The Washington Teacher, who you should bookmark, is worried Michelle Rhee might be insane. She points us to Jeff Chu at Fast Company as evidence:
Eighteen months after we profiled Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee ("The Iron Chancellor," September 2008), she still hasn't won union approval of a new contract. After the October layoffs of 266 teachers and staff, the union claimed Rhee used a budget crunch as a pretext for dismissing veteran teachers, since seniority rules don't cover cuts for fiscal reasons. "I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," Rhee says. "Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" The release of 2009 test scores was good news for Rhee: Only D.C. and four states showed gains in math for fourth and eighth graders. "We're not good yet," she says, "but I'm seeing the quality of instruction improving."So, that's Rhee's claim. Hard to believe.
If you go to the article link you can read some comments. One, by someone who claims to be a psychologist, is very worried about Ms. Rhee's mental state. I think there are a few of us who are worried!
Update: Candi sent along this email of Bill Turque's followup:
Rhee says laid-off teachers in D.C. abused kidsThis seems to me to be among the most egregious abuses of power I have ever seen. Michelle Rhee is claiming, with NO support/proof, 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 (they really need to change that to Superintendent)!
By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee told a national business magazine that some of the 266 teachers laid off in October's budget reductions had sex with children or had hit them, a claim immediately and angrily challenged Friday by leaders of the Washington Teachers Union.
Rhee's comments appear in the February issue of Fast Company, a magazine aimed at young entrepreneurs and change-minded corporate executives. In a brief item, Rhee addressed the union allegation that she contrived the budget crunch to circumvent seniority rules and rid the system of older teachers.
"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?" she said.
Rhee declined to provide specific numbers Friday or details to substantiate her remarks about sexual misconduct and teachers striking students. Neither did she respond when asked by e-mail why such teachers were allowed to remain in the school system before the Oct. 2 job cuts. D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said late Friday that she was researching the matter.
"I cannot comment at this time," she said.
George Parker, president of the teachers union, called Rhee's statements "reckless" and without basis in fact. The union usually receives notice from the District when a teacher faces disciplinary action, Parker said, and he has received no information that any of the 266 had been under investigation for sexual offenses against children. One of the 266 faced action for administering corporal punishment, he said.
"This paints all teachers as being a group of child molesters who assault children and don't come to work," Parker said. "It damages the reputation of a lot of innocent, hardworking, dedicated teachers."
Rhee said she had made similar statements in other venues, including her October 29 apearance before the D.C. Council. Rhee's sworn testimony then did not mention teachers having sex with students. When council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) asked whether she would fight any attempt to reinstate the 266 teachers, Rhee said she would.
"There were some promising or effective people who were [laid off], but there were also some people who, quite frankly, if you saw what was in their file and what their situations have been in this city, you would be shocked," Rhee said. "Just to give a little sampling of this, six of the [laid off] employees had served suspensions for corporal punishment. One was suspended four times, three times for being AWOL."
As Brown attempted to cut her off, she added: "For you to say, 'Would I fight all 266 people coming back into the system,' I would, because a number of these people are not people that you or I would want to put in their classroom."
Word of Rhee's comments to Fast Company rippled through the teaching ranks, with some expressing outrage.
The union's general vice president, Nathan Saunders, said Rhee owes the city's teacher corps an apology. "The statements are not only an affront to every single teacher that was [laid off] but every single teacher currently employed in D.C. public schools," Saunders said. "It's irresponsible, and she needs to be taken to task for it."
Other union activists said they were especially offended by Rhee's remarks, in light of the recent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by her fiancé, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.
Before Johnson's 2008 election, the inspector general for the federal Corporation for National and Community Service filed a criminal referral with the U.S. attorney in Sacramento about Johnson. It included allegations that Johnson had inappropriately touched a minor girl and climbed into bed with a teenager who worked for the charter school he founded. The school received funding from Americorps, which is part of the community service corporation.
Johnson was not charged.
"I'm ready to recommend that Chancellor Rhee submit for a fitness for duty examination because these are the rants of either a mad or very confused woman," Candi Peterson, a teacher and member of the union's board of trustees, said on the Washington Teacher blog.
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/envelope letters. Blogs are great (especially Candi's and this one), 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.
I support the wrongly accused. I stand with them. We are all RIFed Teachers!
Update III: Michelle Rhee responds.