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Schools Monday: At Long Last, D.C. Cleans House

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee got out the broom Friday and started the sweeping that three mayors and a battalion of schools superintendents promised, but never accomplished.

About 100 central office workers were summarily axed, escorted from the building by security, given two weeks severance and a big fat thanks for nothing. The TV stations were there to watch with glee, but restrained themselves and aired video only of the fired workers' legs.

The TV producers shouldn't have been so generous. After all these workers have done to relegate D.C. schoolchildren to lives of failure and unemployability, the fired employees should be seen and known to all.

In 1986, when I first started covering the D.C. school system, a very helpful and dedicated official in the central office, then located in the Presidential Building just off Pennsylvania Avenue NW, took me around the sprawling, open-plan room of desks outside the superintendent's office.

I met a couple of dozen people and asked what it was they all did. "Not much," the official told me, and he proceeded to detail the various side businesses that these public employees conducted from their desks. One ran a clothing business, one did catering for school events, one had a contract to provide transportation for disabled kids, one was a Mary Kay cosmetics dealer.

"Where do they get the time?" I naively asked.

"They got nothing but time," came the response.

While tens of thousands of D.C. children languished in schools in which student performance routinely declines the longer a child stays within the system, the central office was a hiring hall for friends, relatives and cronies of those who had come before them. While students sat in decrepit buildings that lacked proper heat, air conditioning, books, science labs or gyms, the central office workers ordered in catering, gave themselves junkets to conferences on tropical islands, and routinely took early slides. Often when I had late-afternoon interviews with hard-working school board members or superintendents, I'd arrive to find that the entire room of special assistants for this or that was empty, even at 4 p.m. The concept of toiling away for the children was unknown.

Even worse than the fact that hardly any heavy lifting was occurring was the attitude that infected the room when people could be bothered to do some work. Children were spoken of with derision bordering on contempt. The vast majority of workers at headquarters lived in the suburbs, and while many were former D.C. teachers and residents, they had long since come to believe that the good, smart people had left the city, and that those who remained behind were dysfunctional and incapable of learning.

Year after year, decade after decade, waves of reformers and politicians swore they would finally address the incompetence and corruption that saturated the D.C. system. They promised to clear out the deadwood and bloat from the central office. But until now, no one had the legal authority, political foundation or spine to do the deed.

While there is already whining and moaning from other District government workers and from those who view a job in the system as a life appointment, Friday's move brought rejoicing from teachers and many parents.

As a D.C. teacher writes on the Post's comment boards, "A co-worker contacted Human Resources two days ago regarding a payroll issue. She left a message and received two return calls in less than two hours. In the past, you were lucky to get a call back at all. It always took a day (with pay) to visit 825 N. Capitol and sit for hours just to get a quick answer. WAY TO GO RHEE!!! Where have you been all my life?"

The sackings are no panacea. The impact of this move on what happens in the classroom will be negligible unless school principals are freed to do their own hiring and manage their own staffs. Smaller-scale firings have occurred before, with precious little result.

But the firings could be a great way both to send the message that employees will be held accountable and to demonstrate to the entire city that Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty are serious about remaking the D.C. schools. We'll know that they are indeed serious if we see them continue to devolve authority from the central office to the schools, hire far stronger principals, shut down wasteful and underused facilities, embrace and compete with the charter schools, create a handful of marquee schools designed to lure back middle class parents, crush the special education bar, and send the flotilla of outside consultants sailing off to suck money out of some other system.

Those are huge jobs, and that list doesn't even include the most important changes of all, which come inside the classroom, in the intimate interaction between children and teachers, but this is the best start we've seen in this system in more than two decades. That's 100 down, hundreds more to come.

By Marc Fisher |  March 10, 2008; 7:06 AM ET
Previous: Time To Fix The National Mall | Next: Fenty In Year 2: It's All About The Leadership

Comments

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Well it's about time. I don't understand why I work at will, but these folks should be guaranteed a job. I have never worked in a union environment, but neither have I worked in an environment where there didn't have to be some paperwork trail before I was disciplined or fired. Why do people think that the way it works for 98 percent of the workforce is wrong or bad? Now if only the federal government would figure out a way to free itself so the dead weight can be sent home. Mark, you're in a union....how does that work?

