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DCPS lining up support for Council hearing

School officials are working to make sure they have plenty of friendly voices at the D.C. Council's annual performance oversight hearing on March 15. Testimony at these events tends to become an open-ended infomercial for those unhappy with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. So Peggy O'Brien, Rhee's family and public engagement chief, is reaching out to those who have had kind words for DCPS and have asked what they can do to help.

"The District of Columbia deserves a more complete picture of the school reform efforts underway," O'Brien writes.

She's even provided talking points: "Test scores and graduation rates are up, facilities have been modernized, our teachers are more qualified, more effective, and better supported, access to technology is system wide, early education is expanding and improving, and programs to address reading and learning problems are proliferating."

And for those who don't have eight or nine hours to spare waiting for a shot at the mike, O'Brien says DCPS will be happy to call with a heads up about an hour in advance of when their turn is likely to come up.

Here's the e-mail in its entirety:

From: Peggy.O'
February 23, 2010
Dear Parents and Friends of DC Public Schools,

I've lived in this community for 40 years, raised two children here, sent them to DCPS. I know that more people than ever are feeling optimistic about DC Public Schools because I talk to parents and community members every day and they tell me so.

And for good reason. Test scores and graduation rates are up, facilities have been modernized, our teachers are more qualified, more effective, and better supported, access to technology is system wide, early education is expanding and improving, and programs to address reading and learning problems are proliferating.

I am reaching out to you because you have expressed your support of DCPS reforms at some point during the past year, either to the Chancellor or to me directly--and we are coming up to a time when expressions of support would be most helpful.

The DC Council will hold a DCPS Agency Performance Oversight Hearing on Monday, March 15, starting at 10 a.m. at the Wilson Building. These hearings are opened with public testimony. People sign up in advance, and then testify in the order in which they have done so. If you are willing to share your story at the hearing, please contact Aretha Latta at 202-724-8196, or email her at to be placed on the list. Once you are on the list, we would be happy to call you an hour in advance of when you would be expected to testify if you are not able to attend the entire hearing. Just let us know if you've signed up. You can also submit written testimony if you cannot attend the hearing.

The District of Columbia deserves a more complete picture of the school reform efforts underway. Your testimony can help provide that. Thank you for considering this.

Peggy O'Brien, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Family and Public Engagement
Office of the Chancellor
District of Columbia Public Schools

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By Bill Turque  |  February 24, 2010; 11:52 AM ET
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If the school system is so great then why would anyone need talking points?

Posted by: missboo | February 24, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to the person who received that email and passed it on to the Post.

As for the talking points, I say, prove it. Don't just get up there and say "scores are up!" "teachers are more qualified!" Some people in the press will fall for that, but City Council will not.

I'm delighted to have the DCPS talking points in advance. For those looking for some of the opposition's talking points, see my list of Rhee's Bogus Beliefs, posted on Brandenburg's blog at:

Be sure to click on the highlighted links for references that illustrate the points made. Then check out the rest of the blog for detailed statistical information on the sad facts of DCPS reform.

Posted by: efavorite | February 24, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Who's running the DCPS? Karl Rove?

Posted by: mcstowy | February 24, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The fact that you have to practically beg people to show up and testify in your favor and also provide talking points speaks volumes about what people think about Michelle Rhee's leadership and her "reforms."

Posted by: UrbanDweller | February 24, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for posting this information in advance. It is an understatement to say that glittering generalities do not provide evidence of progress and reform. For every general statement specific, comprehensive and accurate data should be requested. For instance in the area of expanding early childhood programs, the data reveal that under Ms. Rhee expansion has actually declined and has been targeted to the higher income wards. The number early childhood programs in DCPS was consistently expanding long before Ms. Rhee assumed control. The most recent substantial increase took place under Dr. Janey when ten or more new programs opened each year. A program for three year olds was also initiated under Dr. Janey. Community funds were secured and plans were in place to open 12 new early childhood programs when Ms. Rhee was appointed. Once she assumed her position, she immediately stopped all progress only to acquiesce to community pressure two weeks before the opening of school, causing major disruption to numerous agencies that ensured that the programs opened on time. This year, she did expand the early childhood program by four classes. Three of which are in Ward three, the wealthiest ward with the least number of “minorities” in the district and the forth class was opened at Lafayette. The City Council and the Community are entitled to accurate and comprehensive information.

Posted by: highquality4kids | February 24, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

don't take this a some trivial effort. those folks will form a coalition and participate in the process. this is the draft they let get released. You better wonder what those folks in Palisades, G-town and other places are doing to get folks out. they never share their info or their plans, but when they care they work together and work the back channels too.

