Monday, October 12, 2009

Reacting to Rhee in DC

The next time the Post's editorial board tells you that Rhee's plans are wonderful, reread Gittleson's story of how a grade-school principal fired the school's only third-grade teacher, and dealt with the problem that created by kicking some third-graders up to the fourth grade and demoting the others to the second grade.
Gary Imhoff in TheMail

Some people are looking at what appears to be a Michelle Rhee meltdown in DC as a victory for the forces opposing the attack on public education. I take another tack.

One could ask: Was Michelle Rhee placed in DC with one of the weakest teacher unions in the nation by the ed deformer conspiracy to privatize public education to test the waters by pushing things to the extreme so they can see just what they can get away with? In other words, could they get away with hiring 900 mostly white newbies and then fire hundreds of teachers of color? Pushing the union to the edge of oblivion? Closing numerous schools and riling parents? With 35% of the schools already charters, things were looking bleak indeed.

And don't forget to add the newly installed AFT president, Randi Weingarten, a collaborationist supreme, who would work not as a strong advocate of the DC teachers, but as a mediator of sorts with Rhee. Bleak indeed.

There isn't even an opposition caucus in DC to push the leadership. But there was Candi Peterson's Washington Teacher blog and union VP Nathan Saunders and others who I do no know, but clearly something is getting organized.

The Washington Post has been shameless in cheer leading for Rhee. Except for Bill Turque, some of whose reporting has been suppressed (Cover Up of DC Teachers Protests by The Washington Post).

I'm guessing the ed deform forces will retrench a bit and come at them from a different direction. But they may no longer find it so easy as mayor Adrien Fenty's dictatorship alienates more regular DC people, who after all do vote. Obama may be the last DC resident to let him go.

And it will be worth watching upcoming union elections this spring as Saunders may make a run at Parker, who will undoubtedly enjoy Randi's underhanded support. (See my upcoming report on the growing opposition in the Chicago Teachers Union.) Boy are we far behind here in NYC where we reside in the belly of the beast. where even a long-time supporter like Bill Thompson can't get an endorsement from the union against the Bloomberg monster.

Today's DC based TheMail has this encouraging report from Gary Imhoff


Dear Ralliers:

The protest rally on Freedom Plaza last Thursday marks a turning point in DC politics. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's war against DC school teachers and their union led her to overreach with a maneuver that was too cute by half — to hire many more teachers than she needed for this school year in order to provide an excuse for largely arbitrary firings, calling them a Reduction in Force. That offended not just veteran teachers, but also younger teachers who realized that they, too, would be the targets of Rhee's iron whims. It showed students and DCPS parents how Rhee's methods, when put in practice, would harm them. And it energized government workers and unions — not just local unions, but national union leaders — in recognition that the Fenty administration is engaged not in an effort to improve education, but in an effort to bust public employee unions.

That changes the momentum in the 2010 mayoral race. Here's how things stand. The anybody-but-Fenty voting blocs include the unions; most city workers, whether they are unionized or not; young people and students, who see what Fenty and Rhee are doing to their schools, including the University of the District of Columbia; most black voters, who see Fenty as being uninterested in their issues; the poor and those concerned about the welfare of the poor, who see Fenty's cuts in homeless programs, neglect of job creation programs, and closing of child care facilities as being hostile to their interests; the good government voters who follow city affairs closely and who oppose his giveaways of government property and land to favored developers; and the traditional values voters who are offended by his promotion of gay marriage and his other snubs of organized religion.

The pro-Fenty voters include white voters, largely in sections of Wards One, Two and Three, who have little involvement with or knowledge of DC government; those gays for whom the gay marriage issue trumps all other issues; monied contributors who have given three million dollars to his reelection campaign; developers and contractors who have benefited at the trough of District government; and twenty-somethings who are newcomers to the District of Columbia and who believe Fenty's claims that recent economic development projects are due to him, rather than being the culmination of his predecessors' work.