Posted by: Noneya | March 10, 2008 7:37 AM

I recently heard a comment...that if Rhee fires everyone, then there will be no one who has the historical knowledge. Well, if the people of the IT department did not feel fit to record and catalog the knowledge...then there fate was pretty much inevitable. How does one feel if not them but who elso should've been fired? I do believe the first sweep is the hardest but what we all want in the end is a clean and run efficient house. As the employees left the building someone said that it was impersonal and it has been just regulated to calling a telephone number. Well, what do they want a going-away luncheon on DCPS dimes...? Okay! I am all for that...all of the fired DCPS employees lets have your farewell luncheon at one of the elementary schools at the height of the lunch hour.

Posted by: PowerandPride | March 10, 2008 9:02 AM

There's certainly deadweight that needs to be cleared from the system, but sacking people on a friday afternoon without any means of appeal is a pretty low way to do it. How would you like you boss doign that to you, and what would you think of a boss who employed tactics like that? This really should have been handled better.

Posted by: EricS | March 10, 2008 10:08 AM

Good start. But it will get harder now. The employees that were let go were part of the 398 who were changed to "at will" employees, meaning they could be let go at any time.

Getting rid of dead weight teachers will be harder - they are union employees.

Again, good start. And good luck.

Posted by: SoMD | March 10, 2008 10:13 AM

OH NOES!!!!! Some government employees are being held to the same standard as many private sector workers. How dare they get treated so . . . much like the rest of society!

Posted by: Finally! | March 10, 2008 10:13 AM

Mr. Fisher writings on public education in blanket support of Ms. Michelle Rhee shows himself to be uncaring, hypocritical, insensitive, and intellectually dishonest. Mr. Fisher has displayed little appreciation for truth, fairness, or balance.

Posted by: Robert Vinson Brannum | March 10, 2008 10:21 AM

Care must be taken that these slugs do not crawl back into the system as new hires in the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. The OSSE, policy end of the DC education bureaucracy, can bring the "business end" of teaching to a screeching halt.

Posted by: Mike Licht | March 10, 2008 10:34 AM

It's obscene that you feel a barbaric need to add humiliation to termination. Let us hope that these terminations are being done fairly and not for political reasons to make The "Boy" Mayor and Rhee look good. I hope these terminations will actually have a positive impact toward the improvement of childrens education in DC.

Posted by: Larry | March 10, 2008 11:56 AM

EricS. -- I save my money and live below my means because I understand that as long as I am not a self-employed, I work for someone else and am subject to be fired/let go at their discretion. No, being laid off on a Friday with no chance to appeal is not ideal, but Rhee said months ago this was coming so people had some notice that this was a possibility and had time to plan accordingly.

Posted by: noneya | March 10, 2008 12:09 PM

Well, Mr. Robert Vinson Brannum, you've made your point -- you own a thesaurus. But if you are going to throw around accusations like that, you should try to substantiate them.

Posted by: $0.02 | March 10, 2008 12:27 PM

Dear Mr. Fisher,

Your many years of watchdog work have done precious little to change what for all intents and purposes is an immoral education system. I really suggest that you change the focus of your writing from a position of what DCPS is doing wrong to what they are doing right. Your continued behavior or approach in your writing has not helped promote institutional change nor has it ultimately helped the students you are trying to champion. I always note a kind of suburban glee in your expose of failing DCPS, but I rarely see articles from you about what people are doing right.
Reform should not only happen in DCPS, but at the DC Post's writing on the system. Also, please do stories on the parental participation, which is virtually nonexistent. Then, you might be on to the real root cause of the problem.

Posted by: DC Teaching Fellow | March 10, 2008 12:33 PM

Marc,

Thank you for your additional insights on the firings. I was wondering if you could provide one more. In the original article one laid off employee stated something like, "There are worse who are still in there." Have you heard of any actions to eliminate union workers who also fail to perform? Granted, it's difficult to prove inadequate performance when reviews aren't completed, but I am asking if the administration has considered what would need to be done to remove more dead weight.

Thank you.

Posted by: DC resident | March 10, 2008 12:51 PM

DC Teaching Fellow -- I'm guessing that thousands of graduates, not to mention dropouts, from DCPS have never had to follow through on the adage "If you can read this, thank a teacher."

Posted by: Payne | March 10, 2008 12:52 PM

Have Rhee visit the DC Tax Office this Friday!

Posted by: FLvet | March 10, 2008 1:23 PM

Good start Ms Rhee. Hopefully this is just the beginning of the much needed change. And Mr. Brannum, the voters in the District III (Wards 5 & 6) School Board race in November 2006 already rejected your views on school reform as is evidenced with you earning only 13% of the vote.

