On January 8, the DC Council approved legislation granting Chancellor Michelle Rhee the ability to terminate nonunion Central Office staff.
For text of the legislation (Bill 17-0450), click here.
The DCist published a memo distributed by Chancellor Rhee to the Central Office staff.
According to The Washington Post , there was a rally by parents of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) students against Mayor Adrian Fenty’s and Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s plan to close schools and convert central office employees to at-will status. There was an interesting quote in the article:
Jeff Smith, executive director of D.C. Voice, questioned the sincerity of the administration’s interest in what parents say.”Instead, people will think that they’re just really looking for approval of a predetermined plan,” Smith said.
It was billed as the next big idea in education, a way forward for struggling school systems everywhere. Plagued by falling enrollment and dismal test scores, the St. Louis school district hired a big-name New York bankruptcy firm to turn things around for a one-time fee of $5 million.
During his 13 months as superintendent of St. Louis public schools, former Brooks Brothers chief executive William V. Roberti closed 21 schools, lopped $79 million off the school budget, privatized many school services and laid off more than 1,000 employees. He stepped down in June at the end of his contract, proclaiming that the district had made “tremendous strides” toward putting its affairs in order, reversing decades of financial mismanagement.
The result of Alvarez and Marsal’s work were that administrators were hired for six figure salaries, while teachers in the classroom did not receive a raise, and parents were upset about school closures.
Three months into a new school year, many teachers, parents and students in St. Louis were asking what they have gained from the whirlwind unleashed by the gruff, straight-talking retail executive. Student enrollment continues to decline, teachers complain about poor morale and low pay, parents are unhappy about school closures, and voters are up in arms about high salaries paid to top administrators.
[Pamela] Graham [DCPS Chief Financial Officer] attributed some of the deficit to what she called Rhee’s improper hiring and promotion of 132 employees. “The practice of overriding process and procedure in hiring new employees must not continue,” Graham wrote in the Nov. 21 memo.
There are other similarities. Roberti in St. Louis, found unused supplies in warehouses and a worse deficit than expected among other events.
JOHN MERROW: When teachers complained about not receiving textbooks on time, she paid a visit to the central warehouse.
MICHELLE RHEE: By the time I got onto the second floor, I thought I was going to throw up. I actually felt nauseous because of what I was seeing. It was boxes and boxes of glue and scissors and composition books, binders, boxes of unopened trade books, class sets of novels, things that teachers not only are dying for but spend their own money on.
DCPS could also be facing a worsening financial condition.
In October, Fenty and Rhee asked the council to approve a one-time expenditure of $81 million to cover a projected $35 million shortfall and the cost of restructuring the central office.
Yesterday, Rhee told council members that she had not informed them that the shortfall had increased by $66 million because she does not agree with Graham’s analysis and wanted to meet with her before giving the information to the council. “We don’t believe that a lot of that information was accurate,” she said.
Because DC has hired Alvarez and Marsal, it is possible that Fenty is implementing Alvarez and Marsal’s plan (possibly adapted from its St. Louis experience).
Graham explained that he thought a Ward Council Member should be part of any decision made on school closing in their Ward. “I thought I’d have a bigger role,” he said to Fenty.
Fenty was quick to respond. He leaned across the table and stretched his arm toward Graham and told him that Council Members don’t dictate police deployment, “But that hasn’t stopped you from sending hundreds of emails, calling assistant police chiefs, calling me, to get more cops in your Ward. I suggest you put the same energy in to the schools.
It was the most forceful Fenty had been. He didn’t raise his voice, but he made a point that resonated with everyone in that room. It was a moment, that defined the change of temperature in the room. And it as about to get a lot hotter.
As Graham recoiled back in his seat, he fired off one last shot across the bow.” Don’t plan on selling any buildings…” Before he could even finish his thought, much less his sentence, Fenty said in a firm tone, “Let’s not start threatening people, I don’t think you want to threaten me.”
At that point every council member began talking, asking for clarification of what Graham had said. Voices were raised by several council members “That came out wrong,” one of them said.
Then Graham rose from his seat, walked over to Fenty and whispered something in his ear, then returned to his seat.
The possible implentation of a consultant’s plan should be monitored. Apparently, the employee unions may already be aware of the possibility.
“Have you heard? Reform of D.C. public schools has been hijacked. Mayor Fenty and his posse of consultants and contractors have hijacked the reform process,” a female narrator says in the ad.
DC considered Alvarez and Marsal in 2004. See the article, Can D.C.’s Search Make the Grade? A quote from the column that could provide information about Chancellor Rhee’s and Mayor Fenty’s method of making decisions.
As it happens, one of the men who turned Washington down, Carl Cohn, described in detail what he thinks needs to be done. Cohn told The Washington Post, “It has to be made clear to everyone that this is about the kids. Then you bring in a take-no-prisoners company that addresses the fundamental issues of operation, of people not doing their jobs.”
On this point, see an article at Education Week for a critique of Chancellor Rhee.
According to the Washington City Paper, Michelle Rhee is making policies with the goal of being for the students.
At a D.C. Council hearing on Nov. 2, Rhee said this to councilmembers: “I am convinced that we must not let the rights, privileges, and priorities of adults to take precedence over what is in the best interests of students. We cannot allow children to languish while we try to remediate adults. We cannot forsake their futures for adult issues in the present.”
This week, Rhee offered the following reason for proposing the closure of several schools.
