Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rhee Fires Teachers, Apparently Without Cause -- Budgetary or Competence

The RIFs came down Friday as 229 teachers and others totaling 388 school employees got pink slips. They will be put on paid leave until November 2, when they will no longer have jobs. The Washington POST dutifully wrote an editorial Saturday applauding the RIFs. Incredibly, the POST reasoned that since there are some bad teachers in DCPS, therefore any firing of teachers must be justified, no matter whether those bad teachers were the ones fired or not. Meanwhile, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray questioned why any cuts were needed given that DCPS has more money in the current budget than they did the year before. Independent budget analysist Mary Levy fired off a quick analysis that documents why the cuts were not needed at all. Meanwhile, no evaluation of teachers was used to identify who should be cut. Principals had been instructed how many teachers to eliminate and came up with lists. Broad criteria provided by Rhee instructed principals to rank their teachers using "needs of the school" for 75% of the determination, the lowest ranking teachers to be cut. So this highly disruptive action, one month into the school year, was based on a process no one trusts based on a budget cut that has not been justified. Even those who want attention to the quality of teaching and want bad teachers removed had trouble defending these RIFs, except the editors of the Washington Post.

At some of the most challenged high schools, significant numbers of students will have to be re-scheduled into classes a month into the year. Cardozo HS is losing 16 teachers, 18 at Ballou HS and 15 at Spingarn HS. Parents and teachers throughout the City are scrambling to figure out what the impact will be on their kids. A demonstration has been called for Thursday, October 8 , from 4:30 to 6:00 at Freedom Plaza in front of the Wilson Building.

6 comments:

Crystal Sylvia, DCPS social worker said...

The RIFs coming just over a month into the school year are disturbing for many reasons. Besides creating chaos as schools redo student schedules, merge classes, etc, there is the serious impact that it is going to have on students’ emotional well being. And I am not just talking about the affects of larger class sizes or instructional disruptions.

Removing teachers, counselors, etc so abruptly is going to be emotionally devastating for many children. Even for well adjusted students it is very distressing to lose a teacher with no advance warning under such negative circumstances.

But many of our children in DC Public Schools have experienced tremendous loss throughout their lives whether it is by death, incarceration, drug use or abandonment by a mother, father or other loved ones. We have many children who suffer from Attachment Disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression and/or who are just emotionally vulnerable from their life experiences. There is no doubt that removing teachers and other school staff from schools unexpectedly will emotionally harm many children.

Even if such firings were necessary which it appears that they were not, it is unconscionable to conduct the RIFs in the manner in which it was done. Rhee is claiming that it will have “minimal impact” on students. This makes it sound as if the 229 teachers fired were just hanging out in the teacher’s lounge everyday rather than working with students.

It is truly is astounding that those in charge think this is acceptable or appropriate. The logic from 825 is that the RIFs are a necessary evil that needs to be done to get rid of the “dead wood.” But we now know that many of those who were fired were not underperforming teachers even though that is the claim to make this more palatable to the public.

I just learned that a kindergarten teacher at my daughter’s school was fired on Friday. I am unfamiliar with this teacher and have no idea how well she taught. But what I do know is that there is a class of five year olds who have bonded with their teacher everyday for the last month and as of 3:00 pm Friday believed that come Monday she would still be their teacher. I am sure that many students are going to be very upset and even traumatized. And I am not exaggerating here to make a point. Ask anyone in the mental health field and they will say the same thing.

If this was done in July and August many of these problems could have been avoided. Not only does it demonstrate incompetence it is just downright shameful to RIF over 200 teachers at this time in the school year.

Anonymous said...

See this article by a RIFFED special educator.

Linda/RetiredTeacher said...

In my state it would be illegal to do what Rhee did. Aside from the actual firing, what kind of person would subject teachers to that kind of public humiliation? Why does she think she can get away with it? There must be some laws that govern D.C. of which I am unaware.

lodesterre said...

The Washington Post owns Kaplan Testing Services and makes more money from Kaplan than from their newspaper. To say that the Post has a conflict of interest in school reform would be an understatement. The Post has yet to disclose this connection in any of their articles on Rhee and DCPS reform. This is a serious omission. Their coverage has been so obviously slanted that the Post has acted more as a press relations office for Rhee and Fenty than as an investigative newspaper. They may truly believe that Rhee is the second coming of the messiah but they also have a vested interest in the type of "reform" she wants to enact.

DC VOICE Ostrich said...

Mayoral reform was supposed to enhance transparency, accountability, and democracy. In its absence, City Council must step up its oversight role and form an actual committee on public education.

The Wash. Teacher said...

I think Crystal makes good points. I would like to note that most of the laid off teachers that attended a recent WTU meeting reported they were not evaluated. They have not been deemed to be poor performers as Rhee and Fenty allege on TV. There were teachers with exceeds evaluation in this laid off group. The real travesty is the erosion of due process rights for teachers and other school system employees. In Rhee-land this is what we can all expect.

Children are also not first under Rhee's reign of terror and on the high school level it has led to school counselors being pushed out as they were hardest hit in this RIF. Students will now have school counselors with such high ratio's that I am sure those in less affluent schools will have little support when they apply to college.

It gets worse by the minute. I encourage all teachers and school personnel to testify on October 16.