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January 24, 2010

What’s Not to Like

Dear Washingtonians:

Roger Scott and Candi Peterson, below, point out the disgraceful smear that Chancellor Michelle Rhee aimed at the 266 educators whom she fired last year under the pretense of a budget-mandated reduction in force. Here’s the back story on that smear. In August 2008, Jeff Chu wrote a flattering profile of Rhee in Fast Company ( In the February issue of Fast Company, Chu wrote a one-paragraph update in which Rhee defended the firings ( Her complete quote: “I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn’t we take those things into consideration?”

Rhee’s sneering contempt for her teaching staff, her relentless denigration of teachers, has brought her plenty of fans. On Saturday, DCIst actually applauded Rhee’s slander: “It is altogether better for schools to not employ teachers who hit children or have sex with them. A schools czar absolutely must [take] into consideration whether a teacher is breaking the law when considering teaching assignments. Pruning out teachers who abuse students physically and sexually could take place more than once a fiscal cycle — possibly even quarterly. . . . First these teachers beat on the students, then they beat on Rhee. . . . [F]ewer child molesters and child beaters. What’s not to like?” The Federal City Council took a quarter-page ad in the Outlook section of this morning’s Post, not available online, in which it named Rhee as its Person of the Year; the ad showered her with praise. Now, admittedly, the Federal City Council gave Rhee this award and prepared this morning’s ad before Rhee’s latest smear, but reporter Bill Turque pointed out that Rhee had made similar charges before,

Mayor Fenty evaded the question of whether he supports Rhee’s slander of teachers with the same tired line he has used so often in the past in the face of scandals. Through his spokeswoman, Mafara Hobson, he said, “The mayor cannot comment on personnel matters” ( It doesn’t matter whether Rhee has campaigned to ruin the reputation of 266 teachers after she has already fired them; if Fenty were to defend innocent teachers against Rhee’s defamation, it would be speaking about a personnel matter, so he won’t say anything on their behalf.

But let’s take Rhee at her word, that she knew of multiple cases in which teachers hit children and had sex with them. She didn’t report those cases to the police. She knew about physical abuse and sexual abuse of children in the school system. As the head of the school system, she was ultimately responsible and had a legal responsibility to ensure that these crimes were reported. If she was aware of them herself, she had a legal duty to report them herself. She’s now admitting that she personally committed several crimes by failing to report the underlying crimes that she knew about. If her admission is true, I look forward to her being charged for her dereliction of duty; if it isn’t true — and a failure to indict her would constitute proof that it isn’t — I look forward to her retraction and apology.

Gary Imhoff


Rhee: Armed with a Microphone and Dangerous
Roger Scott,

I call your attention to the article on WTOP highlighting comments made by Michelle Rhee regarding the teacher lay-offs ( The article quotes Rhee as stating, “I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school.” The Washington Post also carried an article on the verbal mishap,

The WTOP article goes on to state that Ms. Rhee fired 266 educators. Now, looking at the statement is appears that all of these 266 educators fell in to the bucket of either abusing children, committing a sexual act with a student, or missing work. While Ms. Rhee’s words are hapless and irresponsible, if not slanderous; I would hope and pray that anyone hearing or reading these words would not think for a moment that the majority, or even a minority, of the 266 people hired to educate the children of DC would have committed these acts. Regardless, she said it and some people will believe it and run with it.

Her words were totally irresponsible. I would hope that she issues a retraction or an apology, but I’m not holding my breath. If you can’t get even a little upset at this, think of it as if you were one of those educators who were dismissed and trying to find work.


Is Chancellor Michelle Rhee Fit for Duty?
Candi Peterson,

Mike DeBonis, who writes for the Washington City Paper, tipped us off on Thursday in his ‘Loose Lips’ column [] about Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s quote regarding laid off teachers which is scheduled to appear in Fast Company’s February magazine. Thanks to Mike’s heads-up, the story about the ongoing demonization of DC teachers by Rhee is making its rounds on nationwide blogs, channel 4, 5, 7 and 9 TV news stations, as well as in print media. Washington Post writer Bill Turque’s article titled; “Rhee says laid-off teachers in DC abused kids,” appeared in the Saturday Metro section. I must admit I am happy to have been one of the leaders of the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) board to have been quoted as recommending that Rhee needs a fitness for duty evaluation as her recent rants are those of either a mad or very confused woman. Here’s to Bill Turque for reporting our story and to Mike DeBonis for alerting us to Rhee’s comments in his weekly column. We need more reporters like both of them.

