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Posted at 6:44 PM ET, 02/23/2011

District to appeal decision reinstating fired teachers

By Bill Turque

When Vincent C. Gray was elected, supporters of the Fenty-Rhee school reform movement worried out loud that the campaign support he received from D.C. teachers would cause him to roll back some of the former chancellor's personnel decisions. They're likely to be pleased with his announcement late Wednesday afternoon that the District will appeal an arbitrator's decision ordering the reinstatement of 75 teachers Michelle Rhee fired in 2008.

Aribitrator Charles Feigenbaum ruled on Feb. 7 that DCPS was within its rights to fire the teachers, all of whom were in their two-year probationary period and who had received negative reviews from principals. Some of the appraisals, included in Feigenbaum's opinion, were pretty bleak. One teacher had been warned about playing DVD movies and gospel songs during class time. Students reported that he told them "go to hell." Another had 24 tardies and 20 days of absences after returning from two monhs of sick leave.

But Feigenbaum said Rhee erred by not giving the teachers specific reasons for their dismissals.

"It is the opinion of the Attorney General that the arbitrator erred in requiring the District to provide back pay to teachers who were justifiably found not to be effective teachers," Gray said in a statement. "Therefore, while we remain committed to providing the due process cited by the arbitrator, the OAG will appeal the decision by Monday's deadline to ensure that the District is not forced to place or pay ineffective teachers in the event there are future disagreements about what the decision means."

The "due process" Gray referred to was Feigenbaum's order that the city make a 60-day good-faith effort to locate the affected teachers in order to abide by the ruling, pending a decision on the appeal.

"My bottom line continues to be that all students should be taught by good teachers," Gray said. "Going forward, all actions related to the arbitrator's ruling will be based on that premise."

As noted in this space before, the bar for court reversal of an arbitrator's decision is high. But the District's more likely objective here is to drag out the case with a lengthy appeals process that will begin with the city's Public Employee Relations Board and then the courts.

By Bill Turque  | February 23, 2011; 6:44 PM ET
 
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Comments

Letter to the Washington Post

The Washington Post should either remove Mr. Mathews or publicly reprimand Mr. Mathews for his article "Why do great school systems fear charters?"

Mr. Mathews in this article has attempted to use his influence as a columnist with falsehoods, and distortions of the truth to reverse a decision so that private organizations will receive millions from public funds.

It is hard to find in the article a line that is not either a deliberate falsehood, or a deliberate distortion of the truth.

Mr. Mathews does not indicate that it is not $550,000 grant that he mentions, but millions of county funds that will be required for operating two schools if the decision is reversed.

Mr. Mathews uses deliberate falsehoods in his various claims of no explanations being provided in regard to the decision to not approve the applications for public funds, since Mr. Mathews is fully aware of a report that contains detailed descriptions of the concerns of the panel that did not approve the applications.

Mr. Mathews provides no substantial quotes from this report of the panel, but feels it is appropriate to claim without a shred of supporting evidence that the report of the panel is "their worries reads like a neurotic mother’s letter to her son at summer camp, bemoaning all the terrible things that might happen". This false description of the report of the panel is immediately obvious to any individual that reviews the report of the panel.

Mr. Mathews also uses a deliberate falsehood in regard to "raising the achievement of low-income children" since he is fully aware that there is only a very small minority of low-income children in the county, and that enrollment in schools in this county can not legally limited to this small minority of low-income children in the county.

Mr. Mathews is also fully aware that in Montgomery county the large majority of the public funds for public education come directly from the residents of the county. There is only limited amounts of funds from the state and the federal government. Mr. Mathews does not mention this since it would give justification to accepting the decision of the county on the use of funds for public education, since the county is providing the large majority of these funds.

Mr. Mathews is also fully aware and does not mention that in counties where residents pay the overwhelming majority of the costs of public education costs, it is normal to place on the ballot new proposals in regard to uses of millions for public education. In Montgomery county the private organizations have made no attempt to place their proposals regarding millions from the resident of the county on the local ballot.

It is one thing for a columnist to freely comment on a government decision but it quite a different thing for a columnist to use falsehoods and distortions in an attempt to reverse a decision that will result in private organizations receiving millions from public funds.

Posted by: joe_banana | February 23, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Letter to the Washington Post

The Washington Post should either remove Mr. Mathews or publicly reprimand Mr. Mathews for his article "Why do great school systems fear charters?"

Mr. Mathews in this article has attempted to use his influence as a columnist with falsehoods, and distortions of the truth to reverse a decision so that private organizations will receive millions from public funds.

It is hard to find in the article a line that is not either a deliberate falsehood, or a deliberate distortion of the truth.

Mr. Mathews does not indicate that it is not $550,000 grant that he mentions, but millions of county funds that will be required for operating two schools if the decision is reversed.

Mr. Mathews uses deliberate falsehoods in his various claims of no explanations being provided in regard to the decision to not approve the applications for public funds, since Mr. Mathews is fully aware of a report that contains detailed descriptions of the concerns of the panel that did not approve the applications.

Mr. Mathews provides no substantial quotes from this report of the panel, but feels it is appropriate to claim without a shred of supporting evidence that the report of the panel is "their worries reads like a neurotic mother’s letter to her son at summer camp, bemoaning all the terrible things that might happen". This false description of the report of the panel is immediately obvious to any individual that reviews the report of the panel.

Mr. Mathews also uses a deliberate falsehood in regard to "raising the achievement of low-income children" since he is fully aware that there is only a very small minority of low-income children in the county, and that enrollment in schools in this county can not legally limited to this small minority of low-income children in the county.

