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October 13, 2010

Severance Pay

Dear Payers:

Michelle Rhee resigned today. See her resignation letter at This, of course, leaves us with the top question on our minds: how much are the taxpayers on the hook for; how much do we have to pay her to go away? Bill Turque, the Post education reporter, says he’s trying to find out. Is there anything we can learn from her contract, Not much.

Rhee was hired on July 3, 2007, at an annual salary of $275,000 a year. She was guaranteed an annual cost-of-living raise, so her salary is now considerably higher than that. Paragraph 6 of her contract says that, “should you choose to terminate your appointment for a good cause, you shall receive a severance payment of up to 12 weeks of your base salary, plus any accrued leave, as well as an additional 12 weeks of administrative pay.” That’s about a half-year’s salary, give or take. So has she terminated her appointment “for a good cause”? Does her not wanting to work with Gray count as a good cause? If Peter Nickles really wanted to protect the taxpayers from being fleeced — which is the excuse he uses for fighting so hard to deny equitable settlements to DC citizens who have been mistreated by the city — he would argue that her contract doesn’t call for her to be paid any severance allowance, and he would fight hard against paying her an extra dime. But Rhee is part of the Fenty team; Fenty will determine what she gets paid in severance; and Nickles will rubber-stamp whatever Fenty wants, even above the contractual ceiling.

Gary Imhoff


District Elections, Part 2
Dorothy Brizill,

On Monday, October 18, DC voters will return to the polls to vote in the general election. The early voting center at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, will be open from October 18 through November 1. Four satellite early voting centers — Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Avenue, NW; Hine Junior High School, 335 8th Street, NE; the southeast Ennis and Learning Center, 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE; and the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE — will be open from Saturday, October 23 through Saturday, October 30. The hours for all early voting centers will be from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., but they will be closed on Sundays. The early voting center at One Judiciary Square will close at 4:45 p.m. on November 1. On November 2, election day, all 143 polling precincts will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

As opposed to the September primary, the general election is open to all District voters, regardless of their party affiliation. Moreover, voters can cast a ballot for any candidate on the ballot, again regardless of party affiliation, or can write in the name of any qualified individual. DC residents who are not currently registered may register in person at the DC Board of Elections’ office, 441 4th Street, NW, until 4:45 p.m. on November 1, at an early voting center from October 23 through October 30, or at their neighborhood polling precinct on election day.

In the November 2 general election, voters will elect the delegate to the US House of Representatives; the mayor; the chairman of the city council; two at-large members of the council; members of the DC council from wards 1, 3, 5, and 6; a US shadow representative; members of the State Board of Education from wards 1, 3, 5, and 6; and 286 advisory neighborhood commissioners. In addition, the “elected attorney general charter amendment” will also appear on the ballot. If approved, instead of the mayor’s appointing the attorney general, district voters would elect the attorney general for a four-year term of office, beginning in 2014. Further information is available on the web site of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics at


DCPS’s Out-of-Boundary Lottery
Alvin C. Frost,

DCPS’s out-of-boundary lottery allows parents to apply for a DCPS school different from their assigned school. Educational reform in America takes essentially the opposite approach, as reformers seek to insinuate themselves into every aspect of locally controlled public education. Reform is using the ideology, strategies, and tactics that they can control everything, even things that can’t or shouldn’t be controlled by them, such as the communities that have the ultimate responsibility for making sure that their children are prepared to be educated.

After the Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the country turned its back on public education, especially in communities with large numbers of nonwhite students. This was not necessarily the result of a cabal that decided to “flee to the suburbs” or to initiate “massive resistance” to the desegregation of public schools, or the creation of the rapid increase of “so-called” private schools, such as Christian Academies, and the rise of home schooling. One result of this turning away from publicly educating our children is that, while parents with resources can make sure that their kids obtain a “reasonable and proper” education, parents of limited means and resources are ever more dependent upon public education as a way for their children to break out of the generational cycle of poverty.

