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DeMorning DeBonis: July 23, 2010

TODAY IS JULY 23, 2010 -- 53 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

A "sizable number" of D.C. Public Schools teachers will be handed pink slips in the coming days after earning "ineffective" ratings on new IMPACT evaluations, WAMU-FM's Kavitha Cardoza and Examiner's Leah Fabel both reported yesterday following a briefing with top DCPS officials. Fabel notes that the move is "certain to become a factor in the tight mayoral race" -- certain indeed after the political brouhaha that erupted the last time DCPS sent teachers packing. But these firings, unlike the fall 2009 layoff, are purely for poor performance and aren't conflated with a questionable budget shortfall, which is critics seized upon in slamming the fall firings. Question is: How sharply will Vincent Gray criticize Adrian Fenty for ridding the system of bad teachers? Examiner's Freeman Klopott chips in some political analysis, writing that the firings "could provide a boost to [Fenty]'s re-election bid, but only if he moves swiftly to portray the firings as school reform" -- which should be easier this time.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Fenty taps former Army secretary for BOEE chair -- standing up for Fenty's new juvenile justice chief -- Gray addresses urbanists' nerves -- complete Wednesday forum coverage -- who has the upper hand on ethics?

*** MAIN COURSE ***

HOW MANY? -- Writes Fabel: "Even if the number of fired employees -- from teachers to librarians to custodians -- is as small as 50, the move would be almost unprecedented nationwide. For decades, school employees' contracts have made it almost impossible for districts to fire them based solely on substandard performance. ... A city official speaking on background said about 20 termination letters have gone out thus far, with more expected in the week ahead. Henderson refused to provide specific numbers, saying final calculations are not complete. However, she did not balk when asked if it could be as high as 'a couple of hundred.' 'There were about 6,600 employees evaluated,' she said, implying that even if only 2 percent of them ranked 'ineffective,' that would total about 130." The actual number of teachers is expected to be released today. On his blog, Bill Turque explains how the word got out and offers some background on IMPACT.

IT'S TOGO -- The "blue chip" emergency nominee Fenty promised for the Board of Elections and Ethics is quite distinguished indeed: Togo D. West Jr., former cabinet secretary and Ward 3 resident, will be sent to the D.C. Council. The pick, Nikita Stewart writes, "avert[s] a potential crisis weeks before the Sept. 14 primary and appear[s] to defuse a fight with the D.C. Council over the critical appointment. Gray lauded the pick in a statement and vowed to "act quickly on the nomination, recognizing time is of the essence." Oversight chair Mary Cheh says the pick "works for me." One fact likely to mildly rankle: "West practiced law at Covington & Burling, the same firm as city Attorney General Peter Nickles. West testified on behalf of Nickles at his confirmation hearing in 2008. 'The mayor proposed him. I said, "That's a hell of an idea,"' Nickles said, adding that he was not involved in West's selection." Examiner's Klopott notes that West "has also been playing a background role in the District's politics for years and has close ties to Bill Lightfoot, the chairman of Fenty's re-election campaign."

DEFENDING HILDUM -- Harry Jaffe stands up for interim juvenile justice chief Robert Hildum in his Examiner column: "For many years the city's agency that should protect us from violent kids has coddled them instead. Under Vinnie Schiraldi, the pendulum swung too far toward rehabilitation and turned the detention system into a sieve. ... Hildum is a 180 degree change from Schiraldi. He will be tough. He will open up the system to public scrutiny. He will strengthen the detention process. For the people preyed on by young predators, that could be a relief." And the Post's editorial board admonishes youth advocates for prejudging Hildum: "Instead of rushing to judgment, they should try to work with the new leadership. For starters, they might want to sit down and actually talk to the new director. ... There are legitimate concerns about how youth released into the community are supervised and about how the department measures recidivism. The department and its allies in the vigorous advocacy community would serve their cause better by taking such issues seriously than by assuming a defensive crouch."

ETHICAL PING-PONG -- In my not-a-column, I analyze Fenty and Gray's battle for the ethical high ground. "[T]he WMD in Gray's ethical arsenal," I write, is the "parks and recreation spending directed through the Housing Authority to be distributed, without council scrutiny, by firms run by Fenty allies. ... Meanwhile, the Fenty campaign has been preoccupied with painting Gray as a creature of the old school, a feckless bureaucrat who as human services director in the early 1990s helped lead the city into fiscal ruin. But Gray's been able to flip that script. Behold: 'What's taking us back again is the cronyism that we've seen,' he said on WPFW. 'Contracts being given to fraternity brothers, other elements of this that people would have associated with yesteryear.' ... But Fenty has been unwilling to quietly absorb the allegations, for good reason. His re-election strategy hinges on racking up huge margins -- 80 percent or more -- west of Rock Creek Park. And if there's anything that gives those voters pause, it's talk of cronies and contract steering." Hence the Nickles-involved attacks on Gray's home repairs and his role in the lottery contract.

THE URBAN VOTE -- "Should urbanists be nervous about Vince Gray?" asks David Alpert, digital dean of local urbanists, on his Greater Greater Washington blog. The answer: Not as much as you thought. "After speaking with Gray and his campaign manager, Adam Rubinson, I have become far less nervous about this issue than I was at the outset. There's no way to be sure, of course. I can only tell you what he said during our discussion and how it fits with his actions in the past." He testifies to Gray's decisions not to unduly interfere with Office of Planning decisions, adding that "[l]etting OP go ahead versus actually being the guy pushing OP to make progress are two different things, of course. ... Gray assured me that he would get them done and wants to get them done. That he's not afraid to make a few enemies along the way." Commenters disagree heartily.

