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January 6, 2013

The Whistleblower's Welcome

Dear Whistleblowers:

Ignoring whistleblowers and burying their evidence seem to be the consistent pattern of behavior throughout DC government, regardless of the program.

Emma Brown’s article, "‘Frontline’ Raises Questions about Test-Score Tampering under Rhee,", raises a problem that was obvious months ago — not just about how school test scores were systematically raised under the administration of Michelle Rhee, but also about the Inspector General’s investigation of that cheating. These charges are particularly compelling because they were made in a Frontline documentary produced by John Merrow, who produced twelve earlier adulatory pieces about Rhee for the PBS NewsHour.

Inspector General Charles Willoughby reported last August that his office found no evidence of test-score tampering, and Rhee and her supporters argued that the report completely cleared the District of Columbia’s Public Schools and her. "The ‘Frontline’ documentary, however, suggests the inspector general’s investigation may have been incomplete," writes Brown. Incomplete and incompetent, judging by the way in which the IG’s office ignored the evidence of Adell Cothorne, the former principal of Noyes Education Campus, who personally witnessed teachers cheating by erasing answers on students’ test booklets.


Jeffrey Brown’s article, "Lingering Concerns on DC Speed Camera Find Deaf Ear," follows up on his earlier story about MPD Sergeant Mark Robinson’s mistreatment after he reported problems with the District’s speed camera program, "And documents obtained by The Washington Times from inside the program, which is run by civilian Lisa Sutter, show that defective tunnel tickets are merely the latest sign of dysfunction and attempts to obscure it by the program, which many see as a cash cow more than a public-safety unit."

Gary Imhoff


Special Election on April 23
Dorothy Brizill,

On Wednesday, January 2, while many Washingtonians were at the Washington Convention Center for the swearing-in ceremony for new and reelected councilmembers, former Councilman Michael A. Brown was at the DC Board of Elections (BOE) switching his party registration from independent to Democrat and picking up nominating petitions to run in the April 23 special election for the at-large council seat vacated by Phil Mendelson. After the swearing-in ceremony, Brown campaign workers approached people as they exited the Convention Center and asked them to sign Brown’s petitions. However, it soon became apparent that Brown’s campaign was not adhering to District laws regarding the circulation of nominating petitions. As a result, on Friday I filed a formal complaint with the DC Board of Elections and the Office of Campaign Finance "regarding the manner in which Michael A. Brown and his campaign for the April 23, 2013, special election are circulating his nominating petitions. I have personally witnessed and have evidence that 1) his campaign is forging signatures on the petitions; 2) individuals who are not registered voters in the District of Columbia are circulating petitions; and 3) circulators are asking people to sign the petitions and securing their signatures without asking whether they are registered voters in the District of Columbia. Moreover, in a clear violation of the District’s campaign finance laws, Mr. Brown is using campaign materials (palm cards, stickers, and yard signs) that were paid for by the Michael Brown 2012 Committee."

Candidates in the April 23 special election must file their nominating petitions with the signatures of three thousand District voters by 5:00 p.m. on January 23. As of January 4, fifteen individuals had picked up petition at the DC BOE. They were Anita Bonds; Diallo K. Brooks; Michael A. Brown; John Capozzi; Ivan Cloyd; A.J. Cooper; Matthew Frumin; Jon Gann; George Jackson; Patrick Mara; Perry Redd; Pedro Rubio, Jr.; John F. Settles, II; Elissa Silverman; and Paul Zuckerberg.


The Black and White of School Closures
Candi Peterson,

As 2012 comes to an end, two unmistakable trends have emerged: public schools are being sold down the river to private interests and the rush to close schools has not resulted in any measurable improvement in standardized test scores. The Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) just issued The Black and White of Education in Chicago’s Public Schools report on the "underutilization crisis" in the Chicago Public Schools system. CTU contends that this crisis that has been manufactured largely to justify the replacement of neighborhood schools by privatized charters. "When it comes to matters of race and education in Chicago, the attack on public schools is endemic," said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. "Chicago is the most segregated city in the country, and our students of color are routinely deemed as second-class by a system that does nothing but present one failed policy after the next."

More specifically, the Chicago Teachers’ Union highlights what the policy of neighborhood closings and charter openings has led to increased racial segregation, depletion of stable schools in black neighborhoods, disrespect and poor treatment of teachers, expansion of unnecessary testing, decreased opportunities for deep conceptual learning, increased punitive student discipline, increased student mobility, and minimal educational outcomes. Locally, DC Action for Children, a nonprofit advocacy organization, came to a similar conclusion, that educational outcomes have been minimal in the District of Columbia. Their newly released study, DC KIDS COUNT, Third Grade Proficiency in DC: Little Progress (2007-2011), looked at five years of third grade reading and math test scores from the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) for insights about citywide proficiency, the achievement gap, and neighborhood disparities. Their results? "We could not prove any statistically significant citywide progress from 2007-2011 in reading or math proficiency. The same held true when we broke scores down by race, by DCPS schools, DC public charter schools, students from economically advantaged or students from economically disadvantaged families."