Reformers use seed money and capital to essentially control the governance structure, resource allocation, teacher evaluation, and instructional methods. This is done in spite of the fact that education is a local responsibility that requires the committed, and respected, involvement of parents, students, teachers and their unions, the school systems, and the local, county or state governments. How has this happened? By carefully selecting school districts, such as DCPS, where the belief is that it cannot possibly get worse. The results of the reform approach includes numerous school closings, a massive school-building and modernization program; large firings of teachers, administrators, and staff; a radical new teacher’s contract; a deeply flawed IMPACT teacher’s evaluation tool, and the exclusion of parents and the community in the goal-setting and decision-making process.

Nationally directed and funded reform is an out-of-boundary interference, and must, in the future, include all of the local stakeholders in the public education issue, and not just nationally known wealthy and influential individuals, families, foundations, and organizations. And, by the way, both Mayor Fenty’s and Chancellor Rhee’s children are enrolled in out-of-boundary schools. It seems that power and control entitles some parents to privileges that many in the poorer neighborhoods can only dream of, or they are forced to play the DCPS lottery.


Accountability, Hardy/MetroTeen AIDS, and Parental Input
Eric Woods,

Did you experience the breath of fresh air that swept across the District on October 13? It was surpassed in magnitude only by the bright sunlight that erupted on the morning of September 15. With Rhee’s resignation, I hope people can now begin to look very critically at true educational reform and move past simplistic media sound bites when discussing programs and results. The latest fiasco at Hardy Middle School is an excellent example of the reformists’ inattention to detail and, later, attempting to dismiss valid public concerns.

As reported by the on October 12, Hardy’s new administration, in conjunction with MetroTeen AIDS (MTA), conducted an extensive and graphic survey about sexual behavior and alcohol and drug use by seventh-graders and collected personal information about each student without the consent of the parents, As the prelude to a twelve-week program, MTA’s own letter to parents called for prior approval by parents and their ability to opt out of either the survey or program. Sadly this went home after the survey was conducted. The DCPS and MTA response to the news report gives only token reference to the serious offense of trashing parental rights while leaving unaddressed several other glaring issues raised by the report including: 1) why are twelve and thirteen year olds subjected to the identical survey that is presented to much more mature college and postgraduate young adults? 2) Why is MTA collecting personal information (names, age, birth date, zip code) while telling parents that no personally identifiable information can link the student to the survey? 3) How many parents at other schools have experienced such a breach of the public trust? How many other twelve or thirteen year olds have been subjected to images conjured up by questions like asking your sexual partner about using a “dental dam?” 4) Why couldn’t MTA provide a response that demonstrated how collected information from prior years serves as evidence that their program is achieving any level of success in the schools? 5) Why is DCPS transferring the responsibility of sexual education to a bunch of seventeen to twenty-four year olds instead of to health professionals with degrees? 6) Shouldn’t we be “opting-in” if we would prefer unqualified people, instead of health professionals, teaching our children about human sexuality and the risks related to drugs and alcohol?

I am comforted by the fact that this latest episode shows the power of democracy. Without parents speaking up about privacy rights, parental rights to protect their kids from inappropriate guidance and misinformation from nonprofessionals on sensitive issues, and holding the government accountable for the trust we place in it, we would not know about the problem at Hardy. It may be widespread, so I hope readers will ask your own children about any MTA materials or programs they have been subject to. We cannot count on DCPS or MTA to reveal their own missteps — they could have mentioned their efforts in their official responses. Going forward I expect educational reformists to ask tougher questions about the value and validity of programs they are considering bringing to our children. Similarly I expect DCPS to exercise far greater oversight over the contracted services provided in the execution of the program.


Nothing to Worry About — Is There?
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

“DC Voting Pilot Program Filled with Security Holes,” “The team found the default password in an owner’s manual. Halderman could then monitor the network from his computer in Michigan and see BOEE administrators working in real time. The team also gained access to a pair of publicly accessible security cameras in the BOEE data center that could be used to watch employees typing in passwords. Halderman and his team also made another discovery. ‘While we were in control of these systems, we observed other attack attempts originating from Iran and China,’ Halderman says.”


Now Catania Wants Notaries to Perform Marriages
Richard Urban, independent candidate for DC Council At-Large,

In July, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals denied the right of DC voters to vote on the definition of marriage. In response, Mr. Catania wrote, “I believe that it is time for the leaders of these efforts to return to their home states and let the residents of the District live their lives.” I believe that we, the residents of DC, have a right to vote on this issue, and that Mr. Catania’s attitude is condescending to those who have lived here all or a substantial part of their lives and believe that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman only, as I do. I am the only candidate for DC Council At-Large that is for defining marriage as between a man and a woman only, and for letting DC voters vote on that definition.

