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About that Bahrain trip

Updated with DCPS comment

The brief reference in this morning's Kaya Henderson piece to the international education conference in Bahrain raised some eyebrows. Here's a bit more.

Henderson was joined by three DCPS principals, Willie Jackson (Eliot-Hine Middle School), Dwan Jordon (Sousa Middle School) and Liz Whisnant (Mann Elementary), and McKinley Technology High School engineering teacher Anthony Priest, for the three-day "Education Project," a government-sponsored gathering of education heavy hitters from the public and private sector. The District confirms that DCPS staff had their trips paid for by the Kingdom of Bahrain, specifically the country's Economic Development Board, which is chaired by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. No specific cost was available, but it was doubtless a pretty good chunk of change. The event, which took place in the Isa Cultural Centre in Manama, Bahrain's capital, was run by the same event management firm that puts on the Davos Forum.

According to the conference Web site, the second annual event was intended to "showcase seedling models of innovation and success in education, and encourage commitments from the private and public sector to adapt these models for wider roll-out."

The speaker list included former Boston schools superintendent Thomas Payzant, KIPP charter schools founder Mike Feinberg, Ari Pokka, president of the Finnish Association of Principals, Dan Lea, 2009 teacher of the Year in the U.K., James Willcox, chief executive of Aspire charter school network, Bill Fowler, director of global education for Cisco Systems, and Charlotte Francis Cole, senior vice president of global education for Sesame Workshop.

According the draft program, Henderson and Priest were on a panel titled "New Teacher Attitudes and Skills Required: A Commitment to Change, and an Expanded Role as Mentor and Facilitator." Henderson was also listed for a panel addressing the question, "Can a Private Sector Approach to Education Deliver Better Outcomes than the Traditional Public School Approach?"

All of this has sparked some chatter on the listservs about global conspiracies to privatize public education. The real question is whether this was the best use of anybody's time in a school system with so many issues, especially Henderson, principal deputy to a chancellor who had one foot -- and possibly both feet -- out the door while she was thousands of miles away.

Through spokeswoman Marrianne McMullen, Henderson said she agreed to participate in the forum months ago, and that DCPS reforms and successes have received national and international attention.

"When we are asked to share those experiences in a situation in which thousands of other children can benefit, we do our best to do so," McMullen said. "Likewise, there are innovations and best practices from around the globe that DCPS staff can learn from and apply for our children's benefit."

Finally, McMullen said that while this is a "time of transition" it is not a "time of crisis."

"The chancellor and the deputy chancellor were in daily contact throughout the deputy chancellor's trip," she said.

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By Bill Turque  | October 15, 2010; 12:21 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Parents react to Michelle Rhee's departure
Next: Fenty and Rhee: 'We fell short' on building support


A wasteful trip, even if committed to months ago. Henderson should stay in town, shun BS trips, and keep her personal life to herself. TMI (Post interview today) won't help her manage reform.

Posted by: axolotl | October 15, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I find it hard to believe that the reforms in DC are garnering international attention. It's still a system that is far behind. I can see Finland capturing international attention but DC? Gimme a break! This trip was a waste of money.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | October 15, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

She is. Starting like Rea talking about her personal life come on it. BS Henderson needs to go with Rea thanks the Lord she is. Only Intrim until Gray find someone else

Posted by: Darksecrettt | October 16, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

The trip was another rheeform tactic to pit privatization against public education. Most of Henderson's interaction with DCPS has been to put inexperiednced teachers in the classroom to help fund Teach for American and Project Teach Just like Rhee, she has a personal adjenda. She is a Rhee clone who will have Rhee running DCPS from Cali. She lacks the kind of leadership needed to effectively continue the efforts of "reform" not Rheeform. You readers seem to think this issue is only germaine to DCPS. Read! Its a national issue and it is not just the fault of ineffective teachers. I would bet to say those who went to public schools during their day got a good wrap around education when test scores did not define us as children or determined who would be more successful than another!

Posted by: frankiesimmons1 | October 17, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I don’t see this so much as a conspiracy, but as seeking to exploit an emerging market.

Post the 2008 financial debacle, the public coffers are one place where there’s a consistent, steady cash flow.

When/if a corporation can tap into that, garnering revenue becomes a lot easier. If private education entities, such as charters, had to pay all costs for a child’s education up front and provide evidence for reimbursement, this market wouldn’t be as attractive.

No, it’s all about the money – with little ability to determine if you’re getting what you paid for and no refund if students fail.

Posted by: Concerned_Citizen2 | October 18, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

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