Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chancellor Rhee's Response to President Parker

Mr. George Parker
Washington Teachers Union
1825 K Street, NW, Suite 1050
Washington DC, 20006

Dear President Parker,

I received your letter and wanted to address your concerns right away. Student safety is our highest concern, and we have thousands of teachers, principals, and staff members who share that commitment and treat our students with great care and commitment everyday.

The comment I made to Fast Company was made sometime ago --- and in the context of explaining the importance of considering teacher performance, and not just seniority, in deciding which teachers would be let go during a reduction in force necessitated by a budget cut. I was describing the kind of conduct that was apropriate to take into account in implementing the reduction-in-force (RIF).

The examples I gave involved a very small minority of the teachers who were terminated in the budget reduction.

One teacher against whom serious allegations of sexual misconduct had been made was terminated in the RIF. This teacher was immediately put on administrative leave and removed from the school as soon as the allegations came to our attention. This person was not in the classroom at the time of the RIF, and DCPS referred the case to MPD. his investigation was still pending at the time of the RIF.

Six of the employees terminated through the RIF had served suspensions for corporal punishment. Two of the employees terminated through the RIF served suspensions for being AWOL on multiple occassions and several other employees had egregious time and attendance records.

The progressive discipline procedures contained in the collective bargaining agreement prescribed suspension, rather than termination, for these situations.

As you know, principals are required to report all allegations of corporal punishment or sexual misconduct to the school's Contract Security Officer (CSO). The CSO then files an incident report and reports the incident to MPD, who reviews the allegation and determines whether a formal criminal investigation is needed. All procedures were appropriately followed in each of the cases in question.

We agree that supporting our teachers for the good and the welfare of our students is a common goal of both DCPS and the WTU. The reduction in force was a difficult time for all of us, and we want to continue to work together as a school system to move past it and to remain focused on serving our students.


Michelle Rhee

cc: Adrian Fenty

Vincent C. Gray
Council of the District of Columbia

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