Posted by: At Last! | March 10, 2008 1:36 PM

Given the recent City Paper/Loose Lips expose about the "cozy alliance" between the Fenty Administration and the Washington Post, it is no surprise Marc Fisher continues his pontifications and skewed reporting on behalf of this Administration.

Unfortunately, like other Washington Post reporters, Marc Fisher remains committed to helping this Administration dupe residents with his deliberate reporting misrepresentations, inaccuracies and omissions.

For those who have not yet read, please take a moment to read the City Paper/Loose Lips piece. Readers will then fully appreciate the depth to which all Washington Post reporting is steeped in utter slant, unbias and complete lack of credibility.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/columns/looselips/.

Below are 2 responses to CP published in today's dcwatch.

#############

Loose Lips Exposes Fenty-Washington Post Alliance
Carolyn C. Steptoe, carolynsteptoe@aol.com
A must read is an interesting expose piece published in Thursday's City Paper, "Access and Allies: The Washington Post's Cozy Year with the Fenty Administration," http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/columns/looselips/. City Paper apparently initiated a FOIA request of certain Post reporter's E-mails. The Washington Post E-mails published in this piece appear to prove what many suspected: that the Post was and is functioning as the mouthpiece and public propaganda outlet for the Fenty Administration. The article and the E-mails show the Washington Post functioning as the primary media facilitator to help this Administration dupe District residents about key public matters. The article includes E-mail discussions between a Washington Post reporter and his allies within this administration. The reporter's E-mails include discussion with the mayor's press secretary of how they will handle publicity for such city matters as the selection of Chancellor Rhee, school closings, the role of Joel Klein and New York City, the selection of the fire chief, and even the police shooting of District youth DeOnte Rawlings.

I find the piece especially poignant and telling, in that it raises further suspicions and questions about the how honest, factual, and accurate is the information touted, published, and disseminated by the Post on behalf of this Administration, specifically about DCPS and the overall handling and agenda of the school closings. For me, if all were and is copasetic, why was it necessary for this Administration to have such a behind-the-scenes, cloaked media mouthpiece? Is there some undisclosed need for the Washington Post to articulate what might now be described as a seemingly questionable, damage control, administration agenda, rather than relying on legitimate full disclosure of data and decisions? Where is this administration's much touted public transparency?

The City Paper piece certainly raises the credibility bar for the Post as to their "fair, honest, and objective journalistic reporting" about this administration's actions and decisions involving DCPS, and other city issues for that matter. Why is the Washington Post committed to helping this administration co-opt the rights of District residents? What is the motivation and potential gain? The gain doesn't appear for District residents, that's for sure. Anyway, my thanks to the City Paper for initiating this FOIA request and for publishing these E-mails.

###############

Open Letter to Mayor Fenty
Sally MacDonald, RC (Regular Citizen) sn3macd@aol.com
My Dear Mr. Mayor: The following quote, about City Hall press conferences, was published in the Washington City Paper as an exchange between Washington Post journalist David Nakamura and Carrie Brooks, representing the mayor's (your) office: "'Good grief' Nakamura quipped, 'these regular citizens asking questions has got to stop!' Replied Brooks, 'I agree. But he's a man of the people.'"

Is it possible that a representative of my/our/your city government agrees with the statement that regular citizens must be stopped from asking questions? If so, how is it to be done? By whom? You may not know it, but my mother was Sarah McClendon, who asked questions of presidents on behalf of those "regular citizens." I also had ancestors (a father with his six sons) who fought in the American Revolution to be "regular citizens," and to ask questions as such. I was proud that you worked so hard to go to every city precinct to meet with "regular citizens" -- I believed that you wanted to hear their questions! I think that an apology to the "regular citizens" of the city should be made.

After this published response from your representative, the phrase, "regular citizens" should and will forever be connected to your administration. Are we not all "regular citizens"? Should we not ask questions? Or not be allowed to ask questions? May I suggest that "Representing regular citizens!" become the Fenty administration's motto. It has a good, democratic ring to it! The favor of a reply to this "regular citizen" is requested.

