The first to go was Mayor Adrian Fenty. He lost in spite of last minute support from Arne Duncan.
Then Michelle “the sweeper” Rhee jumped ship once her patron was gone and the new mayor had no intention of asking her to stay.
Now the third stage. George Parker, who headed the DC teachers union is gone, replaced by Nathan Saunders and his slate to head the WTU.
Parker negotiated a terrible contract where teachers lost tenure and seniority rights in exchange for privately funded raises.
Following the insurgent win here in Chicago, the Saunders victory in DC is the latest good news.
I don’t agree with everything in Sherman Dorn’s response to Andy Rotherham on the DC teacher firings. But I do agree with the thrust of his main points.
First, we wait for the Washington Teachers Union to sort through the information to see if any teachers were fired without the five classroom observations required for the evaluations. The grievance mechanism that exists in the union contract is on procedural grounds, and here we’ll see how careful Rhee’s bureaucrats have been.
Then, we wait to see if there are any examples of firings that don’t meet a basic smell test–anyone who had won teaching awards and plaudits but were given low ratings for reasons of favoritism or obviously inappropriate application of student test scores.
Either procedural errors or plausible miscarriages of justice are reasonable grounds on which the union will fight for members and has an ethical obligation.
Nor is that willingness to fight for individual members inconsistent with a union’s willingness to try different methods of evaluation.
My chapter can and does file grievances when we think an individual’s procedural rights were violated in the tenure review process. That says nothing about the standards of review. It says that we’ll fight for the integrity of the review process.
For the “hang ’em first, try ’em later” crowd, like the editorial board of the Trib, the notion of a review process is equal to “teacher contracts protect poor performing teachers.”
Go back to Dorn’s point about filing grievances. As a union representing our members we can grieve when the procedural rules are violated. If an administrator had documented evidence of poor performance and the definition of poor performance has been already been mutually agreed upon through negotiated language, we do not and can not stand in the way of the follow up steps that include remediation or termination.
Another way of putting it is that our contract provides a road map for improving or getting rid of poor performing teachers. What we do not have is formal or legal control over getting rid of poor performing administrators who do the evaluations.
Check out this deal:
DC school boss Michelle Rhee negotiated a contract with the teachers union that is funded in large part by private sources. These sources include right-wing philanthropists like Eli Broad and the Walton family.
In exchange for the money, the union agreed to end tenure and seniority as we know it.
Now that the contract is ratified, it is coming out that Broad, Walton and that bunch reserve the right to withdraw their funding if Michelle Rhee is fired. Which will happen if her patron DC Mayor Adrian Fenty loses the upcoming election.
It all stinks.
The District’s Office of Campaign Finance will investigate a complaint, filed by an outspoken critic of Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, alleging that Rhee violated the law by soliciting donations from private foundations that reserved the right to pull their funding if there was a change in the school system’s leadership.
The Washington Post’s Bill Turque says that the new D.C. teacher contract has a familiar ring to it.
The language in the contract between the District and the Washington Teachers’ Union soars with promises of a new day. There will be collaboration, school turnaround efforts, pay-for-performance and serious mentoring for novice instructors. It vows “to jointly engage in the struggle to rebuild public confidence in the educational product offered by D.C.’s public schools.” With this agreement, it adds, “we hope to signal that we’re on the right track.”
Ironically, Turque points out that this is the language of the last D.C. teacher contract, not the one just ratified by barely half the members of the WTU.
Turque claims the failure of the last contract is due to the turn-over in leadership. That contract was negotiated with the previous Chancellor, Clifford Janey. Janey was forced out by Mayor Fenty and replaced by the so-called Reformer, Michelle Rhee.
But the real threat to D.C. school improvement may not be in the problem of leadership turn-over, but in the imposition of even an even greater top-down governance model embodied in a contract that jettisons seniority and respect for teacher professionalism and replaces it with almost dictatorial authority by principals and management. Gone is the language of real collaboration. It is replaced with the language of monitoring, rewarding and punishment of teachers.