The way that same sex unions have been pushed upon DC residents without real community input is very telling as to the way that the DC council sometimes operates. Now Councilmembers Catania, Cheh, and Evans want notaries to perform marriages. The bill is cosponsored by Councilmembers Graham and Wells. This seems to be a way to push through more same sex “marriages” and to further weaken the institution of marriage. Communities that are having success in reducing the rate of divorce are taking just the opposite approach; they are adopting Community Marriage Policies, which encourage couples to take a premarital inventory and receive marriage preparation classes. Having notaries perform marriages is a bad idea. After already weakening marriage by redefining it, now the council wants to reduce even further the thoughtful preparation that is needed to help make more marriages succeed. DC voters should reject Mr. Catania’s effort to change the definition of marriage, and now to render meaningless the significance of the marriage ceremony. A vote for Richard Urban on November 2 is a vote to rebuff Catania’s efforts to redefine and weaken marriage.

In addition, you can also testify on the bill on Thursday, November 14, at 2:00 p.m. before the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. You can contact the committee at 724-7808.


Jim Henderson,

Missing from the discussion is the top-heavy cadre of highly paid administrative staffs of these sub-performing districts. They are often hired because they are friends of the chancellors/superintendents or friends of other staff members. They often move from district to district extracting top salaries for their so-called expertise. What most parents do not realize is that the superintendents in their districts are the highest paid members in public service. Their tenure is less than three years, after which they move on to the next “problem district.”


Cooperation and Collaboration
Earl Shamwell,

I read the “How To Fix Our Schools” article [themail, October 10] and first was struck by the word “Manifesto” that preceded its title. First thought: Karl Marx, where is this going? Then I read the article in full, which led to my second observation.

This piece, which I suppose is 500 or more words long, contained by my count only three references to “parents,” and these meager references, in my view, included parents only as part of a group of “adults” merely involved in education of children; their income status had no bearing on educational success or failure; and the education system should give them a “better portfolio of school choices.” Otherwise, as the piece stated as its essential thesis, “the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school . . . is the quality of their teacher.”

So, by the lights of these educational worthies, my wife’s and my contribution to the educational success of my college graduate son and my soon-to-graduate daughter is reduced to what? giving them life, three squares, and a place to lie their heads? This brings me back to my first observation about Karl Marx and my now knowing where this article is going. Who said this recently, “We are all socialists now”? I thought at first that Gray should perhaps give Rhee a chance in his administration, but with this article and Rhee’s continued endorsement of this claptrap theory, she should be shown the door.

[“We Are All Socialists Now” is the title of an article by Jon Meachem that was the cover story in Newsweek on February 7, 2009. — Gary Imhoff]


“One City” a Pipe Dream, or Is Another DC Possible?
David Schwartzman, at-large city council candidate,

Our presumed mayor-elect Vince Gray has inspired us with his vision of “One City” and his renewed commitment to fight for DC Statehood. As a DC Statehood Green Party candidate and long-term activist, I was just as delighted with the defeat of Mayor Fenty as with my own primary win. I look forward to an elected government which moves on from the policies rejected by a majority of Democratic voters. Vince Gray impresses me as someone who in his heart takes seriously what his Christian religious tradition preaches about social and economic justice. However, his best intentions may be frustrated by increasing signs that the regional corporate agenda will continue to be imposed on our elected government, unless a countervailing power from below is mobilized.

But how can we achieve “One City” while tolerating such high levels of income inequality and poverty, especially among children (40 percent of African American children), that persist in the District? Consider, as well, the reality of socioeconomic cleansing, as Sam Smith aptly described the ongoing process of gentrification, loss of affordable housing, and the impact of mass incarceration and continued discrimination against ex-offenders (see his incisive analysis at HUD defines affordable housing as costing no more than 30 percent of household income, yet some 100,000 District households pay more than 30 percent, with 48,000 paying more than 50 percent (Bob Pohlman, Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development). I note Vince Gray’s commitment to continuing educational reform. But, given the ongoing glaring disparities between student performance in affluent versus low-income communities under the Fenty/Rhee regime, are we going forward with the corporate-invented delusion that effective reform is possible with the mass unjustified firing of experienced teachers and staff and without sharply reducing poverty at the same time ? The removal of Rhee is a necessary first step, but not sufficient. Real bottom-up governance by parents and teachers is imperative to insure effective educational reform.