[The E-mails that Carolyn Steptoe and Sally MacDonald refer to above were unearthed by the City Paper as a result of a Freedom of Information request that the Fenty administration responded to only after months of stalling. They show the mayor's press secretary, Carrie Brooks, and Washington Post reporter David Nakamura repeatedly striking secret deals. Nakamura guarantees favorable reporting on Fenty administration actions, including agreeing for a least one story to interview only the single source that the administration suggested. In return, Brooks guarantees the Post exclusive access and advance notice of its decisions. The E-mails also show the news and editorial departments of the Post coordinating their coverage of the Fenty administration, belying the often repeated mantra that there is a firewall between the two. As Sally MacDonald comments above, the E-mails also betray the Post and Fenty's press office sharing their contempt for "regular citizens," in this case Dorothy Brizill, who are not privy to their insider deals, who don't share their aim of protecting the mayor, who ask inconvenient questions. What is most astounding about this story is how little reaction there has been in other media to the exposure of these blatant ethical lapses, even by the Post's direct competitors, which might be expected to publicize them. There has been no comment in other newspapers, in radio politics programs, in local politically oriented web sites like DCist or Wonkette, or in national newspaper criticism sites like Romenesko. The only Internet site to cover it in depth has been Sam Smith's City Desk, http://prorev.com/2008/03/dc-saturday_08.htm. Why has this big stone dropped into Washington's small news pond caused so few ripples? -- Gary Imhoff]

###############

Posted by: Carolyn C. Steptoe Ward 5 (pardon typos, etc.) | March 10, 2008 2:37 PM

Ms. Steptoe: Whatever you posted was much too long for any sane person to read. Try keeping it short. Other than that, I believe the vast majority of DC residents will give Fenty and Rhee an A+ on efforts at school reform.

Posted by: DC Resident | March 10, 2008 2:48 PM

Hello DC Resident - apologies for the length. However, whether sane or insane, given the gravity of this issue, most people can & do read beyond a few sparse lines, even in a blog ....

No A+ for this Admin efforts; DD is more appropro("disasterously disingenuous")

Posted by: Carolyn C. Steptoe, Ward 5 resident (pardon typos, etc.) | March 10, 2008 3:11 PM

Ms. Steptoe,

What is dangerously disingenous is your attempt to pass off what was clearly a tongue in cheek exchange (assuming it is an accurate quote) for some kind of smoking gun. If you are shocked that the media office of the mayor maintains a relationship with the largest, most influential media outlet in the city, then that is evidence of your naivete.

Posted by: Payne | March 10, 2008 3:30 PM

Ms. Steptoe,
Whether the mayor is consulting with the countless people and groups that are demanding a say in every tiny detail is irrelevant. His election was a mandate to really fix a broken system. It seems that the people objecting to the recent firings are really upset that the cozy, corrupt system is finally being dealt with. Whether the school system is fixed or not seems irrelevant to them, so long as they are treated with the immense respect they feel is their due.

Posted by: Not really the issue | March 10, 2008 3:41 PM

Hello Payne -- It might serve you better to read the City Paper/Loose Lips piece, and both responses posted in dc watch. Thereafter you might be more inclined to accurately direct your comments to the appropriate source: an influential Washington media outlet and a local Administation that, based on the FOIA emails, appear to function in concert to willfully and contemptous perpetuate public misinformation. Such actions (I construed) are a clear & egregious violation of journalistic (& mayoral) integrity, honesty and accurate reporting. Worse is the cozy relationship of deliberate public misinformation by a mayor elected on the mantra of "transparency" and "working for the people."

If such knowledge & manueverings bode well for you, that is unfortunate. Such is not the case for me.

Further, tongue and cheek flippancy are one thing: intimations of influence peddling, abuse of power and contempt of citizenry are quite another.

The latter is what I gleaned from the Loose Lips piece.

Posted by: Carolyn C. Steptoe /Ward 5, pardon typos, etc. | March 10, 2008 4:04 PM

One needs to understand the likes of Steptoe (Statehood Green Party) and Brannum in the scope of DC politics. A lot of noise, opposed to any change that reflects a new way of doing things, represents a style of city politics as practiced in the 1980's and 1990's, and now on the losing end of political power. The voters of 2006 spoke loud and clear.

Posted by: A Democrat | March 10, 2008 4:20 PM

Hello Not Really the Issue - An important point of correction:

this mayor was NOT elected on a mandate to fix a broken school system based on his taking over the school or mass school closures. Please be reminded -- District voters did not go to the polls and vote for the mayor based on his stated election platform of "if elected, I will fix broken schools, by (1) initiating a mayoral takever, (2) will then close schools en masse in expeditious timeframe, and/or (3) fire en masse DCPS employees -- all without community, voter and in many instances, city council input & participation."

