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August 17, 2008


Dear Oppositionists:

Will DC public school teachers fall for the union-busting contract that Chancellor Michelle Rhee wants to offer them? Are they willing to trade away both their seniority rights and tenure in exchange for the potential of being given performance bonuses based on improved student test scores — bonuses that aren’t funded and guaranteed by the city government, but may be available for only as long as private foundations are willing to pay them? To me, as I’ve argued before, the answer is obvious and easy, but now there’s evidence of how teachers feel about the deal that’s being offered to them. The American Federation of Teachers, the national organization to which the Washington Teachers Union belongs, commissioned a survey of WTU members to determine their opinion. The firm that did the survey, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., has released a summary of its findings, “WTU Members Oppose Contract Proposal,”

Here’s the key summary paragraph: “WTU members are aware of the contract negotiations, and they are highly dissatisfied with the proposed agreement. Concerns about seniority and tenure protections and tying teacher compensation to test scores trump other concerns, and most members are not willing to sacrifice these protections for the chance to receive large increases in salaries, bonuses, and benefits, especially because funding for these increases is not guaranteed.” Apologists for Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty, who support their efforts to break the teachers union and who want to paint DC teachers in the worst possible light, will scoff at this survey. Of course, they will say, the majority of teachers in the DC system are bad and incompetent, and they’re just trying to protect themselves from losing their jobs. The great administrators that Rhee has hired would clean them out of the system, and replace them with wonderful teachers who are begging for teaching jobs in DC schools, jobs that under the new contract will offer them no job security and no reward for seniority.

There’s another way of looking at the situation, one that rests less on negative stereotypes of teachers and relies less on unfounded faith in the wisdom and competence of Rhee’s new administrators. At Wilson High School, we have just had a graphic example of how insecure a teaching job can be under the whims of Rhee’s administrators, even for a teacher as admired and beloved as Dr. Arthur Siebens, whose students have written about him several times recently in themail. Why on earth should teachers give up whatever protection tenure can give them against arbitrary and capricious decisions that they “don’t fit in” with the new order? What have Rhee and Fenty done to earn the trust of teachers? Why should teachers believe that they won’t be treated just as shabbily as Siebens, that they won’t be scorned and swept out by young, arrogant, and inexperienced school officials who are convinced that they know it all and that anyone who was in the Washington school system before they took over should be “excessed” and disposed of?

Gary Imhoff


Tenleytown Follies
Sue Hemberger, Friendship Heights,

In this week’s episode, Mary Cheh makes her letters to Neil Albert public. And standards are lowered, but still not met. When Councilmembers Cheh and Brown wrote to the deputy mayor in early April, after seeing all three submissions received in response to the Tenleytown Request for Proposals, they stated “we cannot support any of the three proposals in their current form.” By late July, they are saying, “one possible way to move this project forward is to revert back to some of the features of the other developers’ plans.” In other words (judging from the suggestions that follow), if only LCOR would adopt Roadside’s (hitherto unacceptable) plan, we could support this project. Meanwhile the affordable housing requirement for the project has fallen from 30 percent to 8 percent (less than would be required under mandatory inclusionary zoning). And Cheh and Brown find themselves begging for assurances (from an agency that has just betrayed their trust) that we’ll break even or not lose too much by accepting this deal — “no loss of “green space for Janney,” “no undue delay in building the library,” “LEED Silver” (when the DC Public Library’s architects think they have achieved Gold.)

While it’s a step in the right direction to see councilmembers beginning to set standards for public land deals, Cheh and Brown’s “essential ingredients” don’t include the most basic features that should be necessary to justify devoting part of this heavily used campus to private development. There’s no requirement that Janney’s facilities needs be met before land is devoted to non-educational uses, that the school be modernized faster than it would without a public-private partnership (a requirement present in their April letter), or that the deal produce a better library than we’d otherwise have.