Yes, we are facing a real fiscal challenge when Gray takes office, whether or not our Chief Financial Officer Gandhi’s projection of a $175 million shortfall for FY 2011 is correct or not (recall his continual bloated estimates of shortfall in the past). Our survival budget for child care, affordable housing, adult education, and other programs serving low-income residents is woefully underfunded, with new cuts in place, over and above the fifty million dollars in cuts for last year’s budget. For example, the FY 2011 budget is one third ($41 million) lower than in FY 2008, before the effective depression for so many of our residents, especially in Wards 5, 7 and 8. Child care is 20 percent lower than in FY 2008, even though the need is greater than ever. Even staffing for social service centers has been reduced in spite of greater unemployment (DC Fiscal Policy Institute). And the shame is that at least the new cuts could have been avoided had not the council rejected the Graham amendment for a very modest tax hike for the wealthy. This 8 to 5 vote, with my opponent David Catania voting as usual to protect the income of our top 5 percent bracket, his own bracket, translated into raising the misery index in our community.

So what will be our Mayor Elect’s plan? I am not particularly encouraged by his choice of the leadership of the financial transition team, namely former Mayor Anthony Williams and former Control Board member Alice Rivlin, key architects of the Urban Structural Adjustment Program that balanced our budget on the backs of our poor, while favoring the wealthy with tax cuts (Tax Parity Act). The Control Board regime closed DC General Hospital, privatized municipal functions, cut the so-called safety net and increased our income gap to record levels, while setting the course for Mayor Fenty’s agenda that brought this assault on our working and middle class majority to a new level.

Is there an alternative? The burden of balancing the budget should not be once again placed on those least able to bear it. I am campaigning on a platform to confront the crises of everyday living faced by a majority of our residents. At the highest priority is a determined and comprehensive program to eradicate child poverty. Let us begin with tapping into revenue sources that exist but have been protected heretofore: the real tax base of wealthy DC residents and curbs on corporate tax exemptions and abatements, especially for big developers who deliver little or no community benefits while disregarding First Source and Living Wage requirements. In the last twenty years, DC taxpayers in the greater than one hundred thousand dollar bracket increased in number from twelve thousand to over forty thousand (in 2007), in spite of a lower tax rate for those in this income bracket in suburban Virginia. In 2007, the year with the most recent data, DC taxpayers with incomes over two hundred thousand dollars had a taxable income of $8.8 billion (IRS statistics). A recent survey revealed that DC ranks tenth in the nation in percentage of millionaire households, numbering 14,533, surging because of the stock market rebound (The Examiner, October 5, p.4). A modest tax hike on the top 5 percent bracket could deliver over one hundred million dollars in additional revenue while still providing tax relief to working class residents and others in need.

The two main opponents of a progressive tax approach on the council, Catania and Evans, have argued that wealthy DC residents will leave the District if they are required to pay slightly higher rates, thereby eroding our tax base. This claim is highly misleading, given the advantages that wealthy residents enjoy living here, especially the lower commuting costs and especially time. And who will buy their high-priced homes if they move? As a further step to help prevent a small fraction from moving as well as to fully capture the income tax owed by cheaters who pretend not to be DC residents, the council should seriously consider hiking the property tax for homeowners who do not pay DC income tax. Reducing the income gap and “misery index” in the District would benefit the wealthy as well as everyone else by reducing crime, stimulating the neighborhood economy and reducing class/racial polarization.

