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Did WTU force Fenty-Rhee's hand on closure?

It looks like the District faced the prospect of widespread teacher absences when it retreated Sunday evening from plans to open two hours late on Monday and decided to close altogether.

Here is a portion of the robo-call that Washington Teachers' Union president George Parker sent to his membership Sunday:

"All teachers must make an individual decision on whether or not to go to school on tomorrow-pending individual circumstances. However, when the Mayor or Chancellor makes a decision that shows a disregard for our safety as teachers, and the safety of our students, we must stand up and make the appropriate decision for ourselves. All teachers who feel that the Mayor's decision to open school tomorrow jeopardizes their safety can send a clear message by putting your safety first and taking leave and I strongly encourage everyone to put your safety first. You are entitled to use your leave and be sure to call in to your school and indicate that you are taking leave because you cannot get to work and your safety is in jeopardy."

And here is my exchange with Michelle Rhee about the closure decision.

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By Bill Turque  |  February 8, 2010; 11:18 AM ET
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At least somebody was able to talk some sense into whatever idiot thought it was a good idea to open school today. These people are clearly detached from reality when they want to open the DC Public Schools and the DC Government when every other government agency in the area is closed and the streets in DC haven't even been plowed. Were they waiting for a 10 yezr old to get run over by a snow plow or a bus while walking too school in the streets because the sidewalks are impassable? What were they thinking?!!

Posted by: PepperDr | February 8, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee are a cancer to this city, true hardworking teachers and innocent students.

Absolutely no good comes from a mayor who runs the city like Stalin or Hitler.

He destroyed the lives of hardworking teachers and didn't care about forcing parents to send kids to school when not ONE road is cleared from snow and ice. People are literally walking in the streets.

Fenty must be run out of office right now. Michelle Rhee needs to move to Sacremento, CA where she resides for most of the week.

Posted by: turnejohn | February 8, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

The same thing happened in Philly during the 90s, when the superintendent believed that schools should never close for snow. I do think that the school should remain closed for Sunday, but at the same time, I can understand the temptation to keep it open. Private industry stays open regardless of how bad the storms are or have been, unless they have some kind of relationship with the US government. So basically, he may be thinking of giving kids a more realistic veiw of how the world really is. Most folks in DC are off today and good for them, but almost everyone else in the mid-atlantic have to go to work today.

Posted by: mudd94 | February 8, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I must concur, even the thought of opening DCPS's doors today and the assinine decision to open DC Government is truly idiotic. I am a DC gov't employee and I risked life and limb (mine and those around me) to come into work today- in retrospect, it was a poor decision on my part. The streets are in horrible condition and it truly is not safe to be out. Mayor Fenty, you truly need to reconsider the way you make these decisions in the future. You have the lives of many in your hands- please make safer decisions for us in the future.

Posted by: ConcernedinDC | February 8, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Turnejohn - You are emblematic of everything that is wrong with Washington DC. The City is broke - period - end of discussion - but too many people are so used to doing nothing at the teet of the DC City Government that when people actually try to make the system work and force the lazy, disfunctional employees to do something they scream racism and authoritarianism. You are just like the teabaggers - none of you have any clue what Stalinism or Socialism is - you just use it as an excuse to stop reformers from actually making the system change for the better. I'm sure sure there are a lot of good, hardworking teachers is the system, but there are also a lot of lazy, incompetent ones too who care nothing about the students of DC. SO before you start whining about how terribly Fenty and Rhee are - why don't you look at the 40 years of failed leadership before them before you jump on your high horse.

Posted by: DCeagle11 | February 8, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Bill: Our teachers' union under the helm of President George Parker did absolutely nothing to help this situation. Mr. Parker didn't even make a phone call to Rhee or Fenty. All he offered was another robo call. It was DC parents who forced the Mayor's hand to close schools down. Are you reading the DC parent list serves and watching the TV news stations- they are filled with comments from parents as well as activist Cherita Whiting who appeared on Channel 5 last night.

Surely your title is dripping with sarcasm.

Posted by: teacherspet | February 8, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Most of the children who attend public school walk to the local school. They walk individually or in groups of 2 or 3 children. To make the children walk by themselves in the street because the sidewalks aren't clear is idiotic. What's more, you require DC govt to go to work, so now people are driving on the very same, un-plowed streets you want the children to walk on. Fenty, you are such a stupid excuse for a human being, there aren't enough words in the english language. What say your little brats walk somewhere and then you make a decision you arrogant jerk.

Posted by: BigElle | February 8, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Parker should be fired. His comments are a perfect example of the problems plaguing DC schools today. The union cares nothing about the education or well being of the students. To them it's simply a business. It's way past time to break up all unions as they are destroying the country. Parker is a @zz.

As for the rest of you welfare collecting drug abusing losers. Maybe you could walk the children to school. If you have a job then you would be able to go to work. Oh that’s right we’re talking about the hand out city. The city where no one can take care of their self’s

I grew up here in the suburbs and weren’t to school here. We would have never been out of school today. But that’s when people we’re able to fend for them selves. Today’s society is weak.