This was NOT the election mandate that brought voters to the polls in support of this mayor. However, this is precisely how he is comporting himself, with unbridled help from the Washington Post.

Such behavior shows no respect nor regards for the residents of the District of Columbia or the value of our vote. It is little wonder the firings too were handled as they were. Same as with Janey firing, Chancellor announcement, fire chief announcement, school closing announcement - you name it; citizens and council are last to know ... Post is first and foremost (doesn't that order strike you as odd)?

Posted by: Carolyn C. Steptoe, Ward 5 Resident, pardon typos, etc. | March 10, 2008 4:34 PM

Hello A Democrat - 2 minor points
- "noise" indeed brings about change, I believe it's called "the voice of the people" - hence, the term democracy
- tyrannical, dictatorial rule is NOT new;


less important too; since the last of our beloved DC Statehood founders passed passed (Mrs. Hilda Mason), felt necessity to revert back to my original Independent affiliation.

Posted by: Carolyn C. Steptoe, Ward 5, pardon typos, etc. | March 10, 2008 4:57 PM

You mean the Washington Post is biased? This is SHOCKING, TRULY SHOCKING!!!!

Posted by: Aaron Burr | March 10, 2008 5:55 PM

Wow, maybe DC needs to do a re-vote (like Michigan and Florida) if none of us new what we were doing when we elected Fenty in every one of the voting precincts. But then again, we new we wanted change. Keep doing what you are doing Mayor Fenty and ignore the gnats. The people are with you.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 10, 2008 7:08 PM

Steptoe wrote:
"this mayor was NOT elected on a mandate to fix a broken school system based on his taking over the school or mass school closures"

When I voted for Fenty, it was based on my conviction that he would fix the broken DC Government. And I fully expected that to include the schools. He would have lost my support had it not.

Apparently, the majority in each precinct agreed. The voice of the people was heard then, and it's being felt now. And I see it as a very good and tragically overdue thing. If the SGP was truly a populist group, they'd be clued in to what the rest of us know.

Posted by: Downtown Rez | March 10, 2008 7:14 PM

Ms. Steptoe,

I voted for Adrian Fenty on the premise that he would build upon the work of Mayor Williams and work to make the District a better place for its residents.

The mayoral takeover of the school system is but one step to make the city more viable. It is something that should have happened when I was a DCPS student in the 1970's. It was something that should have happened long before this year.

That is has happened now is a godsend for those in the city with no viable options for a good education. Let's all hope that he and Rhee are successful.

The political grandstanding and hope for status quo in the dysfunctional system which has existed is simply a pariah at this time, but you keep at it, if it makes you happy.

Posted by: Uptown Voter | March 10, 2008 10:26 PM

Looks like the mayor is doing exactly what he said he would do before he was elected - clean up the DC government mess and run things differently. And it also looks like the elitists Robert Vinson Brannum and Carolyn C. Steptoe are doing their usual garbage - trying to inhibit any of those changes that they feel opposed to.

Trying to protect the friends isn't working out, is it? Good! That's what we voted for.

To Brannum/Steptoe: Stop trying to impersonate every-day citizens and shut your mouths. We know who you are and what you stand for. We voted against you. Just close your mouths and go away.

(Steptoe is such and appropriate name for someone so opposed to progress)

Posted by: DC Voter | March 11, 2008 8:34 AM

If the goal of the police escorted mass firings was/is to clean up DCPS, please explain what has been accomplished besides possibly engendering systemwide fear and humiliation? If the goal of the mass school closings is to save District taxpayers $23M, why must we first pay $110M in order to ready receiving schools by Sept. 2008? Let us recall what school finance expert Mary Levy (Washington Lawyers Committee) has stated repeatedly; in print and in various testimony before the city council. Further, if the goal is to implement DCPS change, then this Administration's use of former superintendent Janey's school modernization plan - a verbatim extraction - and the "extrapolation" from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg handbook is not at all in keeping with "change" or "progress" -- other than providing a different signature at the bottom of someone else's page. But it is "in keeping...."

And shall we not dismiss the lack of definitive academic specificity of line item educational strategies which do appear existent, let alone new or innovative within an old DCPS structure. But what is heir apparent from DCPS structure is this Administration's decision to also contribute to further academic decay by eliminating foreign language. The old DCPS main eliminated PE, arts, music, and librarians so why shouldn't the "new change agents" continu and eliminate foreign language. It's a new decision so presumably that qualifies as progressive change.

