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February 28, 2010

Barry’s Revenge

Dear Correspondents:

It’s bigger than Barry. On Tuesday, the city council may begin to take some steps to discipline and punish Councilmember Marion Barry for alleged conflicts of interest and misuse of government funds in personal service contracts and earmarks. On that day, it will receive the final report of attorneys Robert S. Bennett and Amy R. Sabrin, should they wish to amend or make any additions to their draft report on Barry’s actions submitted to the council on February 16 (

Councilmembers have been making noises about censuring Councilmember Barry, about removing him from his chairmanship of the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development, and about removing him from membership on the Committee on (He’s also a member of the Committee on Human Services, the Committee on Economic Development, and the Committee on Health, but so far there has been no talk about removing him from those Committees.) Finance and Revenue. The council has the power to determine committee chairmanships and memberships under its normal rules — the council chair appoints committee members and chairs, and the council then votes a resolution of approval of that lineup. To modify committee chairmanships and memberships, all the council has to do is amend Resolution 18-02, the “Council Period 18 Appointment of Chairperson Pro Tempore, Committee Chairpersons, and Committee Membership Resolution of 2009.”

But the council does not have the power to censure its members. Although there had previously been several laws and rules scattered throughout the DC Code and Municipal Regulations concerning inappropriate conduct by elected officials and other government employees, it wasn’t until September 2009 that the council adopted a formal Code of Conduct for the first time ( However, that Code of Conduct is toothless. It doesn’t specify any punishments or penalties for violating the code. Chairman Vincent Gray promised at the time that the code was passed that the council would adopt further rules, including punishments and penalties for councilmembers, and establishing a procedure by which could investigate and monitor itself, but that hasn’t been done. In order to hold a vote of censure, the council will first have to amend its rules of organization and procedure (Resolution 18-01) to give itself the right to censure a member, and that will require it to formulate general requirements and conditions for censure.

In formulating those requirements and conditions, the council must not tailor them just to fit Councilmember Barry or the specifics of his case. It has to write them with enough generality that they will fit misconduct and improprieties, personal or financial, by any of its members. Before it can take any action against Councilmember Barry, except for changing his committee memberships or voting for a resolution referring the matter to the US Attorney or the Office of Campaign Finance for further investigation, the council will have to change its Code of Conduct to provide penalties for all conflicts of interest and misuse of government funds by all councilmembers and their staffs. That will put many of them at risk for their actions regarding earmarks and personal service contracts that up to now been commonplace.

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill and


Open Letter to Rhee’s Chief of Family and Parent Engagement
Candi Peterson,

The DC Schools Insider blog featured a story about DC Public Schools’ lining up support for the upcoming city council annual performance oversight hearing on March 15 ( Bill Turque wrote: “Testimony at these events tends to become an open-ended infomercial for those unhappy with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. So Peggy O’Brien, Rhee’s family and public engagement chief, is reaching out to those who have had kind words for DCPS and have asked what they can do to help.” Rhee’s staff has created talking points for those willing to testify favorably, and it will give them a reminder call about one hour before their turn comes up on the council docket.

In my February 26 open letter to Peggy O’Brien, I discuss what is wrong with this picture: “I am most concerned about your inappropriate effort to solicit positive testimony only from a group of parents who have previously expressed support for the Chancellor’s reforms. In your role as chief of Family and Public Engagement for a taxpayer supported agency, you have an obligation to appeal to all DCPS stakeholders to testify at the March 15 city council hearing, not just to identified supporters. In the interest of all the DC residents your office represents, I ask you to do the following: post an announcement on the DCPS home page about the hearing, inviting all family and parents of DCPS students to testify. Just announce it. Do not provide positive, unsubstantiated talking points as you did in your original E-mail. Send an E-mail to your original group of supporters acknowledging your error in using your public office to solicit positive views only.

