Another repudiation of sellouts and 'CEO' rule... Washington D.C. teachers union ousts incumbent president who supported merit pay, other Rhee 'reforms'

The Washington, D.C. teachers union, Local 6 of the American Federation of Teachers, voted by a decisive margin on Tuesday, November 30, to repudiate the policies of its former president and elect a new leadership, led by former union vice president Nathan Saunders. Saunders was elected by a decisive margin (556 to 480) to head the legendary local once headed by Bill Simon, one of the most progressive union leaders of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Newly elected Washington Federation of Teachers president Nathan Saunders (above with microphone) helped lead a protest against the policies of D.C.'s former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who was once one of the leaders of the teacher bashing programs associated with corporate "school reform." Saunders was elected President of the D.C. teachers union by a decisive margin in an election held November 30, 2010. According to the lengthy report in The Washington Post, the Saunders victory was another setback for "school reform" in the nation's capital. Earlier, voters had ousted Mayor Adrian Fenty who had appointed the teacher bashing chancellor Michelle Rhee to head the system. Rhee announced her resignation as D.C. schools chancellor following the defeat of Fenty.

The Washington Post story appears here:

Washington Teachers' Union president George Parker loses run-off election...

Rhee's IMPACT system linked to fate of tight D.C. teachers union election

Parker's run-off loss to General Vice President Nathan Saunders, his most vociferous union critic, could trigger a new period of labor unrest in the D.C. public school system.

By Bill Turque, Washington Post Staff Writer , Tuesday, November 30, 2010; 10:42 PM

Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker, who negotiated a lucrative contract for his members earlier this year but was unable to prevent the launch of a controversial new evaluation system introduced by former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, lost his job Tuesday.

It was just eight months ago that the District and the union reached agreement on a game-changing contract that took two-and-a-half years and the services of a mediator to finalize. The pact gave teachers a 21 percent raise over five years - with additional money available through a performance pay system - but also weakened seniority and other traditional job protections.

With his defeat by a margin of 556 to 480, Parker joins Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) as the third major figure to effectively be forced from office by political fallout from the 2007-2010 school-reform movement.

"Clearly the votes speak for themselves. That's a reality I accept," said Parker, 60, who has served as union president since early 2005. He said his campaign fell victim to apathy - turnout was about 25 percent of union membership - and anger from a segment of teachers over his support for some of the changes under Rhee.

"I think any union president that is pushing and getting in front of reform, you take a risk, and I took a risk," Parker said. "I don't feel bad about any of the decisions because I think ultimately to improve education in this country, union presidents are going to have to get in front of reform."

Saunders, 45, who will become president effective Wednesday for a three-year term, charged in his campaign that Parker gave up too much to Rhee at the bargaining table, with contract provisions that include more latitude for principals in hiring decisions. He also said Parker did too little to prevent Rhee's launch of IMPACT, the assessment system that dramatically shifted the way teachers are evaluated.

Saunders, who narrowly defeated Parker in a first round of balloting last month but failed to win a 51 percent majority, said D.C. teachers sent a firm message.

"The teachers are very clear about what they want," Saunders said. "Clearly this is a race about job security and about IMPACT."

The new system holds some teachers accountable for growth in student test scores and can lead to dismissal for teachers who don't meet a detailed series of criteria for classroom performance. Last summer, 126 educators were fired because of poor IMPACT ratings, a rarity in a school system where teachers were seldom dismissed for performance. Another estimated 700 instructors were judged "minimally effective" and face dismissal next summer unless they improve

Saunders has pledged to use "judicial, legislative and lobbying efforts" to overturn aspects of IMPACT that he regards as unfair, although the union is barred by law from negotiating the system with the District.

In addition to Saunders, the new slate of union officers taking over Wednesday includes Candi Peterson, general vice president; and Mignon Uzzel, recording secretary. In the original election on Oct. 27, Sallie Littlejohn won a clear majority of the votes and was elected WTU treasurer.

Tuesday's election result culminates months of bitter internal scuffling. Balloting was originally scheduled for May, with the winners taking office July 1. But a series of internal disputes over the composition of a union committee to oversee the election landed the matter in D.C. Superior Court.

In a lawsuit, Saunders accused the union executive board - which is friendly to Parker - of trying to subvert his candidacy by improperly eliminating his $131,000-a-year union salary and refusing to endorse renewal of his leave of absence from teaching duties. Parker and other union officials said Saunders had been delinquent in his duties as general vice president.