So, unfortunately, while many are chanting "change" "progress" "elimination of the dysfunctional status quo," this Administration is right on course as it continues down what many consider a historically broken, dysfunctional, & inept path.

And in spite of the a vehement mantra, that there is absolutely no demonstratively new, innovative, or intelligently thoughtful & well-plan strategy emanating from this Administation for DCPS and our children's academic success. - just extrapolations & extractions for previous DCPS educators and locales -- and of course the promotion of untested charter schools and the financial benefactors aligned with privitazation.

So, as discomforting as the facts are - and while many wish to articulate wistful hope because there are new public faces streaming vague new approaches, read and listen a bit more intently and you will indeed acknowledge it's the same old approaches in a new, energetic package.

Chanting "change" and "progress" are stratospheres aware from meticulous line item strategic planning and articulation to implement academic success for which we taxpayers are paying. Justifying mass school closures under the guise of saving $23M to then require $110M (minimally) from taxpayers -- is, well, let's agree the media duping is successful.

The facts speak for themselves, regardless of the media propaganda and carefully crafted "change/progress" message.

The only change is we are emptying more of our tax dollars into an ever growing smokescreen into which the majority of District residents (and DCPS children) reap little benefit.

Posted by: Carolyn C. Steptoe, Ward 5 resident, pardon typos, etc. | March 11, 2008 12:11 PM

If the goal of the police escorted mass firings was/is to clean up DCPS, please explain what has been accomplished besides possibly engendering systemwide fear and humiliation?
---------

Carolyn, you are wildly out of touch with the citizens of the District of Columbia. You views do not relate to anyone I've spoken to.

I will only address the above canard.

The teachers at my son's school have improved their teaching, the amount of homework and projects they were assigning children, and they've also improved communication with the parents. In October we couldn't find out what my son was doing next week in class, it was as if the teacher made it up on the weekend. Since Christmas, now that the Chancellor has made it clear that she is a powerful woman who won't back down to the cadre of good old boys who disregarded her, my son's teachers have been giving us curriculum calendars with class plans for weeks ahead. This gives the parents enough time to buy special bilingual books to send in with the kids on planets or cooking or weather.

So, the immediate thing that the chancellor has done is given teachers the sense of pride in achievement that comes with a competitive work environment. Knowing that losers will get fired has turned my son's teachers into winners.

And that is what this very successful Chancellor has brought to my son's DC School. You are part of the good old boy network attacking this woman. How does it feel to be a political reactionary?

Posted by: DCer | March 11, 2008 12:36 PM

Folks, why are we bothering with the likes of Ms Carolyn. No one is listening or bothering with her or her couple of defeated friends. I know them; I have listened to them for over two years; and I keep waiting for the "race" issue to be mentioned as it always is by them. They are relics of the past.

Trust me when I say that for Ms Carolyn and her friends, it is Ms Rhee's racial composition as well as Fenty's mother that gives root to their problems and their dislike for the school reform measures. It has nothing to do with process or policy. They are guided by just old fashioned racial hate.

Posted by: Thruth | March 11, 2008 2:07 PM

I grew up in this City, went to school here. My three childred went to school here. Two graduated, the last one in 2004. My youngest son left D.C. with me to move to Alabama in 2006. He had just completed ninth grade. I have been in and out of D.C. schools all over this City right through 2006. I have no idea who these employees are that Fisher describes. Certainly, with rare exception, the teachers I met in the system were loving and supportive of their students. They did the best they could under difficult circumstances -- circumstance brought on by not enough money to deal with the competing needs of the students. I spent plenty of time around administrative staff in schools all over the city and at the main offices. The people the writer describes are far and in between. The people the writer describes are stereotypes...racial and government. Stereotypes are easy to deride and dislike. Dealing with people as stereotypes makes it much easier for those inclined to do so to sleep at night, and justify their hatred. I do not agree with the school closings for reasons -- draconian and destructive of the public school system in this City. I think public schools should be supported and fixed...not destroyed. The only other thing I will say is that Rhee is doing the job she was hired by the Mayor to do -- close schools. In fact, she is what I call "A Professional School Closer," nothing else. Another final, my youngest son passed his graduation comps in Alabama the as a 10th grader. He's in a fairly competitive school system. Many of the other kids are still taking all or some of them. THANKS DCPS!!!!