I don’t think I can articulate how I really feel about Rhee’s statements any better than The Frustrated Teacher blogger did in San Francisco, California, when he said: “This seems to me to be among the most egregious abuses of power I have ever seen. Michelle Rhee is claiming, with no support, that she fired teachers not for the reasons given at the time, but because now, with no substantiation, she has decided to say that these teachers did horrible things to kids — with no proof (well, there is the one case of corporal punishment, but to paint the entire group with this broad brush is wrong, and maybe criminal)! And if it turns out there is proof of abuse of students by teachers, why were they not fired for it, or at minimum placed on paid administrative leave while it was investigated? Who has the responsibility to see that every student has a safe learning environment? Guess who . . . the Chancellor. . . . The little people, like you and me, need to speak up and expose these abuses by the powerful. We need to do it more, and with real, paper and envelope letters. Blogs are great (especially Candi’s and the Frustrated Teacher) but we can’t really do anything except preach to the choir. I am in California but what happens in DC is illustrative of what is happening nationwide.”

Won’t you stand with me and others to demand that Chancellor Rhee be held accountable for her actions? We must demand accountability by insisting on an independent investigation of Rhee’s allegations, which implicates all laid-off teachers, and require that she provide substantive proof of her comments. After all, Rhee owes it to our children, doesn’t she?


Evans’ Conflicts in the Washington Post
Peter Tucker,

I wrote a letter to the Washington Post that raises the issue of Councilman Jack Evans’ possible conflicts of interest, as well as the Post’s lack of coverage of this critical point. The Post has posted the article here:

Please take a look and forward it around widely. And post a comment, if you’re so inclined! It’s time — actually it’s way past time — for a public discussion surrounding the practice of DC councilmembers (who make at least $120,000) being allowed to earn whatever they can in the private sector (By doing what? And for whom?).


The DC State Board of Education Elected 2010 Officers
Beverley Wheeler,

At the inaugural meeting of the 2010 year, the DC State Board of Education elected the new President and Vice President. Ted Trabue was elected to the office of President. Laura Slover was elected to the office of Vice President.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education awarded the 2010 Teacher of the Year to Stephanie Day from Friendship Public Charter School, Chamberlain Campus. The finalists were Aris Pangilinan from H. D. Woodson Senior High School; Brigham Kiplinger and Nathan Franz, both from E. L. Haynes Public Charter School; and Christopher Bergfalk from John Eaton Elementary School. The State Board congratulates all of the awardees. Each has demonstrated deep dedication to education and to their students.


Response to “Changes in Agency Direction”
Jamison L. Weinbaum,

I was alerted to your posting this morning that contained an article (Harry Gates, “Changes in Agency Direction,” themail, January 20) referencing the Office of Zoning. The article appears to suggest that I have eliminated the Compliance Review Specialist position at the Office of Zoning. That is simply incorrect.

Earlier this month, in an effort to streamline efficiencies and restructure certain employee responsibilities, I appointed Ms. Tracey Rose as the new Compliance Review Specialist in the Office of Zoning. Ms. Rose is a longtime employee of this agency and is fully prepared to assist in compliance matters. We treat compliance as a critical component of our work on behalf of the public, and continue to provide exemplary service in this area. I encourage you to visit our web site for a thorough understanding of this program.

Going forward, I would ask that you simply contact me if you have any questions or concerns about the direction of this agency. Specifically, I’d much prefer that you direct questions to me before publishing information that is inaccurate. I would further ask that you issue a new posting noting this clarification regarding our compliance program. Please let me know if you have any questions or further concerns.


Bag Tax — Get Over It
Clare Feinson, cfeinson at speakeasy dot net

I’m really tired of hearing people whine about the bag tax. Suck it up and carry a bag, or pay the five freakin’ cents already. If you shop every week day for a month, that’s about a dollar — I’ll bet those people walking out of the store with groceries in their arms mindlessly spend many extra dollars every week on things more useless to them than a shopping bag.

And the store owners should follow the lead of Giant and give bags away for a while — what a marketing bonanza! The bag tax is worth it not to trip over shopping bags all over the place or to see trees infested with them from top to bottom!

Thanks, I needed that.


King and the Vietnam War
Greg Rhett,

Bryce Suderow wrote [themail, January 20]: “Don’t forget that King also opposed the Vietnam War. On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King in a speech entitled ‘Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence’ declared his opposition to the Vietnam War, alienating millions of Americans, both black and white, for the war was immensely popular.”

