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Rhee to NYC: Just be like me

There was a time in the fairly recent past when Michelle Rhee was the protege and Joel Klein was the mentor. Rhee was the little-known head of a teacher recruiting non-profit in 2007 when Klein, head of the New York City school system, recommended her to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty for the D.C. chancellor's post. But now, fresh from striking what she describes as a "revolutionary bargain" with the Washington Teachers' Union, she's instructing Klein and New York's United Federation of Teachers (UFT) on how to negotiate a new contract.

In a piece in Sunday's New York Daily News, Rhee urges Klein and UFT president Michael Mulgrew to craft a contract that includes the main features of the D.C. accord. That includes pay for performance, personnel decisions based on quality, not seniority, and allowing principals to decide how to staff their schools. She called for an end to New York's Absent Teacher Reserve Pool, into which the city pays tens of millions of dollars to retain teachers who have lost their posts as a result of declining enrollment or other changes in school programs.

Rhee negotiated a one-year grace period at full pay for District teachers who can't find new spots in the system, with the option of a $25,000 buyout or early retirement with 20 years service.

"The solution we came up with to this problem in D.C. is fair, manageable and affordable. Replicate it," Rhee wrote.

Perhaps most remarkably, Rhee recommends that American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, Mulgrew's predecessor as UFT leader and a key figure in the D.C. contract talks, be brought into the New York negotiations. Teachers there have been working without a contract since October.

"I don't like to get in the middle of someone else's negotiation and I know that there is a long and complicated history between Weingarten and Klein," Rhee wrote. "However, based on my experiences negotiating with Weingarten, she is very much able to see the direction the nation is heading in and the fact that unions need to be a part of the solution. Both Klein and Mulgrew should lean on her."

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By Bill Turque  |  June 13, 2010; 6:20 PM ET
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Posted by: fmurray200111 | June 13, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: rfghhjhk | June 13, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

How obnoxious.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | June 13, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

"That includes pay for performance."

Never mind it has never worked. (For more details, see Valerie Strauss's recent columns and the comments section ).
Miss Rhee keeps pushing that hoary old chestnut.

But that brings to mind a contradiction in the logic of the professional school "reformers" like Miss Rhee. They will place on a pedestal the seeming success of Catholic schools in teaching inner city students (such that they will fund a scholarship program to send inner city students to Catholic schools.)
But yet, whether it be the nuns of old, or the lay teachers of today, one thing they do not get is "pay for performance".

How bizarre!

Posted by: edlharris | June 14, 2010 6:03 AM | Report abuse

"Just be like me". Classic Rhee. Prescriptive and self-glorifying. Actually, Rhee is already the poster child of the pushy, smug, opinionated "N'Yawker" caricature, so full of certitude and so lacking in humility. She wants "them" to be like her, and can't see that she's already the spittin' image of "them".

Irony at its most incisive, and tragic.

Posted by: laboo | June 14, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Rhee has big business behind her, and they will do anything to take away worker's rights. Therefore the press (such as Newsweek) will glorify what she has done because it helps destroy worker's rights.

If Newsweek, Time, Rhee and Klein really were interested in school reform (which they aren't) they would take a look at the Bering Sea Straight school district in Alaska where true reform is taking place on a massive scale.

But they won't do that, because they are not interested in true reform.

Posted by: jlp19 | June 14, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Here's where true reform is taking place:

They have such an incredibly unique reform program going on there but because they aren't in the process of destroying worker's rights the press won't pay attention to them. And they don't teach to the test.

Posted by: jlp19 | June 14, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: rfghhjhk | June 14, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Does the word "humility" even exist in this lady's personal lexicon?

Posted by: UrbanDweller | June 14, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

"Be like me" Go right ahead. Bloomberg narrowly defeated his opponent using his own money. So go ahead and be like Rhee and see what happens. LMAO! Bloomberg's tutorials and Kleins's recommendations have not served Fenty well.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 14, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Wow! Rhee, like Fenty, is a complete joke! Joel Klein has FORGOTTEN more things about negotiating contracts and running public schools than Rhee will EVER know.

Posted by: linroy62 | June 14, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Maybe we teachers keep looking at Michelle Rhee as if she were an educator or a teacher herself.

She is not a classroom person. If you haven't figured that out yet you haven't been listening to what she is saying.

Maybe if you look at her as a business person or CEO she will not surprise you so much.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 14, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

As my grandmomma would say to Rhee in two words "hush child." Where are her politically correct high-paid p/r people...did they not make the trip?

Posted by: PowerandPride | June 14, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Somehow it just does not seem fitting or appropriate for Michelle Rhee to be giving advice or counsel to Joel Klein, or any other district superintendent, public school union or organization on effective negotiation strategies or school reform contracts as according to what I have read, Kurt Schmoke was the person responsible for bringing the two sides together, teaching Ms. Rhee the politics and prose of effective negotiation and for ultimately settling the DCPS contract.

Posted by: highquality4kids | June 14, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I actually think she was stressing that Weingarten wants to be part of the solution and that she was helpful in negotiations. I think it is a good sign that Rhee is aware that the unions are on the kids' side. This is a rhetorical shift for her, isn't it?

Posted by: celestun100 | June 14, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Once again, Rhee is in closer contact with Klein than she is with Kevin Johnson. Joel Klein's staff probably wrote this piece for Rhee's signature. All of the stuff she pulls in DC she gets from Klein.

Rhee will not make DCPS great, she is simply a chang agent with a short life span.

Posted by: topryder1 | June 14, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

How provincial. Moliere comedies are funny because they feature clueless stuffed shirts on high heels like Ms. Rhee.
What's next, the director of the Department of Health hires out as an expert to all cities and counties with population over 600,000?
Here, someone with numerous schools in functional receivership, continued loss of market share to public charter schools, a large fraction of line-workers in revulsion, and dependence on the children of highly-educated good-government bureaucrats to distinguish performance from, say, Camden, NJ public schools. And she's giving advice.

Posted by: incredulous | June 15, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Rhee to Klein: Be like me use pay-for-performance even though it has failed and been abandoned everywhere it has been tried (including Australia, talk about a world-wide failure); double-down of high-stakes testing of NCLB, even though it has proven to be a failure (Daine Ravitch); bring in as many uncertified FTA interns as possibloe, even thouth it has been shown that they are just as bad as the uncertified, pooryl trained and educated non-TFA subs they replace (Mathamatica), and far worse than real-certified teachers (Linda Darling-Hammond); ignor the proven positive results from curricular reform (Russ Whitehurst).

Forrest Gump said "Stupid is as Stupid does." In education "Stupid is as Rhee does."

Posted by: mcstowy | June 15, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

celestun100--knocking Rhee for not being a career teacher is always a plausible criticism, but is it valid?

What has been teachers'role in the decline of DCPS that no one disputes?

Or are they just victims of circumstance?

Posted by: axolotl | June 16, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

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