Is anyone at the table actually looking out for the community’s interests? When we point out that our facilities needs are being sacrificed to build apartments that could be built on private land in the immediate vicinity, we’re told not to worry because the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and LCOR have “just begun negotiations.” But there’s a difference between having made no progress over the past seven months and “just beginning.” LCOR submitted their proposal the first week in January and they haven’t budged since, despite being asked (at least twice) by DMPED to make a better offer. Why should they? They were selected despite the fact that a united community and the only two councilmembers to weigh in all considered their proposal unacceptable. As long as these councilmembers keep lowering their expectations, it’s just a waiting game.

And experience tells them it could be worth the wait. Last time LCOR negotiated with DC government, they emerged with (and quickly sold!) a property tax break lasting more than twenty years for the apartment tower they built. And Oyster’s students lost more than half of their already comparatively small campus. This whole episode is a case study in why we need to reform (or at least enforce) our process for disposing of public property. The threshold question here should have been “is there land at this site that is no longer needed for public use?” But DMPED chose to skip that step (also known as the surplusing decision) and the council chose not to object. As a result, this project has been driven by ideology and wishful thinking rather than an analysis of public facilities needs and the economic and physical constraints of this particular site. When every submission the RFP yielded was unacceptable because it didn’t provide the “hoped for” benefits, that should have functioned as a reality check for the mayor and the councilmembers who urged this project forward in the first place. It certainly did for the community — once people saw the actual proposals, a consensus quickly emerged that a public-private partnership was not the right approach to this site. The mayor created that consensus (by issuing the RFP) and then ignored it. The question now is whether Councilmembers Cheh and Brown (and the council generally) will stop this madness or just content themselves with wringing their hands, crossing their fingers, and passing the buck. Stay tuned.

I’ve posted the text of both Cheh/Brown letters at


Should DC Teachers Swap Raises for Job Protections?
Candi Peterson,

WTU President George Parker caused a controversy by releasing an incomplete tentative agreement, which has caused many to weigh in and attempt to negotiate teacher contract talks on blogs, directly with Chancellor Rhee, and in the press. It is baffling that Mr. Parker demonstrates an unwillingness to heed the legal analysis of O’Donnell, Schwartz and Anderson, the DC law firm under contract to the WTU. He seems determined to release the Rhee/Parker proposal by mid-September despite its many legal flaws.

On August 1, the American Federation of Teachers secured a six-page legal opinion at the direction of the WTU Executive Board. Attorney Jackson delivered the legal analysis to WTU Board members last Saturday. It refers to the WTU contract information packet, which was disseminated in recent informational sessions. This packet indicates that seniority would no longer play a role in hiring, excessing, or placement of DC teachers in both the Red or Green tiers (page 12). The legal analysis, titled “Seniority for Teachers,” specifically states, “this proposal replaces teachers rights with automatic termination in the Green system and eventual termination in the Red system.” The analysis notes “DC teachers would lose their ‘career status’ as tenured professionals and the characteristics of tenure” and concludes, “this proposal suggests a quick method to terminate teachers without due process.” Further, the legal analysis reveals that under the proposal, “excessing would seem almost always to lead to termination. Although excessed teachers could be placed in another position, this happens only if there is mutual consent between a teacher and a principal. If mutual consent cannot be reached what happens to the excessed teacher depends on whether he is in the Red system or Green system. If he is in the Red system, he has three options: early retirement with full benefits if he has more than twenty years of creditable service, a $25,000 buy out, a one-year grace period including salary benefits to secure another position. If the excessed teacher is in the Green system, however, he is automatically separated from the school system.” However, if the excessed teacher in the Red system does not find a job within one year, he will then be terminated.