Mr. Mathews is also fully aware that in Montgomery county the large majority of the public funds for public education come directly from the residents of the county. There is only limited amounts of funds from the state and the federal government. Mr. Mathews does not mention this since it would give justification to accepting the decision of the county on the use of funds for public education, since the county is providing the large majority of these funds.

Mr. Mathews is also fully aware and does not mention that in counties where residents pay the overwhelming majority of the costs of public education costs, it is normal to place on the ballot new proposals in regard to uses of millions for public education. In Montgomery county the private organizations have made no attempt to place their proposals regarding millions from the resident of the county on the local ballot.

It is one thing for a columnist to freely comment on a government decision but it quite a different thing for a columnist to use falsehoods and distortions in an attempt to reverse a decision that will result in private organizations receiving millions from public funds.

Posted by: joe_banana | February 23, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

For all those teachers who voted for Vincent Gray thinking he would reinstated the fired teachers will now see the reality - he's not your friend.

Posted by: rationalone | February 24, 2011 12:02 AM | Report abuse

DC should become a district of six municipal blocks: the National Mall and the seat of the government. Give the rest back to VA and MD. Stop wasting time with DC's pathetic government. Can you imagine DC as a state. Oh my, what a disaster.

Posted by: number91 | February 24, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

@number91. Oh, then, you must be thinking of such successfully and well managed states as Wisc, Calif, Florida, and Mississippi, or maybe Michigan. And they don't get great help from Congress. Our government may be poorly managed, but it's our governmenet, and we have not even been able to vote for it until the last 40 years. Again, we need for our mayor and countil to pull up their collective socks and show some energy and smarts, as well as ensure that the "trade union" controlling the schools does not do further damaage by resisting change and sowing chaos.

Posted by: axolotl | February 24, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Latest union put down by axxie

"trade union". Children first. LOL

Posted by: dccounselor72 | February 24, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Looks Like Joe Banana is a prime example of how ignorant some county employees are. Posting a letter to the editor whining about how he may not get to gorge himself on the taxpayers expense because someone might actualy provide a better product. A letter that has nothing to do with this article.

Posted by: Pilot1 | February 24, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

To all those northern Virginians who love hatin' on the District, I want you to know that when DC finally becomes a state, the first order of business is the annexation of Arlington County. Originally part of the District, always part of the District! Oh yea, and Old Town Alexandria, thats ours, too.

Posted by: smart-aleck | February 24, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

District to appeal reinstatement of 77 fired teachers in 2008
By:Lisa Gartner 02/23/11 8:05 PM
Examiner Staff Writer

Rhee let teachers go based on principal recommendations

The District plans to appeal an arbitrator's decision to reinstate and offer back pay to 77 teachers fired in 2008 from D.C. Public Schools by Monday.

"It is the opinion of the attorney general that the arbitrator erred in requiring the District to provide back pay to teachers who were justifiably found not to be effective teachers," Mayor Vincent Gray said on Wednesday.Former Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired 77 first- and second-year teachers in August 2008 based on recommendations from their principals. Because the teachers had yet to earn tenure, DCPS said it did not have to explain why the teachers were fired.

Arbitrator Charles Feigenbaum ruled in favor of the Washington Teachers' Union when he decided the firings were improper because teachers did not have an opportunity to rebut their principals' allegations against them.Attorney General Irvin Nathan said Wednesday that school officials were locating the teachers to explain why they were terminated, as the ruling demands, but he said the city should only offer back wages to teachers found worthy of reinstatement.

"We will be ... giving them an opportunity to rebut or explain the circumstances, and then there will be a new determination as to whether they will be employed," Nathan said. "For when the decision is not to retain them, it doesn't seem appropriate to us that they will get payment from the District for the period of the arbitration which took over [two] years."The teachers' union estimated that each of the laid-off teachers earned an average $50,000 annual salary, meaning a two-year payout would cost the city $7.7 million.

Teachers' union President Nathan Saunders said the city's appeal creates an unfair situation for teachers already damaged by the system. "Contacting these individuals and giving them the opportunity to be fired all over again, I'm certain will not be attractive to them," he said.

Saunders noted that Feigenbaum was selected by both parties. "It is now time to move forward," he said.According to principals' recommendations, one of the fired teachers played gospel music for his students, whom he told to go to "h-e-l-l." Another was absent without leave for weeks, while others failed to help their students.DCPS spokeswoman Safiya Simmons said notice letters will be sent to the last known addresses of the teachers within the next few days.

"The decision to appeal was made by the District of Columbia government," she said. "DCPS participated in the process of making that decision and fully supports the decision to appeal."

http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/education/2011/02/dc-appeal-reinstatement-77-fired-teachers

Posted by: frankb1 | February 24, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Reporting; that's how it's done Bill Turque. Why don't you give it a try?

Posted by: frankb1 | February 24, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Having worked in DCPS, and cannot recall a competent principal among the six I had, forgive me if I have very little confidence in their comments regarding these teachers. Many DC principals are a very immoral bunch.

I am horrified that Gray bases his conclusion that the teachers were "justifiably" fired on the words of inept administrators. What other evidence is there? As Mayor, his critical thinking skills need some work.

I'm disappointed in the quote attributed to the Mayor in the Examiner's article.

Posted by: vscribe | February 24, 2011 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to the business world, where the motto among the labor-relation arena, if "they" want their jobs let'em fight for it. Yet, when elephants fight, nothing gets hurt but the ground.

Posted by: mlr1960 | February 24, 2011 9:55 PM | Report abuse

So, Rhee continues to cost DC money even after she is gone. What a bargain.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | February 25, 2011 8:00 AM | Report abuse

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