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AFT: Rhee's anti-leak strategy less than watertight

We learned from Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee at her Friday D.C. Council testimony that the fiscal disarray following the contract announcement was actually an attempt to avoid that worst of all possible worlds: a leak to the press. Rhee said that ideally the District would have buttoned down all financial issues and secured District CFO Natwar M.Gandhi's certification before announcing the terms of the contract, as it did on April 7. But the fear was that details would leak while it was pending in Gandhi's office, agitating union members.

"We made the decision to first make the announcement," Rhee said, adding that the union leadership was also on board with that approach.

Not willingly, said AFT president Randi Weingarten.

"It was her concern, not our concern," Weingarten said Monday. "Did we agree to a joint strategy? Yes," she said. "But there was many a conversation about this particular issue. We thought it should go to Gandhi," followed by a public roll out and then submission to union members.

Like some council members, Weingarten said she was perplexed about the lack of consultation with District financial officials as the contract was being assembled.

"I would have expected there would have been preliminary conversations with those responsible for the finances," she said. "I was surprised as anybody else about the initial back and forth."

Gandhi and school officials continue to work on a funding package for the contract.

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By Bill Turque  |  May 3, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
 | Tags: American Federation of Teachers, DC schools, DC teachers contract, Randi Weingarten  
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Next: Shaw students react to arrests in Betts slaying


The games children play.
Some are too smart for their own good.

Posted by: edlharris | May 3, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

No mas! No mas! All as planned,transparent and poluting as oil coming up from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. How does someone who hasn't yet learned the job evoke in an electorate the tiredness and fatigue associated with eight years of office-holding?

Nevermind that Club Rhee was just fancy shoes then, new hairstyle now; and foundations star-struck the way the charter-boat full of neo-cons was when first feted by Sarah Palin in her native digs. This story like the rest of the show is stale. It ought to close before the impresario starts shouting "fire" to regain attention.

Posted by: incredulous | May 3, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

I hope teachers will have the sense to refuse to sign this "contract."

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | May 3, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Did Randi and George read the WTU Tentative Agreement before they signed it with Rhee?

DCPS Teachers: Read Section 40.2 and Vote "NO" to the WTU Tentative Agreement.

It's time to move forward with a new WTU President, Superintendent and a new MAYOR for the citizens of Washington, DC in 2010.

Posted by: sheilahgill | May 4, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

The saddest reality: Teachers have not had a raise since expiration of the last contract in 2007. Having worked with DCPS and currently work in a neighboring county which was known for lower pay, I currently make more simply by making the switch. In addition, my work environment improved significantly and the county, though strapped for cash as well, still manages to treat its teachers with some modicum of respect and dignity.

Ultimately, when one becomes a teacher, whether as a career-changer or as a first profession, money is not the focus. On many levels, teaching can be exceedingly rewarding. The unethical, incompetent administrators like Ms. Rhee contribute to the demoralizing aspect of a teacher's calling. The public--particularly including most who post on this board in defense of Ms. Rhee--fail to consider the teachers' point of view.

We work easily 80-hour weeks (and always on weekends), we get cursed out routinely on a daily basis, we are most fortunate if we work with competent, empathetic administrators who do not pass on every conceivable task to teachers that they know teachers have little time to complete, and we often get attacked by parents of students whom we attempt to discipline and mold into future scholars and workers of America. It's a jungle in the halls of our public schools, particularly in D.C., where I worked in six different schools.

I hope the powers-that-be would make a pact to cease "beating up" on the D.C. teachers. They have been maligned enough. Work out a solid package where they can be paid decently for the hardships they are called on to endure. The teachers are the true unsung heroes. Michelle Rhee, on the other hand, is an embarrassing joke and does not deserve the privilege of working alongside many of the educators whom I had the honor of meeting during my tenure with DCPS.

Posted by: vscribe | May 4, 2010 2:56 AM | Report abuse

Well George and Randi- now you've seen what happens when you trust Michelle Rhee even a little.

She betrays your trust, causes a big ruckus (her favorite thing), gets the Post editorial board to cover for her (always guaranteed) and you look stupid in the end.

Teachers beware. You are next.

Posted by: efavorite | May 4, 2010 6:52 AM | Report abuse

After months of being dogged by claims that her decisions suffer from a "lack of transparency," Chancellor Rhee decides to present the TA direct to the WTU members as soon as the ink on the signatures is dry.

Should she not have been worried about leaks? Does anyone not think that the atmosphere around the deal would have been made noxious by press reports that focussed on the half dozen most sensational paragraphs in an inch-thick document? How long would it have sat in the CFO's office? How long before union rank-and-file said, "If it's such a good contract, why are they hiding it from us?"

In all of this, the media coverage has devolved into populating the stage with clashing personalities, turning important debates about public policy and governance into a Jacobean revenge drama full of long knives and brutish motives.

I don't feel I'm getting the straight story when, for example, the reporter above constantly referred to the budget analysis that pulled the rug out from under the teacher salary deal as "$30 million in overspending from the central office operations." It wasn't. It was only $20 million. And projected through FY 2010. Which means it's only $10 million through the first half of the fiscal year, which ended last week. Was there any further info on what caused this overspending? Didn't the central office pack up and move to another building during the current year? Maybe there were some non-recurring costs because of that move, making the projection by the CFO not so accurate?

And efavorite--I'd suggest a minor edit to your post: "Well George and Randi and Michelle-now you've seen what happens when you bank on the CFO office's report of a $4 million/month surplus."

Posted by: gardyloo | May 4, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

"Only" $20 million in overspending??? We're supposed to be happy about this?? Gee, I feel better already. $10 million to move??? Why not use one of the school buildings that have been closed? Parking is available and you're not paying rent to a 3rd party.

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | May 4, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

"Only" $20 million in overspending??? We're supposed to be happy about this?? Gee, I feel better already. $10 million to move??? Why not use one of the school buildings that have been closed? Parking is available and you're not paying rent on office space. Not fancy enough for you?? Give me a break!

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | May 4, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I said:
"Maybe there were some non-recurring costs because of that move, making the projection by the CFO not so accurate?"

I never said that the move cost $10 million.

I just wanted the media to seek elaboration on the barebones numbers being thrown around by the key players in this. Were that done, people wouldn't jump to the wrong conclusions through misinterpretation--accidental or otherwise.

But if you must jump to conclusions, jump all you want. You can even go full-out double-dutch if your blatant misreading serves to fortify your preconceptions.

Posted by: gardyloo | May 4, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

The "$10 million to move???" is a question presented to highlight the ridiculousness of trivialize overspending of this extent. You present the $20 million figure as though it is a trivial number as in "It was only $20 million.". To me, $10 million or $20 million is a lot of money.

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | May 4, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

vscribe: while we thank you for your service as a teacher, you call the halls of DC public schools in particular "a jungle." Nice touch, madame. And you clearly want combat pay. And not only the students but the darn parents are attacking you, you say.

We feel your pain, but it is unclear if you have any intention of even trying to Educate. Probably good for you and DCPS that you moved to another jurisdiction. But be careful--you have brought with you the victimhood attitude that some number of DC teachers adopt, sad to say. You can't exude that and be an effective teacher or be fulfilled professionally. Good luck in whatever you do.

Posted by: axolotl | May 4, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I see axolotl that the call for decorum and civility lasted less than 24 hours.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | May 4, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Rhee can't even do anti-leaking right.

Posted by: aby1 | May 4, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

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