Posted by: oknow1 | February 24, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

"those folks in Palisades, G-town and other places”

Is that code for "white folks?" I suppose some of those folks are not too happy about Rhee’s sex remark or handling of it or her initial decision to hold school during a snowstorm or her refusal to acknowledge that parents played a role in getting her to change her mind.

I also don't doubt that Rhee would encourage a race war if she thought it was "best for the children," so I guess it's up to all us folks not to fall for it.

By the way, I think it's fine for groups who are interested in getting their voices heard to plan their tactics in advance. There’s just something a little sad about O’Brien’s letter. It’s not a call to action to people committed to a cause; it’s a PR letter, telling people how they’re supposed to feel and what they’re supposed to know.

Posted by: efavorite | February 24, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

What would you think of a teacher who constantly goes out of her way to belittle her students? A teacher who relies on her PR department to set up situations where she can go and publically shout to the world how "bad" things are. A teacher who never has anything positive to say or any plans to bring her students up to par. A teacher who doesn't believe in individualizations but only generalizations. A teacher when asked to justify grades given to her students can give only vague reasons and no ongoing substantive data. A teacher who spens quite a bit of time outside her classroom giving interviews to any and all instead of in her classroom seeking methods to improve performance. A teacher who sets up situations to pit one student against another. A teacher who begs the question by throwing red herrings into the mix to muddy the waters so as to make the siyuation impenetrable. A teacher who has no allegiance to her students. A teacher who has "pets" that bring her apples everyday and tell her how much they love her and are willing to do anything she asks. A teacher who surrounds herself with people who agree with her b ecause she believes she is always right. A teacher who ignores the students in her class who come from homes with limited parental involvement while pandering to those who have active parents. A teacher who lacks compassion or even cares about her students. A teacher who is using her students as laboratory rats for her experiments. A teacher who believes education is not a career but just a short-term adventure. A teacher when questioned about suspicious test scores states there is no need for further investigations, just take my word for it. A teacher who has such an aura that even her supervisor sucks up to her. A teacher A teacher who sees no need to be evaluated unless she gets to choose the evaluators. A teacher who polarizes instead of unifying. A teacher who manipulates data to show that more progress has been made than really has. For me, this would be an ineffective teacher and needs to be replaced. If you change the word teacher to chancellor,wouldn't the same fate be appropriate?

Posted by: crackedbutnotbroken | February 24, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Please bring a list of certified, qualified, experienced and competent Suprientendents. It's time to hold Rhee accountable. Our DCPS students deserve a Suprientendent who will protect all children's best interest, especially our special needs population.

It appears to me that another special needs adolescent shouldn't be molested in a DC Public School because it wasn't reported to the proper authorities immediately.

Posted by: sheilahgill | February 24, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

You've got to go and find people to say soimething good about DCPS and the chancellor? That says it all right there. There must be a lot to hide and down play. There should have been an audit by now to expose the waste of money that has been spent over three years. WE all know that the budget was fake and we are expected to take the words of a few friendly faces and that makes it better? Please! Who is going to substantiate the data this time? "The district deserves a more "complete" picture of the school reforms underway." Wrong! The district deserves a "true" picture that illustrates that reform is no where in sight and that the Fenty administration and the chancellor have failed!

Posted by: candycane1 | February 25, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

to crackedbutnotbroken: Well said...VERY well said!!!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | February 25, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

crackedbutnotbroken -- Brandenburg's blog has picked up your excellent comments and posted them - go see at

Urbandweller - I hope you testify at the hearings

Posted by: efavorite | February 25, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse


way sweet anaphora!

Posted by: gardyloo | February 25, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

This morning I saw a flyer posted on our school's administrative office suggesting that individuals support the WTU by writing to the council, the Post and online blogs.

It's called astroturfing- creating fake online accounts to create grass roots movements that don't exist.

cracked but not broken, you seriously DO NOT GET IT. I laughed and laughed at the serious logical error in your post.

Replace the word teacher with auto mechanic, father, chancellor, football coach, orchestra leader or any position and your mad libs commentary remains just as damning. You failed logic.

Posted by: bbcrock | February 25, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

As one of several parent advocates who worked very hard to establish the school hearings process, I can tell you they were never intended to be a pep rally for the Superintendent/Chancellor. The purpose is/was to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to weigh in with relevant information to assist decisionmakers in reaching informed conclusions. Parents United asked parents, teachers, administrators and students to provide information on what they knew best--their own school. We could provide them with analysis and talking points, but what was needed most was the impact of the budget proposal on local schools.