Frankly, Mr. Suderow’s post and the submission timing (coming on the heals of America’s Day of Celebration for the great legacy of Dr. King) was offensive. The post appears to have been an attempt to “rewrite/revise” American History in order to purposefully malign and marginalize a Nobel Prize winning American Hero. I truly hope this is not the case and that this was not the gentleman’s intention. Why single out Dr. King’s opposition to the Vietnam War?

Furthermore, I beg to differ with Mr. Suderow’s context portrayal re Dr. King’s reference to Germany in his speech before religious leaders gathered at the Riverside Church in NYC. When one simply reads or listens to Dr. King’s speech, along with its numerous applauses (, it is clear that Mr. Suderow perhaps misinterpreted Dr. King’s intended perspective. I also challenge Mr. Suderow’s contention that in 1967, “the war was immensely popular.” In fact, “by mid-1967, more and more Americans began to oppose the costly American involvement in Vietnam. By 1968, only slightly more than 25 percent of the population approved of Johnson’s military decisions” (



Will Metro Vote This Week to Cut Service?, January 27
Dennis Jaffe,

If you don’t want to face and complain about severe Metro service cuts in five weeks, you have the power to prevent them from being approved. Metro’s Board of Directors is holding a public hearing on Wednesday, January 27, at 5:30 p.m. at Metro headquarters at 600 5th Street, NW — but you can E-mail them in advance — on how they will eliminate a $40 million gap in the budget year that ends June 30. Option 1 would make severe service cuts. Proposed train changes include: running trains nightly every thirty minutes instead of twenty, reducing capacity during an already overcrowded rush-hour, and starting daily service later and ending it earlier by thirty to sixty minutes. Some bus routes scheduled to run every fifteen minutes would run every twenty-four minutes, others running every twenty minutes would run every thirty.

If these cuts are approved, ridership would decline, which in turn would further reduce Metro’s revenue and make necessary even deeper service cuts. Four options being considered are explained at:

Options to prevent the severe service cuts include raising fares by between five to ten cents and delaying by up to one year a $16 million rehabilitation of rail yards. But it’s also critical, as riders are asked to step up to the plate here, that we tell our representatives we want the local governments that fund Metro to step up to the plate with greater investment in the transit system on which our region’s economy depends. Your voice is powerful because all of the directors and alternate directors on Metro’s Board are elected officials or report to elected officials who do take seriously what their constituents think.

The District of Columbia is represented on Metro’s Board of Directors by both Councilmember Jim Graham,, and DC City Administrator Neil Albert, Let them know what you think. If you wish to provide comment at Wednesday’s public hearing, pre-register at


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, January 29
John Stokes,

January 29, 7:00 p.m., Turkey Thicket Community Center, 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE. Youth Against Violence for ages twelve through eighteen. Forum for teens to discuss youth violence. For more information, call Jason Lewis at 576-9238.

January 29, 6:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Caesar Chavez Charter School Auditorium, 3701 Hayes Street, NE. My Dream for the Future Awards Ceremony for all ages. Participants in the My Dream for the Future Writing competition will be honor with an award ceremony sponsored by Kenilworth Recreation Center staff. For more information, call Janice Wright at 704-9152.


Angel of Death Row Book Talk, February 2
Joe Libertelli,

The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law and Jamie Raskin, Professor of Constitutional Law, American University, present Andrea D. Lyon (Antioch School of Law, 1976), author of Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer. Andrea Lyon is Professor of Law, DePaul University, and a nationally recognized death penalty expert. Copies of her book will be available for purchase, and Ms. Lyon will sign them. A wine reception will precede Ms. Lyon’s talk. This trailblazing attorney pioneered unconventional ways to defend clients against society’s ultimate punishment. Nineteen times, Ms. Lyon has argued to save a convicted murderer’s life, and nineteen times she has succeeded.

Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer is the harrowing memoir of the first woman in the United States to head a death penalty defense team. Come to hear her answer to the perennial question, “How can you defend these people?” Tuesday, February 2, 6:00 p.m., at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Building 39, Room 201, at the Van Ness-UDC station on the Red Line. This event is free and open to the public. RSVP on line at:


Sing a Song, February 6
Lionell Thomas, lionellt@artspg@org

Price George’s Art Council presents a black history month family celebration, “Sing a Song,” with performances by CAFE, Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra, Dance Makers, Inc., The Colours Program, and Three Chords and the Truth. This is a free event. Saturday, February 6, 3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., at the Justice Theater at Northeastern High School, 7000 Adelphi Road, Hyattsville, MD. For more information call 301-277-1402 or go to


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