And here is one legislative step that could make a big difference: our incoming mayor and council should act to establish a DC municipal (state) bank, that could leverage billions in DC taxes and fees for local green economic development, living wage jobs, and truly affordable housing, instead of continuing depositing this revenue into Wall Street banks. The North Dakota State Bank shows this approach works to support its local economy. And additionally, our mayor and city council should lead a campaign to get PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) from the World Bank/IMF, Fannie Mae, and other tax-exempt institutions, that should contribute hundreds of millions of dollars, just like in other cities. Revenue sources can be found if there is the political will to break with years of subsidizing the very wealthy and big corporate sector. Positive social investments are preventative medicine to avoid much greater costs in the future, the costs of more incarceration and needless suffering (see Money Well Spent, Justice Policy Institute, at

We should take a lesson from the outcome of the defeat of the criminal Bush regime just two years ago. There were great expectations following the historic election of Barack Obama. However, too many of the previous administration’s policies have been continued, especially what Harry Belafonte called the “immoral, unconscionable, and unwinnable” wars (his October 2 speech at the Jobs Rally at the Mall). What has been missing is a large enough mobilization of those most negatively affected by corporate-serving policies. Hopefully that is changing, but we need the same mobilization in the District to make Vince Gray’s inspiring vision of “One City,” with DC statehood, a reality.

Once on the city council, I pledge to use my energies and the resources of my office to support such a mobilization led by groups that have been fighting for your interests: DC Jobs with Justice, Empower DC, One DC, TENAC, and others. I look forward to a more just DC working in collaboration with our new mayor and city council.



National Building Museum Events, October 17-18
Johanna Weber,

October 17, 8:00-9:00 p.m., Ghost Tour. Explore the haunted past of the National Building Museum. See a different side of the Museum on this lantern-light tour led by a “ghost.” Who are the irritable rider on horseback and the footless figure? Why are there mysterious faces swirling in the 75-foot Corinthian columns? And, why do these ghosts (and more) call the Museum their home? All will be revealed on this behind-the-scenes tour. Additional tours on October 31 and November 2 and 11. $12 for members; $20 for nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Recommended for ages ten and older. Registration begins on September 3. Tickets available for purchase at

October 18, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Palladio is My Bible: Thomas Jefferson and Andrea Palladio. Richard Guy Wilson, Commonwealth Professor’s Chair in Architectural History at the University of Virginia, and William L. Beiswanger, director of restoration for Monticello, consider Andrea Palladio’s influences on the architecture of Thomas Jefferson, as seen at the University of Virginia and at Jefferson’s home, Monticello. National Building Museum curator Chrysanthe Broikos moderates. $12 for members and 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


WISH Archives Opening, October 19
Parisa Norouzi,

Empower DC invites you to the grand opening of the Washington Innercity Self Help (WISH) public archives. A Leader in Affordable Housing, 1978-2003. Archives training, Tuesday, October 19, 4:00-5:30 p.m.; learn about the contents of the archives and how to use it in your affordable housing related research. Archives opening celebration: 6:00-8:00 p.m., featuring discussion and sharing from former WISH staff and members, and short film screening.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW (Gallery Place Metro), Washingtoniana Division, third floor. Refreshments will be served.

WISH worked for the empowerment of low-income communities in Washington, DC, from 1978 to 2003. Among its accomplishments was the building of at least fifteen limited-equity affordable housing cooperatives. Help commemorate the history of this important organization. Made possible through support from the Humanities Council of Washington, DC. For more information or to RSVP, contact Linda Leaks at Empower DC, 234-9119 or


Washington Post Town Hall Series, October 20
George Williams;

The Washington Post and the DC Public Library are hosting a town hall meeting, “The Path Forward: Will a Change in Leadership Signify a New Narrative for Washington, DC, and its Residents?” on Wednesday, October 20, from 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., at the Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Branch Library, 1630 7th Street, NW, across from the Shaw Metro station. The panel will discuss life in the District and what might be on the horizon under new political leadership. From infrastructure investments to economic development efforts, several areas of life in the District will be explored by staff writers Henri Cauvin, Jonathan O’Connell, Elizabeth Razzi, Nikita Stewart, Bill Turque, and Robert “Dr. Gridlock” Thomson. Attendees will also hear from Post pollster Jon Cohen as he explores the twists and turns of public opinion in the city. The town hall will be moderated by Metro columnist Robert McCartney and will feature an introduction from The Post’s Local Editor, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz.

A question and answer session will follow the discussion. If you have a question you would like answered by the panel, or if you plan to attend, please E-mail the


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