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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 11/ 5/2009

How Rhee lost her teachers

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Virginia R. Pass
Silver Spring

I do not understand The Post’s trust in D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. She is running roughshod over the rights of teachers, all the while claiming that she is acting in the best interests of the children.

Certainly students in D.C. public schools have been poorly served for many years, and they have a fundamental right to a good education. But that education can’t happen without teachers. When a school system shows callousness toward its employees, as Rhee did with her recent firing of hundreds of teachers and other workers, it undermines its ability to find dedicated people to work in such a climate.

Your Oct. 31 editorial, “Ms. Rhee on trial,” cast the teachers’ union as the villain, one interested in protecting teachers at the expense of students. That is simply not true. Remember that unions came about because employers were taking advantage of their workers — in effect, violating their rights. Rhee’s recent actions show that employees still need unions to protect them from unfair practices. The editorial also said that teachers won’t hear Rhee in good faith; I believe that they were initially willing to work with Rhee, but now she is just reaping what she has sown, which is disrespect and disregard.

Teaching is not, and never was, the cushy, perk-laden career that people with little or no experience in education often suggest. Teachers routinely work long hours, usually without being given adequate time for planning and collaboration with colleagues. They teach their subjects, and they teach students to use manners, treat classmates with respect and develop study skills. They must manage classrooms in which students have a wide range of needs. Many teachers hold master’s degrees or the equivalent and seek out training in technology and other education-related subjects in their meager spare time.

Still, they don’t seem to be considered to be professionals who deserve basic workplace rights. I have no problem with firing incompetent teachers, but let the process be fair. I commend Rhee for her desire to serve students. But if she wants to succeed, she needs to be the leader not just of the students clamoring for a solid education but also of the teachers who will provide that education.

The writer is a teacher at Robert Frost Middle School in Rockville.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | November 5, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

I am an untenured teacher and a Special Education resource teacher. The administration at my school routinely makes me cancel resource classes with my students to sub for other teachers. If I do not do this they will not rehire me for the next school year.

In addition, they protect teachers who do them personal favors even if they are not good teachers.

They also chose not to renew the contract of an excellent special education teacher when she disagreed with them over the suspension of a mentally retarded student.

I think it is time we look at the politics of giving the administration the right to routinely fire any teacher without due process.

Posted by: resc | November 5, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Lost, in what way? A temporary misplacement might be more accurate. Yeah, you might have someone on the council state that they have never seen it "this worse" but do I dare remind that council-member, who was part of the historic political realm when the "striking of teachers" would have it in the worst scenario column too.

Please will someone fall on the sword sort of speak...and get-off the rhetoric of "incompetent" teaching. We have to separate immediately the performance element from the conduct element...or in laymen terms the can't from the won't attitude.

Yeah, many a teacher would say "begone to the teacher who can't teach" but with union/management agreeing that with training and mentoring "one" out of two employees can be saved from career suicide. But what has developed is this ostritch-head in the hole attitude from the unionized force...and this perpetual need to make the superlative listing amongst their colleagues.

Again, an employee who has exceeds expectations and can't get enter the work place on time...will soon exit...it is inevitable. Yet, the cry is that "I am targeted because I am outspoken, I am targeted because I am over 40, I am targeted because I am affiliated with the union and I am targeted because I am a minority...where just a simple revising would be I am targeted because I am tardy."

Reason being can't get to work on time because of extinuating circumstances is readily defendable, but won't get to work on time because the union can protect me is readily defiable.

Just a thought; in certain areas Security Divisions of firms hire former convicted and released thieves to assist them in security prevention. Maybe, someone needs to hire just recently released Barbara Bullock in regards to mending union/management. One thing for sure she [Bullock] might have taken her membership for granted but she maintained a winning relationship amongst the superintendent rank and file.

No one can really denounce the Bullock and Vance commaradarie and readily were there any outstanding issues under their leadership other than the obvious?

You can do your own Washpo archives research on the Vance/Bullock issues and come to your own conclusions.

Posted by: PowerandPride | November 5, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

"Yet, the cry is that "I am targeted because I am outspoken, I am targeted because I am over 40, I am targeted because I am affiliated with the union and I am targeted because I am a minority...where just a simple revising would be I am targeted because I am tardy."

This statement is not the truth!

Posted by: jlp19 | November 5, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Ms. Pass for writing this in defense of teachers.

Thank you, Mr. Larabee for accepting it for your column. I wish it got as much attention as a Post editorial.

Posted by: efavorite | November 5, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

In total agreeance with efavorite. Great Job Ms. Pass. Critics tend to group all of those who were in the RIF as bad teachers. I'd love to know how many of them have even stepped foot inside a DCPS. It's very easy to criticize what should and should not happen, but unless you're directly involved one way or another you can't be certain.

People (powerandpride)simply need to stop making excuses for the unfair actions of this administration.

Posted by: boo2 | November 6, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Who said she ever had them? That's the biggest misconception of all.

Posted by: candycane1 | November 6, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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