Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Letter To Mayor Fenty

January 25, 2010

The Honorable Adrian M. Fenty
Executive Office of the Mayor
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 316
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mayor Fenty:

In a recent Fast Company magazine update, D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Michelle Rhee is quoted as saying that, through November’s reduction in force (RIF), she “got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school.” The sheer breadth of the statement is stunning—engulfing all 266 educators who were RIFed. Worse, is the Chancellor’s suggestion that she knew of allegations of this nature and did nothing to immediately take all necessary steps to protect our students. Every D.C. parent, educator, student and citizen should be gravely concerned by such inaction.

With a callous, nonspecific statement that names no one and thus blames all, Michelle Rhee has called into question the ethics of 266 men and women, and she’s done it in a way that gives these individuals almost no recourse to defend themselves. Words do matter, particularly when they are used to lob such a heinous accusation. Chancellor Rhee’s statement strikes yet another blow to her oft-stated goal of restoring the public’s faith in our school system.

As teachers, the safety and well-being of our students is a paramount concern. If the Chancellor at any time knew of allegations of the type she referred to in her statement, she had an absolute obligation to see that they were addressed immediately. Her statement, however, suggests she was aware of the allegations but waited until there was a budget shortfall to take action. Why? There are established procedures already in place to expedite the removal of anyone who endangers our children.

Chancellor Rhee owes an apology to the teachers she has vilified through her reckless remarks. More important, she owes an explanation to the people of the District of Columbia, for she either has made a patently untrue statement or has admitted that she failed to carry out her responsibility to protect D.C. students. Neither serves the best interests of our teachers or students.

George Parker
Washington Teachers’ Union

cc: Vincent C. Gray
Council of the District of Columbia

Michelle Rhee
D.C. Public Schools

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