What last Thursday's large, well-organized, and enthusiastic protest rally shows is that the passion in this race is mostly on the anybody-but-Fenty side. Even among Fenty's contributors, support is tempered by resentment at how the Fenty campaign has coerced them to contribute with barely veiled threats that if they want to do business with the city, or want to continue to do business with the city, they had better give generously. Many of Fenty's strongest supporters in the 2006 race do not support him now, or support him only in the absence of any credible opposing candidate. Fenty's strengths, on the other hand, are his three million dollar campaign fund, the unwavering support of The Washington Post, the absence of a credible challenger, and the possibility that the various groups that oppose him will not be able or willing to work together and to agree on a single candidate. There are tens of thousands of traditional values voters and tens of thousands of government workers and union voters. Together just these two groups could sway the election, but do they have any willingness or ability to work together?

The Post's editorial board's penchant for covering up for and excusing Fenty's and Rhee's mistakes, which will be a great benefit to Fenty in his campaign, is particularly evident in today's editorial on the rally,, which is replete with mistakes and misrepresentations. The editorial board's ignorance and bias is especially obvious when compared with more accurate information elsewhere in the same paper. Read Thomas Toch's “Five Myths about Paying Good Teachers More,” which confronts and takes down Rhee's claims about the magic of performance pay,; Robert McCartney's admission, as a Rhee supporter, that he's not convinced by her explanation of her firings, “Did Rhee Overplay Her Hand or Seek a Showdown?”; and Jodie Gittleson's account of her own firing and its aftermath, “Pink Slip for a First-Year Teacher,” The next time the Post's editorial board tells you that Rhee's plans are wonderful, reread Gittleson's story of how a grade-school principal fired the school's only third-grade teacher, and dealt with the problem that created by kicking some third-graders up to the fourth grade and demoting the others to the second grade.

Gary Imhoff


  1. Thanks for keeping everyone updated in NY. Check out my latest on my blog. It is a short video clip of The Fenty File gathering: The truth about Mayor Adrian Fenty's attacks on DC residents and workers. Nathan Saunders and I both appear on the clip along with a DCPS high school student, Autumn Jones.

    What's beautuiful is our DC student protest grew out of our teacher rank & file rally on 9/24/09. I have learned so much from you and all the rank & file folks this summer. Soon I will be posting a speech by another DCPS high school student from the AFT/WTU rally for respect.

    Unfortunately those of us who are hard workers for the WTU weren't allowed to speak at the Respect Rally. Neither Nathan Saunders nor I and our fired WTU Executive Board members weren't allow to appear on the podium or speak. How is that for an inclusive union?


  2. Public humiliation rests at the high end of Michelle Rhee's capacity for eductional leadership. Her hiring and tenure as the Chancellor amounts to a massive Madoff-like fraud perpetrated on the people of the District. The caper required a truckload of Bill Gates' money, a quisling in the mayor's office, and the power of the Post and Jay Mathews to manufacture a Michelle Rhee fairy-tale for public consumption. Ultimately, the Time cover picture will stand as a small tragi-comic monument to the damage done by this criminal conspiracy.

    Thankfully Ms. Rhee will be leaving and taking her broom with her soon. A while back the Chancellor even foreshadowed the hara-kiri she was contemplating and is in the middle of now. She told Mathews because she wasn't speaking to Mr. Turque at the time, "If I go down at the end of the day because I didn't play the political game right, that's okay with me," she said. "At least when you're making decisions that you believe are in the best interests of kids, you may not win in the end, but at least you can operate with a good conscience."

    Lacking any discernible qualifications, her shocking appointment as D.C. Chancellor, can be understood only when you realize that Michelle Rhee was brought in to create chaos at every turn and inflict maximum damage on the district's public schools and its children. The forces of privatization behind this needed a cultist (Teach For America, New Teacher Project) and true believer in the job. Anyone else would have asked questions and refused to implement destructive or absurd policies. They could not be counted on to mindlessly take a sledgehammer to D.C.'s schools. The havoc that Rhee is now causing is no accident. It was the plan!

    "The picture" and the whole Time magazine profile provides great insight into Rhee's character and true mission. In it she denigrates every other adult in the D.C. school system including her staff. She mocks teachers that dare speak of building an emotional connection with their students. She clearly and coldly exploits a true leader at Anacostia High, young Mr. Rhodes, to advance her agenda. She seems to have no use for children being nurtured emotionally in the classroom. Just teach them to read for the test! And make sure there's no poetry involved!


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.