Posted by: askgees | February 8, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

We live in Ward 3 and haven't seen a snowplow in 3 days. A friend who lives near our daughter's school said the road leading to the school hasn't been plowed. How did these irresponsible buffoons think parents would get their kids to school today? On horse-drawn sleighs? With not even a plow sighting in the area, it begs the question where are Fenty's "750 contractors" pitching in to help DPW. Of course, there was no such delay in jacking up our assessment an additional $30k last year.

Posted by: tagtron | February 8, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

The parents were the ones that got Michelle Rhee to change her mind even if she doesn't want to admit it. The letter that she had posted on the website when there was a 2 hour delay stated that crews had been working very hard to make the schools ready for today. Yet the news showed schools that were not ready to open. Is she even in town???
I have friends that are parents that sent email to Michelle Rhee and she responded to them in a rude and scarcastic manner. I told them to forward those emails to the press and let them see how she talks to the parents.
This decision was truly not in the best interest of children and parents should not have had to flood her inbox for them to understand that.

Posted by: reneeinc | February 8, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

What is it with people in DC saying "On Tomorrow"?? It's absurd. And this comes from the Teacher's Union? Why am I not surprised. I bet they axed them to stay home too.

Posted by: Aimhigh2000 | February 8, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Bill Turque, the answer to your question is Absolutely, NOT!!!!!! Don't you know by now that the Chancellor does not care what the Union or its teachers have to say about anything in DCPS. The only uprising she cares about is the voter uprising. When parents in Wards 3 & 4 got wind of this stupid decision, and began flooding the tv and radio stations, she felt compelled to STOP & THINK....not about the safety of our children, but about the down in the gutter approval ratings of she and the Mayor. She knew she could not handle losing any points with parents on the "other side of town". And believe me Rhee/Fenty do not care what Parker says or does, he doesn't live in the district...they don't need his vote!

BTW, if the Union was working on behalf of students and had any power, they would have used it to communicate directly to the Mayor and Chancellor instead of begging their teachers to do so!

Posted by: teachdc | February 8, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The people of DC must stand up against the "administration." For the federal government to say that it is too dangerous to commute to work today and then Fenty and his idiots to say it is okay to open DC government, is absurd. I will say this, these decisions (school and government) go hand-in-hand with Fenty's arrogance. He is trying to prove something. And for askgees...schools around here always close at the drop of a flake. Fenty has now taken thins way too far w/something to prove. This is about safety. No one should be forced to walk in the street and trying to avoid cars b/c the sidewalks are not clear. Give me a break.

Fenty and the way he runs this city has made me join the ABF group...ANYONE BUT FENTY 2010!!!

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | February 8, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

askgees wrote:

I grew up here in the suburbs and weren’t to school here. ..............if your wacko conclusions didn't prove that,your syntax certainly makes it obvious

Posted by: tagtron | February 8, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

One teacher blogger called George Parker's robo call to teachers a robo call of fury. He said: "I've kind of been M.I.A. from this blog for a little while, but I couldn't let George Parker's Robodrama call tonight pass without giving it appropriate mockery. Did he not call anyone before sending that out? In case anyone is not aware, schools are closed tomorrow, a decision that was announced after initially declaring a two-hour delay. But this didn't stop Parker from sending out a robocall with belligerently inaccurate information. My personal favorite part was this little monument to run-on sentences:

"To all teachers who feel the mayor's decision not to close schools is ridiculous, I encourage you to put your safety first by staying home and calling in to your school to let them know you won't be in because you have the right to take leave and put your safety first."

Posted by: teacherspet | February 8, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Folks get the political BS out your mind and wake up to reality. DC cannot handle 30-inches of snow and try to act like it is ready and open within 24 hours.

this entire area shuts down over 3 inches of snow. the public bus system is shut down. the subway is only running under ground. Stop the madness and look at the reality. SIDEWALKS DO NOT EXIST!!! most of the roads other than main roads are 4-5 inches of slippery packed snow, ice or slush!!!

I am a grown man and i have been shoveling snow for 3 days now and my walkways and dirveway are just a little beyond passable or functional. I have not seen a plow in days. When folks all over this area saw DCPS was to open 2 hours late, i think the entire metro area was shocked. how is it from the blue ridge to the Ocean got 30-inches and DC got 2 or 3 and is open for business monday.

i think DC's approach to anything shows poor judgement and inept management. It border on the abusive or incredibly stupid. yeah you lose a day of productivity at the cost of $$$ if you were to close. the reality is 75% or more of DC government called in today. and the ones that reported aren't doing sqaut!!!!!!

So in Fenty's little mind he saved the city some money, but it not real cash. the people get paid either way.

DC government employee morale has to be even lower. Fenty and Rhee don't give a pluck about any of them and they know it. so even the good ones think, it's a job and a paycheck until they find something better.

Posted by: oknow1 | February 8, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

After reading some of these notes, it's a wonder why so many students are stuck on stupid, when it comes to a work ethic.

I lived in Colorado and it snows, but unless there is a full-blown blizzard, there aren't any "snow days."

As far as George Parker is concerned, fire any teacher that doesn't show-up, without cause.

Deep-six these unions. They are a cancer among us and our children.