“Of course, I understand that your office would welcome positive testimony, given the chancellor’s recent controversial remarks about RIF’d teachers hitting and having sex with children and her sliding poll numbers. Thus, I suggest you contact groups like DC School Reform Now, a nonprofit organization founded by former Teach for America workers to support the Chancellor’s reform efforts. Interest groups such as this would see it as their mission to mobilize their members and provide talking points that are strictly supportive of the Chancellor. Unlike public agencies, they don’t have an obligation to serve all citizens, but only those who share their point of view.”


It’s Open Season on Metaphors in the City
Phil Shapiro,

Living in the DC-area places you in a growing thicket of metaphors. Well, let me tell you, it’s open season on metaphors in the city. Metaphors are running rampant out there. I saw a metaphor running down Pennsylvania Avenue in broad daylight. Unafraid. Undaunted. Unrepentant.

Metaphors are not like similes. Oh, for a simile. Like, any simile. I say bag ‘em and don’t release them. Bag ‘em and don’t release them. (That’ll be five cents for each bag, please.)


Another DCPS Teacher Calls It Quits: Who Is to Blame?
Candi Peterson,

Lately, I have received a number of E-mails and text messages from teachers and colleagues about how many DC public schools teachers are voluntarily calling it quits. Teachers that I have spoken to admit that one of their reasons for leaving is the recently introduced IMPACT evaluation, which was rolled out this year without its having been piloted first. It will take a total of three years for teachers to be graded on all of three of the IMPACT components. Many complain of inadequate training, which is being provided “on the job” while teachers must digest an instrument that is complex and misinterpreted by principals, instructional coaches, program managers, and master educators (who often aren’t so masterful). PowerPoints to supplement IMPACT are still being developed as we speak to help further explain rubrics that are not so specific. Teachers and service providers are rated in areas in which there has been inadequate training. Teachers are complaining in some schools that they have lost their planning periods to more grade level meetings, extra duty, more paperwork, and many other demands that result in lost time to plan. As a result, many of our teachers come to work as early as 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. and stay until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., and continue to work into the night. Yet they are still demonized in the press by Rhee and company. Time for family, friends, and social activities is virtually nonexistent.

Many teachers and service providers are receiving performance ratings on IMPACT evaluations with scores averaging in the minimally effective and ineffective range. Even I received a low impact score, of course being marked down in the attendance area due to being seen at a protest rally while I was on scheduled leave. Could it be that Rhee’s plan is to rate teachers low so that she can force out a significant share of our teaching workforce through terminations, layoffs, resignations, and retirements, as revealed in her five-year educational plan?

I received an E-mail from a teacher asking me to post the resignation of yet another certified DCPS teacher. Her E-mail states, “A certified special education teacher with a masters degree resigns from Maury Elementary School due to belittling by Principal Carolyne Albert-Garvey. Maury is located at 1250 Constitution Avenue, NE. The principal heavily imposed special education coordinator (SEC) duties, which is a full-time job, by the way, and gave an unjust Impact rating. SEC duties ‘IMPACTed,’ no pun intended, on this special education teacher’s planning and instructional time. This special education teacher had a case load of twelve special education students in testing grades 3, 4, and 5. Go figure. Now the school is left with a brand new uncertified teacher.”



Public Service Commission Announcement on PEPCO Rate Increase Request, March 2
M. Deggins,

The Public Service Commission is announcing a decision on Pepco’s request for a $44.5 million increase to existing retail rates and distribution services in the District of Columbia. The announcement will be made on Tuesday, March 2, at 10:00 a.m., at the Public Service Commission for the District of Columbia, 1113 H Street, NW, 7th Floor, East Tower, Hearing Room. We strongly encourage you to attend or send a representative. For additional information, please see the attached hearing notice or contact the Public Service Commission directly at 626-5100.


National Building Museum Events, March 2-3
Johanna Weber,

March 2, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Book of the Month: Tip Tip Dig Dig. Join us in the Building Zone for a special interactive reading of Emma Garcia’s s. This colorful book explores the noises and functions of construction vehicles. Readings at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free drop-in program. Recommended for ages three to five.