This study neutralizes the rationale used by Chancellor Henderson and her predecessor Michelle Rhee, which is embedded in the first goal of the five-year plan DC Public Schools ) which is: "To improve achievement rates." I personally don’t believe that Henderson’s under-utilization argument makes any sense. What we know is that the policy of closing schools has not saved DC Public Schools (DCPS) any money. The evidence shows us that closing our schools has driven more parents out of our public schools to charters and elsewhere. It’s a no brainer that less students in our public schools equals less money for DCPS. DC Public Schools cannot demonstrate that their continued failed policy, of closing twenty plus schools every four years, is achieving its number one goal of improving test scores. So why then are Henderson and other heads of school districts stuck on stupid nationally, one might ask? The answer lies in CTU’s report, "A crisis has been manufactured to justify the replacement of neighborhood schools. There is a real economic benefit to real estate investors, charter school operators, philanthropists and wealthy bankers."

An August 2012 Reuters article spells out the reason for the national push to privatize. "The US spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from 5-18. The entire education sector represents 9 percent of the gross domestic product, more than energy or technology sectors. Traditionally, public education had been a tough market for private firms to break into — fraught with politics, tangled in bureaucracy. . . . Now investors are signaling optimism that a golden moment has arrived. They’re pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education." When the smoke clears in 2013 and all the policy arguments are made, DCPS will close another twenty schools, give or take a few concessions, and twelve thousand students and an estimated one thousand two hundred teachers and school staff members will be thrown under the bus.


Strong Moral Motivations
Tonya Butler-Truesdale,

In the years of my self-imposed silence on this forum, I have had to examine my own need to compromise my personal rights of free expression due to the necessity of finding and keeping a job. My moral motivations remained strong but were re-prioritized to actions consistent with being a career public servant in the District of Columbia and a "single head of household."

But the wonderful banter on the Civil War and the importance of recognizing morality as a component of history was like a flame to a moth. Now blinded by the light of my passion for this topic, may I humbly suggest a casual reading of Phil Mason’s book, How George Washington Fleeced the Nation and Other Little Secrets Airbrushed from History? Mr. Mason and many others have left us with a wealth of considerations regarding the motivations of central personalities and movements in early American History. My personal reading of some of this material left me with the impression that we have greatly romanticized many events and misidentified many aspects of purposefully deceptive folklore as "historical facts." For example, most people are grossly misinformed about the facts related to the Boston Tea Party. Was it simply a riot or an organized movement against an unfairly burdensome tax? The answer supported by the actual fiscal impact to the colony would shock most citizens.

Even more amazing is the fact that many Washingtonians, even those who completed the DCPS course on the history of the District of Columbia can not tell you who Columbia is. There is little or no recognition of the virtues the Founding Fathers were extolling by naming the District after the allegorical figure of Columbia. When given the opportunity to speak in public to stakeholders in the District, I carry with me a picture of Columbia and the "Hail Columbia" poem by P. Wheatley. I attempt to entertain my audiences very quickly with enough information to have them want to know more about the origins of how the city was named and designed. I am romantic enough to believe that the mythology behind our city’s neoclassical origins could nurture a more inclusive pride in our city and leaders with greater ethical aptitude.

Enough said, I assume. Hopefully, I have planted a seed sufficient enough to have our populace question their own ignorance about their home which is in part responsible for their relative inability to identify, nurture and support ethical leadership, without compromising my ability to earn a marginal living wage as a public servant for the city I love. Hail Columbia!


The Education of Michelle Rhee
Toni Ritzenberg,

I, for one, wish that this program [themail, January 3] were taken off the air. To me, Michele is not a person to be emulated in any way. This city would have been so much better if she had headed west directly and never stopped here on the way.



MacIntosh User Group Meeting, January 12
Ken Nellis, NCA-MUG,

The National Capital Apple Macintosh Users Group (NCA-MUG) will hold its next monthly meeting on Saturday, January 12, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, in the first floor meeting room of the Cleveland Park branch of the DC Public Library. MUG member Paul Suh will present Bento, "the leading personal database software for iPad, iPhone, and Macintosh." Additional information can be found at the group’s web site,


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