The process began with hearings held by the Board and Superintendent (those who were closest to the issues early enough for it to make a difference. The Mayor then held a hearing prior to submission to the Council. At each point along the continuum there were opportunities for meaningful discussions with the elected and appointed officials. It may not have always resulted in what the school communities wanted, but one could give voice to issues. By the way, information was available to the public in a timely manner so that if you by chance wanted to support what the Administration proposed, you could at the very least read it. Currently, that information is not available.

This current crew seems so afraid of someone examining the quality of their work that rather than expose it to the light of day, they keep it hidden under their collective desks until it is time to turn it in. If they really wanted support and not blind allegiance, they would have open and frank adult discussions with stakeholders. So what if they get some opposition--they ought to be competent enough to defend their proposal.

Posted by: SEsister | February 25, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Once again, we have another UNEDUCATED comment from the EDUCATED man, bbcrock.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | February 25, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

bbcrock made a very honest but revealing comment yesterday. Like many parents it seem the crock brings a lot of baggage from their own early experiences to the table. Sit in a few hundred parent teacher conferences and you get a real good picture of parents who view their kid's schooling through the lens of their own. Even if what the crockster says is rather "interesting" it would be unwise to forget how that individual came to feel that way

Posted by: mamoore1 | February 25, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse


Perfectly stated! Thank you!

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | February 25, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

To Crackedbutnotbroken:

Whenever Bbrock descends into the realm of ad hominem attacks, its proof that you are hitting the nail on the head. I wouldn't be surprised if Bbrock is on Rhee's personal payroll.

Please speak more truth to power. This reader thanks you for your post.

Posted by: vscribe | February 25, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

the crockster had a bad 5th grade experience and it's too soon to let go

Posted by: mamoore1 | February 25, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Crackedbutnotbroken. That's the first correct use of "beg the question" that I've heard in years. The rest of your post made good sense as well.

Posted by: berniehorn | February 25, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Does efavorite reveals her true self in saying she does not doubt that Rhee would foment a race war using the claim that it is good for kids?

efavorite often alludes to and appears to want to stoke the fires of racism.

efavorite: is that the root cause of your dislike of Rhee? Does the union give you a bonus for each time you attempt to incite racial friction?

By your words you have shown that you are just another appartchik tool of the WTU--with little care for your impact on the children in our schools. For shame, for shame.

Posted by: axolotl | February 26, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

What is so ironic I have recieved two was to support Rhee from Dr. O'Brien and the other email was clearly not in support of Rhee from a Capitol Hill resident who writes for the Capitol Hill Rag. So, I guess this seemingly issue that "whites' are so in love with Rhee is quite wrong.

I was at a meeting regarding the construction of a high-school. This was the strangest conversation I heard as of yet... There were blacks arguing on how can they support Rhee if she hired COO (Tata) who could make a negative comment about Obama. I kid you not, the dialogue was of such that some comments were as crazy as I [they] was in supportive of Rhee until she started hiring all of these crazy white people to run DCPS.

Now, who would've thought that the irritation among some in the black community is about Rhee just because she hired Tata who's on record about his dissatisfacton about Obama?

If DCPS want to bring in the "big guns" I say reach out to Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education and for good measure have Keri Briggs, Superintendent sitting at the dias...I do think it would make an interesting picture visually and the conversaton would be quite provocative. Don't you think?

Posted by: PowerandPride | February 26, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

axolotl ,
Miss Rhee shaves the truth, Miss Rhee lies.
If one breaks one commandment, they are just as likely to break another.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | February 26, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

At the meeting, someone should reads this article and its analysis of the "success" of Miss Rhee's new principals.
From the article:
"I have done a little bit of analysis to see whether the schools where Rhee fired or replaced the principals actually did better on the DC-CAS than the schools where the principals were not replaced. Recall that Rhee has claimed many times that her approach has been extremely successful. (I was about to say, “a sweeping victory.”)

What I found is that both groups of schools included ones where the scores went up a lot from SY 2007-8 to SY 2008-9, and both groups of schools had members where the scores dropped about as much. To me, using Rhee’s own yardstick, it’s hard to find any big difference between the two groups of schools .

Another lie from Rhee.

BBcrock and Axolotl will find a way to blame WTU.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | February 26, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Check Out The Washington Teacher's Open Letter to Peggy O'Brien @

I hope Turque posts this letter on his blog!

Posted by: teacherspet | February 26, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

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