March 3, 6:30-8:00 p.m. A 21st Century African American Museum. Last year the architectural team of Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup was chosen to design the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to be located on the National Mall. NMAAHC Executive Director Lonnie Bunch shares the vision for the new building, followed by a discussion with David Adjaye and Phil Freelon. $12 for museum members and NMAAHC members; free for students; $20 for nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Blacks in Wax, March 5
John A. Stokes,

The DC Department of Parks and Recreation’s (DPR), will host “Lift Every Voice and . . . STAND” the fourth annual “Blacks in Wax” program to be held Friday, March 5, at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center (SETLC), 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. There will also be a matinee exhibition at 1:00 p.m. for invited community schools. The event is sponsored by the Recreation Wish List Committee.

Sponsored by the Recreation Wish List Committee, the year’s Blacks in Wax will feature over seventy figures from Black history, which will all be brought to life by DPR youth and parents. In preparation to portray these historic figures, youth complete background research and prepare to teach visitors about the life and work of the figures they are representing. Youth pose as still figures and, when a button is pushed, come alive to speak about the life and achievements of the figure they are representing.

In addition to the exhibition, there will be a special twenty-minute special performance starting at 7:00 p.m. The special performance will highlight this year’s Blacks in Wax theme, “Lift Every Voice and . . . STAND” by connecting the stories and lives of major African American entertainers, writers, and performers who have used their talent, celebrity, and skills to benefit the well being of the community and world. Individuals to be portrayed in this year’s program include tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, world-acclaimed poet Maya Angelou, philanthropist Russell Simmons, and President Barack Obama. For more information, contact the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, 645-6242.


Irish Fun on St. Patrick’s Day, March 7
Michelle Phipps-Evans,

Seeking some authentic Irish fun to mark St. Patrick’s Day? Join the Father McKenna Center and the Gonzaga Mothers Club at their third annual Rollicking Afternoon of Irish Music and Dance. It features Pete Moss and the Bog Band, Irish musician Paul Gannon, and the Boyle School of Irish Dance. This talented group has a true passion for Irish music, and the evening promises to be one of fun, dance, and the luck of the Irish.

This annual event will be at the Lower Church at St. Aloysius, 19 I Street, NW, on Sunday, March 7, at 4:00 p.m. A basket for donations and freewill offerings will be at the door. For more information, please call Tom Howarth at 842-1112 or visit the web site,

The Father McKenna Center, located at St. Aloysius Church, serves the needs of poor families through a variety of programs funded by generous individuals, religious orders and institutions, foundations and grants. All proceeds from this event goes to the center.


NEA’s Poetry Out Loud, March 8
Ebony Blanks,

The National Endowment for the Art’s Poetry Out Loud State Recitation Contest, an evening of poetry, will be held on Monday, March 8, at 5:30 p.m. Come to Gala Hispanic Theater to cheer on DC students as they perform to compete in the NEA’s Poetry Out Loud finals. One student will be chosen to represent DC on the national stage. For more information, contact Ebony Blanks,


Update on Public Works Committee Recycling Hearing, March 10
Virginia Johnson,

The March 10 Public Works Committee hearing will be on the oversight of the Department Public Works and the Environment and not just on recycling. The committee chairman has stated that snow issues specific to DPW will be handled at the March 10 hearing, and it is believed that a large bulk of the public testimony will be around snow. It is unfortunate that the chairman has decided to commingle recycling with one of his favorite issues — cars — in this way, but there it is. It is still important to attend and make our voices heard about our city’s failures around recycling (this is our hearing). To sign up to testify, contact April Hawkins-Mason, Legislative Assistant, Committee on Public Works and Transportation 724-8195, Next time you are throwing things away and asking yourself why can’t they recycle it, realize that you had your chance.


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