears that we the people are going to have to lead the mission to protect ourselves--and our children. God knows, it doesn't seem like ÅNY of our elected officials have the balls to stand up to Rheegate or the the Fenty fiasco.

Posted by: dexplorer | January 26, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Further--I am SOOO sick and tired of this paper defending her despite what the issue is. Leaving out the sex with children statement in her original testimony is a BIG deal. This reporter obviously doesn't have children...

Posted by: dexplorer | January 26, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Your comment is well taken, however, she is doing her job. She was appointed to take action, and that is exactly what she has done. It has been her task to make the schools in D.C. more competative. By 5th or 6th grade, most students in your area go to charter schools. That means that the 13000.00 that would normally go to the school where that particular student is educated, leaves and moves to the charter school with that student. you were right to make the comment about the money, that is sort of the point, it is about competition, making schools more competative, that creates better schools. It should also be pointed out that the Chancellor also has a lot working against her, like organized labor. Let's face it, you and I both know that a lot of these teacher's could care less about the students, they have tenure. the only thing they have to do is set around and draw a check and that is not teaching; DAMN, most of the students can't read or write. If Michelle Rhee wasn't contraversial, then she wouldn't be doing her job. If your a teacher, do your job or find something else to do, isn't that the way it should be?

Posted by: fmingram | January 26, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

@fmingram - Rhee is also to comply with the law. If she had knowledge of sexual/physical abuse of students she was mandated to report such abuse. As of today, there is no record of any such filings. Now, if she is lying, nuff said. The ends do not justify the means. Regarding student performance, Rhee has done NOTHING but follow the education plan established by DC's previous Superintendent Clifford Janey. It is HIS plan that has resulted in the marginal improvement in test scores. Rhee has done NOTHING related to over-hauling education. What she has done is pissed-off engaged parents, such as myself with her imperious, I am better than you attitude. Are there teachers that need to go? ABSOLUTELY! Are there principals that need to go? ABSOLUTELY! However, anyone and I do mean EVERYONE who claims to have all the answers and does not need to receive input from others is delusional. Rhee listens only to FENTY, our idiot Mayor. Rhee is incapable of team- or concensus-building. Any student of group processes knows the benefits of synergy. I am certain that somewhere in her post-secondary education she learned that. Obviously she has forgotten it.

Posted by: duonoir | January 26, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

your comments about the power struggle is interesting. your claim is that the administration is abusing power. If you want to talk about the abuse of power, why don't you mention the abuses by the teachers unions; NOW THAT IS ABUSE. Your children aren't in any danger by the administration, however, you should be taking issue with the teachers union. Representation is important, but if your inaffective, in my world you don't teach my kids. The more I research this, the more I find myself defending her position. The unions, just don't like the status quo being challenged. She is really shaking things up, and that is a good thing.
If you think you can change my mind, show me the research, show me the proof, not some blogger post, but real credible evidence.
e-mail mail me PLEASE,
Here in Georgia, educators are following her closely. So far, most of us in Georgia like her leadership, but I do have an open mind; convince me otherwise.

Posted by: fmingram | January 26, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

It's the union who wants it both ways. You can't bring up any of these serious charges unless you want to go through years of legal wrangling with the union to get rid of any one teacher. Now that an excuse was made up to remove probably (relying more on management than union assessment) ineffective teachers to appease the union members, the union wants an investigation.

Posted by: shhhhh | January 26, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Again, your comments are well taken, but your comment about her doing nothing to improve education is really just opinion, and not necassarily fact, which of course you are entitled too. I strongly agree that she is bound to comply with the law, if she has lied about something, then she should resign or be fired. I confess, I'm not familiar with the sexual/physical abuse story. I would agree that protocol should allways be followed. I will also confess that I would not trust the union leadership as far as I could throw them; as far as I'm concerned, they are huge part of the problem and not the solution. I realize that what I'm saying is not popular, but I'm not saying these things to win a popularity contest; this is about educating kids. Please ignore the poor puncuation. I don't teach English.

Posted by: fmingram | January 26, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

fmingram, please make Rhee an offer she can't refuse. Is there a need for a Mayor in Valdosta, Ga. too?

duonoir said it all - test scores,Ed Plan,etc. were all Dr. Janey's. If Rhee had gone through some real leadership training and did more than team teach for three years as part of her educational experience, I think her life in any school district would have been better.