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | February 8, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Earth to computer_expert -- this was a full-blown blizzard

Posted by: efavorite | February 8, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Fenty & Rhee should be ashame! Public safety comes first, nearly got hit trying to get to my DC government job. He will not get my vote or anyone one else I know.

Posted by: drfields | February 8, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Regarding her decision to close the schools, Rhee told the City Paper that 'new information kept rolling in.' and 'I don't want people to get over obsessed about it's this or it's that'*

In other words, ‘no comment’ until her crisis communications team comes up with a story.


Posted by: efavorite | February 8, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

As I look out my window in Minneapolis, I can see the weather that will be in my beleaguered hometown again tomorrow. It has been snowing here for more than 24 hours already, and is not supposed to stop for about 24 more. We have about as much snow on the ground now as you do. Our schools are open, and will remain so, to my sons' despair. A foot of snow won't even make the Minneapolis Public Schools open late. They almost never close. But they did close on November 1, 1991, during our snowpocalypse, the infamous "Halloween Blizzard." We had 30" in about 30 hours, followed by below zero temperatures for much of the next week. It's the only time I've ever seen Minneapolis get caught with its snow removal pants down. They were still picking up leaves (with the plow trucks) when the flakes started to fall, and weren't up to full snowplow strength for 18 hours. It took weeks to plow the city out. Granted, that storm was a freak; the weather service could barely keep up with events. But it goes to show, even here in the Great White North, we sometimes bow to Mother Nature. It's no shame for DC to do likewise.

Posted by: journ001 | February 8, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Thank you parents for finally rallying to save your children from adult school leaders and a "little city mayor" who make poor decisions on behalf of you and your children.


In a city where planes, trains, buses, and automobiles cannot function, what are people to do but stay home and continue to dig their way out and prepare for the next round of blizzard like conditions that have been predicted to bring 10 inches or more of snow?

Maybe the Mayor was seeing the city from under water at the Wilson pool when the decision was made to open schools and the DC Government. His eyes had to be a little blurry if he thought the streets and sidewalks were clear and city transportation was fully operational.

Posted by: shank2sb | February 8, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The WTU should have called Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee first to talk about school opening/closing. By making these calls to the teachers and asking them to take leave to protect themselves they are trying to undercut the mayor and head of the school system.
This is what happens when WTU, after years of having the mayor, city council, and school superintendant in their pocket, faces someone who doesn't bow down to them.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | February 8, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Rhee and Fenty are a national laughingstock for trying to keep schools open, and for keeping dc gov't open today. For this, for many reasons. they should be undercut, ignored, bypassed, impeached, fired, and called out for the buffoons that they are. For many reasons, they will not be in power in a year. So, there's that...

Posted by: stellabloom13 | February 8, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

jimof1913 - so this is all about union trying to undercut the mayor and chancellor.

What about the kids tromping through 2 feet of snow and 5 foot snow banks to get to school? What were Fenty and rhee thinking about them?

Posted by: efavorite | February 8, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

After reading these posts it is so annoying to read...well, when I lived in X, we didnt cancel. Snow belt states are totally different and DC relies heavily on public transit and does not normally get this much snow. I lived in the mountains and had to deal w/tons of snow...2 to 4ft or more at times and yes we had school with one lane open and our buses through on chains. The big difference is we didnt rely on public transit that is out of commission!! It is so easy to judge from a distance and being ignorant of another's situation.

I think everyone should just follow Fenty and jump in a car and go downtown. Could you imagine thousands of employees/students downtown in partially cleared streets, no parking, etc. Fenty encourages public transit, but doesnt care when its not available. Arrogant.

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | February 8, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Another thing about areas in the midwest and upstate New York is that they have these huge plows that plow an entire lane and toss the snow off to the side of the road.

Posted by: edlharris | February 8, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me the only adult that used any common sense in the matter was George Parker. Perhaps Mr. Fenty and Ms. Rhee don't have to travel the streets of DC alone or without help. Why else would a superintendent make such a ridiculous decision to open schools late or not.

Posted by: jdgb | February 8, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I REPEAT: The truth will out! Rhee makes herself look like an idiot AGAIN!
Computer_Forensics and like-minded friends: Not worth replying to!

Posted by: wakeupfolks99 | February 8, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

The DCPS parents spoke up loudly, clearly and intelligently to Rhee Rhee and Fenty.

If DCPS had a competent, experience, certified and qualified superientendent, an intelligent decision would have been made intially after the Blizzard of 2010.

"DCPS is closed until further notice. Stay tuned to the local radio and tv stations."

However, stay tuned to Election 2010 DC Mayor results.

No more Excuses. Just Solutions!
Enough is Enough, Rhee Rhee and Fenty must GO in 2010!

Posted by: sheilahgill | February 8, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse

askgees, instead of trying to impress everyone here with your ignorance, why don't you try to assess the reality of the situation? The sidewalks are in no condition for anyone to try to walk on and many of the side streets are nearly impassable. And to think that any parent should have to walk their child to school in unsafe conditions such as these, suggests that you are working with some mental deficiency.

Posted by: Rahwaj | February 9, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

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