Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Letter to Chancellor Rhee

Michelle Rhee
District of Columbia Public Schools
825 N. Capital Street N.E. Ninth Floor
Washington, DC 20002

Dear Chancellor Rhee:

This is a critical time for D.C. Public Schools, for teachers and for the students we serve. In recent weeks, there have been a number of positive developments. We have seen significant gains in student test scores, and negotiators for DCPS and the Washington Teachers’ Union have been moving closer to reaching an agreement that is good for kids and fair to teachers. These are examples of how our children benefit when the adults work together. That’s why I was so perplexed and, frankly, angered to read the comments ascribed to you in a recent interview with Fast Company magazine.

Your statement—that through the reduction in force (RIF), you "got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school"—is callous, lacks specificity and, if true, demonstrates a failure on your part to act with all deliberate speed to protect the interests of our students. In one blanket, accusatory statement, you have potentially damaged the reputations of 266 teachers in a way that disregards fairness and deprives them of an opportunity to defend themselves. Furthermore, your statement has created a public uproar and raises uncertainties about the integrity of all DCPS teachers—not just those who were RIFed. More important, your statement suggests that you were aware of allegations of criminal acts against students but failed to take necessary actions to protect them. If these claims are true, why wait for a RIF to address a threat to the welfare of our children?

I am confident that I speak for all teachers when I say that the safety and well-being of our children is of paramount importance. If a teacher "had sex with children" as you stated, shouldn’t authorities have been alerted? Moreover, there are mechanisms in place, through the agreement negotiated between our union and DCPS, to expedite the removal of those who would endanger our children—without declaring a RIF. Your comments demonstrate a lack of respect for our teachers. I urge you to immediately rescind this global indictment of DCPS teachers and to issue a full public apology.

Supporting our teachers for the good and welfare of our children should be a common goal. I am hopeful that we can continue to make progress as we work together to forge a new path forward for the benefit of our students.

George Parker

cc: Adrian M. Fenty

Vincent C. Gray
Council of the District of Columbia

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