FORUM WRAP-UP -- More from Wednesday night's mayoral forums: Up in Ward 4, Nikita reports at D.C. Wire that Fenty and Gray played nice and "and did not attack each other's records or ethics." Other candidates, however, were not so nice. The Georgetown Dish posts full coverage of the Ward 2 Dems/Logan Circle Citizens Association event, noting that "sparks flew" between campaign loyalists but "hostility subsided during the actual debate - except for a man running up to the podium, outraged that the candidates wouldn't be taking questions." And if you care about the Georgetown University campus plan, they're all over that. City Paper's Alan Suderman checked in afterward with an initially undecided Ward 2 Democrat. "Her answer: 'I don't really care for any of them, but I put my vote in for Gray.' She said she didn't think there was much difference between Gray and Fenty's ability to run the city, but she didn't like Fenty's attitude and she figured why not give Gray a chance? She added, though, that she could easily change her mind between now and the election." At D.C. Wire, Tim Craig analyzes the results: "Considering Ward 2 is widely expected to be Fenty country in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, the Gray campaign likely will be more than pleased with its 40 percent showing in the straw poll. ... [I]f Fenty's operation can only muster 60 percent of the vote out of Ward 2 on Election Day, it could be an early night for the Green Team considering Gray's expected strength in communities in the eastern part of the city."

BLUE TEAM GETS BLUER -- Six weeks after winning union nod, Gray wins broader FOP lodge endorsement, Tim reports at D.C. Wire. "Marcello Muzzatti, president of the District of Columbia Lodge of the Fraternal of the Police, said Thursday that the 11,000 officers he represents from more than 100 local and federal law enforcement agencies support Gray because he 'understands public safety must never be compromised for political or personal reasons.' Muzzatti suggested he does not trust the crime statistics that have been compiled by the Fenty administration. 'He will be a leader who does not shy away from the facts,' Muzzatti said of Gray, and knows that in order to effectively fight crime and keep residents safe, we must first have a clear understanding of the amount of crime that is occurring in our city and the root cause of that crime.'"

VOUCHERS LIVE? -- "Rhee aims to build voucher programs" reads the headline of Deborah Simmons' Washington Times report today. Huge scoop, right? DCPS is going to spend money to give students the choice of attending private schools? Not so much: "Miss Rhee," Simmons writes, "is considering using publicly funded vouchers for special-needs students whose parents opt out of the system and enroll their children in private schools." In other words: Rhee is going to keep paying for private placements for special-ed kids DCPS isn't equipped to serve, as she's required to by federal law. What is new is that parents can voluntarily "opt out" of DCPS without litigation and "purchase special-education services from a network of pre-approved private schools." It's unclear how many schools are willing to serve kids for the DCPS price, though.


*** SMALL PLATES ***

Since Fenty's 2006 TV ad, "some people" have changed their minds about Hizzoner (City Desk)

Decomposed body is found in trunk of Pontiac towed to Blue Plains impound lot (Examiner)

Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund endorses Clark Ray; Phil Mendelson supporters fume in the comments (Blade)

Is Georgetown suffering from an identity crisis? (Housing Complex)

DDOT opens up its photo vault, puts it on Flickr (DCist)

One private educator explains why OSSE's new special-ed payment rates aren't enough (D.C. Schools Insider)

Fenty hasn't signed bill banning heat-wave power shutoffs (WJLA-TV)

A tour of the soon-to-open Watha T. Daniel Library -- "a modern masterpiece" (Housing Complex)

Barry disapproval resolution delays DDOT move (JDLland)

Dantes Partners, featuring former DMPED executive Buwa Binitie, wins Justice Park development deal (Housing Complex)

Labor set to fill Gray coffers (Metro Labor Council)

Dupont Circle Metro escalators set for 2011 replacement (Post)

Advocates not happy about lack of transgender data in city health report (Blade)

Can you ever go "Home Again"? (The Other 35 Percent)

Why Metro's new rail cars won't help solve crowding problems (GGW)

Ray, Mendo talk about Rhee (Examiner Local Opinion Zone)

Carjacker gets two years after targeting senator's daughter (Post)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Amazon-like heat and humidity -- Fenty announces homelessness "milestone" -- Mark Plotkin's Politics Program has Phil Mendelson and former Rep. Tom Davis (WTOP, 10 a.m.) -- Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood's Politics Hour has WAMU-FM reporter Kavitha Cardoza and WTU VP Nathan Saunders (WAMU-FM, 12 p.m.) -- News Plus with Mark Segraves has Metro Interim GM Richard Sarles and board chair Peter Benjamin, plus Rhee (WDCW-TV, 10 a.m. Sunday)

By Mike DeBonis  |  July 23, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Vincent Gray wins ballot lottery, will top Democratic candidate list

Comments

No worries. I'm sure these teachers will soon file a class-action suit for wrongful termination (citing that poor job performance is not a legimate reason for termination) and be rehired with back pay,court costs, and a 12% raise. Oh yeah, and they also won't have to actually do any teaching.

Posted by: pswift00 | July 23, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Arrogant. Corrupt. Petty. Stubborn. Incompetent.

Fenty is DC's version of George Bush. Peter Nickles is his Dick Cheney.

Posted by: DCResident3 | July 25, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

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