You cannot fool real educators who have spent real time in the trenches of their profession. Sure there are some who have failed to produce, but the politics of this city breed confusion and contoversy when it come to our Educational System.

I will be the first to admit, it needs fixing, but Rhee is in over her head and she does not have the best interest of this cities children or it's work force at heart.

Some great school leaders and teachers lost their jobs after her first year on the job. I think the real problem with the first group fired was she came to realize they were more qualified than she or any of her new young inexperienced staff members. If she had had a listening ear, she would have found herself in the mist of real greatness with exceptional results producted by experienced educators - ones that did not complain about a child's background, home life or neighborhood, but rather saw the children as teachable.

When parents and potential partners are made to feel substandard or useless, how on earth can you call youself an educational leader?

Ms. Rhee needs to face her demons and learn how to be a good listener,except criticism, embrace all the communities of this great city and learn most of all how to say I am sorry I made an awful mistake.

Posted by: shank2sb | January 26, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

@fmingram - You state I am only stating my opinion. At least I am here in Washington, DC living with this crap day in and day out. I have children who attend a Charter School in DC because after Middle School, the public education system in DC breaks down. You know what you know from what you read, and trust me, you are not getting the whole story in Valdosta, GA. The hubris emanating from Rhee and her ilk permeates everything she does and everything she says. Yes, the Union is full of crap. They did spend too much time protecting bad teachers and thus became part of the problem. However, most parents want the best for their children and Rhee came in kicking us in the ass and telling us she knew better than we what was best for our children. My household has earned five master's degrees. We remain in DC for personal reasons. We are not on welfare. So, don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.

Posted by: duonoir | January 26, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

duonoir, you are literally the first educated parent I've ever heard from or met who didn't like what the Chancellor has done to reinvigorate DCPS. I have not seen one bit of hubris from Ms. Rhee, so that's squarely on your odd interpretation of her actions and not on reality.

But how can you, as a charter school parent, make an educated comment about a school system you aren't part of?

I think quite the opposite, because you're out of the system you don't know what you're talking about any more.

I'm in the system, I'm in the PTA, I volunteer in DCPS often and I'm a coach. You're what? Involved in a quasi-private school? ehhh, you don't know, not anymore, you're too removed to understand.

Posted by: bbcrock | January 26, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

She has put her foot in it big time now. If any of this is true, she's guilty of failing to report child abusers and predators. If none of it's true, these fired teachers should be prepared to sue her backside off! I was really admiring her until this flap. If she's so dumb as to say something like this publicly, maybe she's not as smart as I thought. As usual, though, the people who will really lose out in this deal are the kids in DC's horrible schools.

Posted by: panamajack | January 26, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Once again the whole purpose for Fenty' takeover was to improve the quality of education for the students attending the poor quality DCPS, yet that all has gotten lost in the grandstanding of the chancellor, the council, and the union. All of these positions have failed...COLLECTIVELY

Posted by: scrappyc20001 | January 26, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm incensed.

Rhee has to answer the following questions. The first and most important: Did the children who were sexually abused receive counseling? If not why not?

Then these questions should be asked and answered: How many incidents were there? Were they reported? When? To whom? What was the disposition? Were parents notified that their children were in "danger"? Was the community notified that there was a "child sexual predator" in their neighborhood? Did the "predator" pass a background check? Etc., etc., etc.,

If the questions cannot be answered, with documentation, she should be fired IMMEDIATELY!

DO NOT use children being sexually abused as an excuse without providing facts.

Posted by: rlj1 | January 26, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Someone whose area of expertise is supposed to be education is ignorant of the responsible use of language. That alone would be cause for firing her. She's fabricating stories (aka telling lies) in order to justify her behavior. Sloppy, stupid, and wrong.

Posted by: readerny | January 26, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I hope none of you idiots every make a careless remark. Do you all regularly fire people in your employ who say something that is unclear and then apologize for it? That would explain a lot. Be a terrible teacher for years, maybe join a public employee union to protect yourselves from the taxpayers that pay your wages, and then whine when someone with the guts to demand better performance lays off some poor performers.

Posted by: staticvars | January 26, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

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