“Currently, we are not affording our students quality programs they deserve,” Rhee said. “We must provide initiatives and school programs that not only serve kids well but also appeal to parents. With this initiative, we believe, we’ve laid out a plan that will achieve the highest level of academic performance for students. In order to do this, we must move toward a more effective use of our resources.”
For one parent, the initial reaction to Rhee’s closure proposal was shock:
But parents and students who might be affected by the closures focused yesterday on what the changes would mean for them.
Jill Weiler, who advocates for parents at Bruce-Monroe Elementary as a member of the community group Telling Stories Project, said parents at the Ward 1 school were shocked that the mayor apparently reneged on an agreement not to close the school. She said the mayor spoke to parents this summer.
“He said it’s a new day in D.C. We have a partnership; we make decisions together. . . . It was such a celebratory night,” she said.
Now, Weiler said, parents “feel terribly disappointed, discouraged and betrayed.”
According to the Legal Times blog, James Sandman will be the General Counsel for DC Public Schools.
DCPS: Mayor Adrian Fenty Seeks to Create “At-Will” Central Office Postions; Labor Unions Oppose Mayor’s Legislation
The Washington Post reports that the legislation would provide power to Chancellor Michelle Rhee to fire 545 central office workers.
According to The Washington Post, there is opposition to Fenty’s legislation from the Washington Teachers’ Union, as well as other labor unions. Though, there are some parents that support the legislation.
DC: Victor Reinoso Gains Support of DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray; Confirmation Hearing to Be Held Oct. 2
According to the Washington Post, DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray supports the confirmation of Victor Reinoso as Deputy Mayor for Education.
Reinoso’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for October 2, 2007.
10:00 AM, COUNCIL CHAMBER, ROOM 500, ADDITIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING, COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE, Vincent C. Gray, Chairman
MEASURES IN THE COMMITTEE
4. “Deputy Mayor for Education of the Department of the Education Victor Reinoso Confirmation Resolution of 2007″, PR 17-0319. To confirm the Mayoral appointment of Mr. Victor Reinoso as Deputy Mayor for Education for the Department of Education.
According to the Washington Examiner, positions have been offered to two candidates, one within the District of Columbia State Superintendent’s Office, the other within the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).
Kimberly Statham, currently the state administrator for the Oakland Unified School District, was hired as the chief academic officer, according to D.C. State Superintendent Deborah Gist. Statham’s salary will be $170,000.
Phyllis Harris, currently the special education coordinator for the Oakland Unified School District, has been offered the job as special education “czar” for Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Should Harris accept the position, her salary would be $200,000.
Specifically, Rhee would like to have the authority to fire central office staff without having to reassign them to other jobs.
As the initial piece of her strategy, Rhee has begun drafting legislation that would ask the D.C. Council to suspend personnel laws so that the chancellor would have the authority to terminate employees without having to reassign them to other jobs. Rhee also has been meeting with council members to lay the groundwork for their political support, members said.
This is a risky area, hopefully Rhee will succeed. In another Washington Post article, “Worn Down by Waves of Change,” Arlene Ackerman, first Chief Academic Officer under then-Superintendent Julius Becton, who later became DCPS Superintendent was warned about false support.
Shortly after Arlene Ackerman arrived in the District as Becton’s chief academic officer, a stranger — a man standing in the receiving line at a reception in her honor — squeezed her hand so hard she thought he would break her fingers.
“They say they want you to fix it, but they really don’t,” she recalled the man telling her. “When you get to the point where you are really fixing things, you will know. You will know because you will get all kinds of unbelievable push back.
Rhee’s predecessors also faced the problem of controlling the central office of DCPS, according to the Post.
Even Washington Post columnist Colbert King wrote about the difficulty of controlling the central office of DCPS.
But the central office’s chief enemy, for whom its most hostile behavior is reserved, is the reform-minded superintendent. In the battle against change, the central office, which consists of an unknowable number of human parts, remains undefeated.
Mr. King offers caution, sounding similar to the warning Ackerman received.
But a warning, chancellor: Gird yourself for unbelievable blowback. The central office fancies itself not to be messed with.
I hope Rhee is successful in creating a functioning DCPS system which serves the students effectively. Given DCPS’s large student population, it is in interest of everyone that lives in the DC metropolitan area that DCPS has a properly functioning school system.
[Note: I have written a related post about the Rhee's transition team here .]
Ximena Hartsock, Transition Assistant: $115,000
Billy Kearney, Transition Assistant: $120,000
Anthony de Guzman, Transition Assistant: $125,000
John Davis, Transition Assistant: $125,000
Richard Nyankori, Special Assistant to the Chancellor: $140,000
Jenny Abramson, Transition Team Leader: $140,000
Jesus Aguirre, Transition Assistant: $150,000
Kaya Henderson, Deputy Chancellor: $200,000
Lisa Ruda, Chief of Staff: $200,000
The Washington Post reports that the DC Council has decided to delay action on the confirmation resolution for Victor Reinoso. (Note: The DC Council will act on the confirmation resolutions for Michelle Rhee and Allen Lew on July 10. For more information, click here.)
DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray told the Post that the DC Council did not have to vote on Reinoso for Reinoso to maintain his position as Deputy Mayor for Education.
Gray noted that Reinoso could continue as acting deputy mayor without a vote tomorrow, and technically, the council does not have to vote at all. Reinoso could be automatically appointed as deputy mayor with passive approval if the council does not vote by Nov. 22.
Passive approval by the DC Council is not a desirable action because it could function as a vote of no confidence, the Post article stated.