Last week, literally moments after the news of a tentative contract agreement in DC, Arne Duncan issued a press release applauding the agreement.
No so fast, I suggested. At least wait until the members ratify.
I’m not a member of the DC teachers union. What the members ultimately decide is for them and them alone to figure out. But I know about contract agreements. I’ve been on our local union’s negotiating team more than a half a dozen times. I’ve learned this: The members get the final say.
I remember one year it was an extremely difficult negotiation. The Board negotiators were more interested in teaching the teachers a lesson than in reaching a settlement. We thought we had the best deal we could get and brought it to our members. By agreement, if we bring a tentative agreement to the members for a vote, we the negotiators, must support ratification. But our body language said more than our words. And the members voted no. Back to the negotiating table we went.
The members know best. We got a better deal than the one we first brought to them. That is one of the reasons collective bargaining works.
Since the DC deal was tentatively agreed to, all hell has broken lose. It now has come out that Michelle Rhee, the DC school’s chancellor, lied about budget deficits and surpluses. She lied about the reason two hundred teachers were fired.
The union leadership, including AFT prez Randi Weingarten, are telling the rank-and-file not to let the news of these lies turn into a no vote on the contract.
But the members know best.
“I want to congratulate the D.C. Public Schools and the Washington Teachers Union upon reaching a tentative agreement in their contract negotiations. This is an agreement that puts D.C. schoolchildren first and treats teachers with the respect they deserve. The administration and the union are clearly taking teaching and learning very seriously. Their ability to work together through some very difficult issues and in these trying economic times is a credit to both parties.”
That was the statement from USDE boss Arne Duncan when the tentative deal was announced between the DC schools and the DC union.
As a local union leader and someone who has been on the union’s negotiating team for more than half a dozen contracts, I’m a devoted advocate of collective bargaining.
But as an amateur poker player, I also believe in waiting until you leave the table before you count your money.
The negotiations between DC schools’ boss Michelle Rhee and the DC teachers union have gone on for two years. To reach a tentative agreement it was necessary for big names to intervene. Randi Weingarten, AFT president came in on the union side. Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Shmoke was brought in. Rhee hired a PR firm to clean up her battered image, and she had to pull back on some of her more provocative teacher bashing of her early tenure.
Reported the Washington Post:
The proposed pact, which must be ratified by union members and approved by the D.C. Council, provides teacher salary increases of more than 20 percent over five years, with much of it paid for through an unusual arrangement with a group of private foundations that have pledged to donate $64.5 million.
What Rhee didn’t get was the power to carry out the most draconian parts of her early agenda. And the union is still there, much to her disappointment.
But if I were Arne, I would have waited until the members had their say. They may approve the deal. They may not.
There will be time enough when the dealing’s done.
Michelle Rhee accused the teachers she fired of being child molesters. No names. No evidence. Just a slanderous, vile accusation made against a whole group of teachers.
Now she’s being called out.
Even the usually fawning Washington Post is troubled, although they feel the need to balance their criticism of Rhee’s slander with an attack on the teachers’ union.
The Washington Teachers Union has called on Ms. Rhee to apologize. Certainly she owes an apology to the dedicated teachers her words may have inadvertently hurt, but so does the union for its hand in enabling some of these unfit teachers to stay in the classroom.
The contract talks between DC’s school boss Michelle Rhee and the DC teachers union have now been going on for two years.
Following the firing of 266 employees without warning, consultation and believable explanation, negotiations are at a standstill.
Union leaders said the layoffs, which included 266 teachers and support staff members, came without warning despite long hours at the table through the spring and summer. They also said they do not believe Rhee’s explanation for the reductions, especially after the hiring of 934 new teachers for this school year. It strongly suggests that the budget crisis was contrived to weaken the union and force out older or outspoken instructors, they said.
“There is no trust right now,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the 1.4 million-member parent organization of the Washington Teachers’ Union. She described the Sept. 21 meeting, an evening session in Rhee’s office that broke up after midnight, as a “rancorous, cantankerous and stressful” discussion of the cuts.