The American Federation of Teachersl the local union's national parent organization, ultimately intervened twice, taking over balloting to form a new internal elections committee and then administering the election itself. It also directed the Washington Teachers' Union to restore Saunders' pay and leave status. The union executive board has offered to reinstate Saunders, but without back pay. A federal court last month dismissed Saunders' challenge to the matter.

The contest is also the defining battle in a long series of skirmishes between Parker and Saunders. They were elected to union office as a reform ticket in 2005, after a financial scandal sent former president Barbara Bullock to federal prison and left the local in disarray. But differences between the two leaders over how to approach school reform - and how to deal with Rhee - ultimately drove them apart.

Saunders called the raises awarded to teacher in the new contract "blood money," financed through the improper layoffs of teachers in October 2009.

AFT president Randi Weingarten said the road to Tuesday's election was "long and difficult," but added: "It was worth going through an arduous process to assure that WTU members fully exercised their right to select their leaders."


December 3, 2010 at 11:30 PM

By: Paul A. Moore

Rhee Heads South

I've been a public school worker in Miami, Florida for 27-years now. And I must share my joy at the news that Michelle Rhee is coming.

I'm happy because Michelle Rhee hitched her wagon to another political figure like Adrian Fenty. Someone destined for a spectacular crash and burn. Like Michael Bloomberg, Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott bought his electoral victory in November. Like Bloomberg, Scott hires a corps of people to tell him that he's smart. And like Bloomberg, Scott hasn't got a clue. I think Scott wins the booby prize though. You have to try not to laugh at this, ok. Rick Scott says he will layoff 5% of the state's workforce and create 700,000 new jobs, simultaneously! Put that up against not allowing food stamp recipients to buy soda pop! Well, maybe Bloomberg is a bigger loon.

I'm happy because we have battled "the Jeb Bush" in Florida since 1994 and public education is still standing. The Bush Gang makes Michelle Rhee look like the sad little piker that she is. The Florida Commissioner of Absurdity Posed as Education Eric J. Smith enjoys big time status in the Bush's "kill the public schools" movement. He can manipulate graduation rates and test scores with the best of them. It's going to be fun to watch Smith and Rhee fight over the job.

But I'm happiest I think because my fellow public school workers in Florida don't know much about Michelle Rhee. Some have seen "Waiting For Superman" but those three think Michelle played Lex Luthor's evil twin sister.

I'm anxious to introduce Michelle Rhee to Florida. There's the masking tape over the mouths of Black third-graders in Baltimore and the blood. There's the miraculous rise in those same bloodied student's test scores inside of three years of teaching for which Rhee can provide no proof. There's Rhee's storybook romance with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and her willingness to share his affection with several of the teenage students at his charter school. Or at least cover it up.

Now Florida teachers may get the chance to be entertained with Chancellor Rhee's minstrel show. She does Al Jolson proud! She doesn't blacken her face but she does Black dialect as part of her routine and tells a story of bloodying Black children in a pathetic attempt at classroom management. Rhee's act was a big hit at this year's Washington, DC opening of school meeting.

The new white Teach For America missionary teachers just hooted when Rhee described placing masking tape over her 8-year-old student's mouths in inner-city Baltimore. The new hires seemed to accept this as a proper way to treat the kids. Hey, they're Black right! One wonders how many of these Ivy Leaguers will try Rhee's method on their charges this year. After all the Chancellor never told them she had probably committed a crime. Guess that would have killed the frivolity they were all sharing.

Then in the story of a field trip she botched in her few days of teaching Rhee launches into her imitation of Black speech. "Lawwwd Ms.Rhee whatchu gonna do!!!!??" Rhee boomed, drawing a big laugh. "Lawwwd Ms. Rhee whatchu gonna do!!!!??"

But a transcription doesn't do Michelle's racist comedy justice. You got to listen to it here in case she's ashamed to perform it again here in the Sunshine State.

Welcome to Florida, Michelle. Last stop headed South.

December 4, 2010 at 2:14 AM

By: I sent this to my teaching friends in FLA today

Rhee' katrina

Hopefully, they will email to their teacher friends and on and on. If you have friends or relatives in FLA, pass this link on please. She used physical punishment to get children to shut up--and uses this as an example with other TFAs.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 1 =