Given that six hundred DC teachers were excessed this school year, many argue that we are headed down a very slippery slope should we choose to support this proposal. Should DC teachers swap pay raises for job protections? Whatever our members decide, it is imperative that teachers have as much information as possible before making an informed decision on whether to vote yes or no on a tentative agreement. Please join me and five of our WTU Executive Board members who have already requested that this legal opinion be released to WTU members by writing to Mr. George Bordenave, AFT/WTU National Representative, at and to the American Federation of Teachers President, Ms. Randi Weingarten, at


Develop DC Tutorial Services for 2008
Karl Rudder,

The DC Public Schools should make an intense effort to provide tutorial workshops for parents at the beginning of the 2008 school year. The challenge is not to find a tutor able to visit a child once or twice a week. The real challenge is to develop the tutorial skills of parents, especially for elementary school students, and to allow DC youth to receive positive and skilled tutorial assistance from their parents and concerned community adult neighbors during this entire upcoming school year. The myth that a child can become educated only between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. needs to be dismissed.

A child will not learn how to walk, speak, or even learn how to go to the bathroom without continuous practice. We all know this, yet too many have resigned the academic development of too many children to only what the child can possibly experience during the school day. There are only four report cards for the entire school year; that isn’t enough to develop a strong team effort between parents and teachers. The ability of parents, teachers, and school administrators to cooperate will be determined by their ability to communicate. Having monthly exchanges between teachers and parents will more than double the current effort, and the success of exchanges between parents and teachers will benefit DCPS students. Parents, especially of elementary school age children, need to develop positive experiences at home for their children. A positive peer influence can be achieved by parents working with each other to provide their children and their children’s friends more frequent opportunities to develop their academic study skills and their reading, spelling, handwriting, and basic writing skills. How can children learn fractions, decimals, basic algebra, and geometry when they haven’t yet developed basic skills in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers? Must a child learn how to enjoy the experience of reading, writing, and basic math only from a highly trained and skilled educational expert?

The vast resources within the DC community need to be coordinated effectively to provide far more effective tutorial assistance for DC youth. The many graduates and undergraduate students at Howard University, the University of the District of Columbia, and the many other local universities can join forces and be the army to assist many of our little brothers and sisters during this school year. DC can help start an educational revolution in this country and provide a wonderful model for other cities to follow by employing the resources of this community to improve the quality of education that is being given to all our children. The active members of the many churches in every community of the District of Columbia can in the near future coordinate their time and efforts to provide very effective tutorial services for the children within their communities. Can you imagine the power of just three to five churches in your community if they worked together during the upcoming school year? The thousands of proud graduates of the DC Public Schools who are still here in Washington can coordinate our vast resources to develop the studying and test taking skills of our little brothers and sisters in the DC Public Schools during the upcoming school year of 2008-2009. If we limit the resources of a tutorial program for DC youth, that will limit the effectiveness of that program.



Fun Family Films Under the Stars, August 20-21
John A. Stokes,

The District’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will hold “Fun Family Films Under The Stars,” its 2008 Family Movie Night Season, this summer. “Fun Family Films Under The Stars,” which continues until late-September, will afford residents of all ages and families of all sizes the opportunity to enjoy viewing the free, family-oriented films in DPR’s outdoor settings. As in previous years, viewers are invited to bring their own snacks, chairs, and blankets. This year, District residents will have a greater selection of viewing locations. Movies will be shown from 8:45 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Community members who arrive early enough for each screening will have the opportunity to place a vote between two movies that may be shown that evening. The movie that receives the most votes will be shown.

Wednesday, August 20, DC Village, Lane SW, Bldg. 1A
Thursday, August 21, Valley Green, Valley Avenue and Wheeler Road, SW



Book by Local Author
Tolu Tolu,

Why and How Women Are Exploited by Men Worldwide, by Tolu2, ISBN 0-9724595-0-8. This clever book is a personal life guide for females worldwide from 9 years old to 109 years old. Hurry up and get your copies either at or Trover Books Store. Tolu2Books, PO Box 48331, Washington, DC 20002-0331, 331-4418. Trover Books, 221 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, 547-2665. The perfect gift for all the females you know.


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