Posted by: Parent | March 11, 2008 2:20 PM

Stop being so hateful because you disagree with Ms. Steptoe. I know many people who support her views on this subject. Please don't confuse your inclinations on this subject to mean that yours is the only answer or that you are the only person who cares. I see Ms. Steptoe as a blogger who cares about what is going on. Frankly, some of you do not sound like you care at all -- except that you care to put down and attack Ms. Steptoe. Your arguments on the subject (to the degree you make them) are not compelling -- your hatefulness is.

Posted by: Stop the Hatefulness | March 11, 2008 2:26 PM

Who removed the comments supportive of the schools, supportive of Steptoe and suggesting racial stereotyping by the article writer and some of the comments.

Posted by: Question | March 11, 2008 2:32 PM

Sorry, no. I went to public school in Maryland where the budget per student is not as high as DC. I knew teachers who did amazing work there who were recognized nationally. I met many teachers at my son's school who people said were energetic and exciting and they were poorly-educated, not exciting, and their idea of energy involved playing disco records for my son to bang a tambourine to.

My son is taking piano lessons. You have a 2 year old bang a tambourine, not a 5 year old! This woman can't sing on key and couldn't play a musical instrument. Every one of my elementary school teachers could play the piano or guitar. That lack of experience automatically means she isn't a great teacher. She doesn't see any teachers at my son's school doing that, so she doesn't think it's a deficit.

Just because she doesn't see it, doesn't mean it's not a deficit.

In other words, these teachers THOUGHT they were good teachers and ignorant parents THOUGHT they were too, but they still were bad teachers.

The DC school system hypnotized and bamboozled itself into thinking that barely good enough was ok. New parents are telling them it's NOT OK and it's BAD.

I feel sorry for today's kids when not every teacher can play a musical instrument and lead the class in a singalong. Those are bad teachers who I hope get fired and replaced.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 3:14 PM

The Washington Post's cozy year with the Fenty administration http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/columns/looselips/.

Posted by: Post and Fenty | March 11, 2008 8:40 PM

"this Administration is right on course as it continues down what many consider a historically broken, dysfunctional, & inept path."

"The only change is we are emptying more of our tax dollars into an ever growing smokescreen into which the majority of District residents (and DCPS children) reap little benefit."

Sounds like like you're writing about the past 30 years, not about the present.

Posted by: downtown rez | March 11, 2008 10:50 PM

Sounds like Steptoe is a Central office union employee that has plenty of time on her hands to write these blathering responses.

Posted by: DCDOUG | March 12, 2008 1:44 PM

Appears there are lots of interesting anti-Steptoeists on this blog.

I'm flattered by the large memberbership but, from a business standpoint & given the number of anti-Steptoe postings, maybe we should channel this mongering in a more capitalistic way & create a Steptoe talk show or public forum. In these days and times, as capitalists (some), and given the tenor of certain talk shows, we should not let good old fashioned irrational, reactionary & anonymously blind hatred go undercapitalized and unexploited; folks have built sizable fortunes off these mindsets and we could, given the number posted here, we would make a hefty mint. Feel free to contact me directly at carolynsteptoe@aol.com.

OK... not nice to poke fun but, some of these posts are rather ridiculous!

Meanwhile, I recommend we try to remain focused on our local elected Administration and the how their decisions are impacting District residents and taxpayers.

We should also criticialy and objectively analyze the very questionable, biased and slanted role of the Washington Post and its reporters (as exposed by the City Paper) about this Administration and their regard for District residents.

Please read the City Paper piece.

"The Washington Post's cozy year with the Fenty administration"

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/columns/looselips/.

Posted by: Carolyn C. Steptoe, Ward 5 resident, pardon typos, etc. | March 12, 2008 4:21 PM

Appears there are lots of interesting anti-Steptoeists on this blog.
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There is a treatment for paranoia

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2008 10:20 PM

Thank you for providing this much needed point of view. As a teacher in DCPS I know first hand the incompetency of central office. Last year I never received health insurance and it took 6 weeks to get my first paycheck. DCPS will not be able to keep great teachers if central office cannot do the most basic things like getting people paid. In a school system everyone is responsible for student achievement and when that is not occurring- everyone's jobs should be at risk.

Posted by: Lisa | March 14, 2008 3:23 PM

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