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Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Teacher's View of Mayor Fenty's Takeover Plan

One of the reasons why the American Federation ofTeachers insisted on revising our Constitution was to avoid another disaster like the one that led to our administratorship. The representative assembly amendment was added to give voting power to delegates who represented the voice of teachers in each of the 140 plus DC public schools. The fact that no vote was taken after delegates engaged in a lengthy exchange with Board president Robert Bobb and a previous meeting with Mayor Fenty is cause to be concerned .

When WTU members reflect on a former executive Board that either didn't attend meetings, didn't know waht was going on with the budget and spending or rubber stamped what Bullock and company wanted, they become nervous about one that votes on such a critical issues without a vote from the voting delegates! So much so, in fact, that Nathan Saunders, our current general vice president, cited them in his lawsuit against Bullock et al. I am leary of executive board members who want the power to make such a critical decision fo 4,200 plus teachers based on such a flawed and biased survey. It reminds me of the tactics used by Bullock over the years that cultivated a culture of silence,complacency and passivity among our members.

If executive board members read the Fenty proposal, theywould readily see that it is void of any substance that would improve accountability or academic achievement in our schools. It was quite evident that the individuals who 'briefly' constructed the comparisons of the two plans for the WTU newsletter either did not read the Mayor's proposal or did not comprehend it. How many surveys were collected? In a robo call to members, George Parker indicated that 60% of our members voted for the Mayor's proposal. Did any of the Executive Board members read Colbert King's article about the Mayor's plans after the takover, or the Council of Great City Schools' report on the two proposals? Both could be found at www.washingtonpost. com under Colby King's past editorials.

The fact is that the Mayor's proposal would;

- get rid of an elected school board,
- increase privatization of our public schools
- grow more charter schools to drain DCPS resources,
- change home rule charter,
- add more layers of bureaucracy that would make iteven harder for parents, teachers and students to haveany influence over decisions that affect them,
- dismantle new reforms outlined in the MEP and MFP
- challenge our collective bargaining agreement inways that we can't imagine!
- open the flood gates for aspiring school 'takeover' advocates who are politicians, real estate developers and members of the Federal City Council (which has pushed for gentrification and displacement of DC residents for years.

When we connect the dots in each of the above items,we could conclude that there would be little or no need for a teachers' union or any labor union for that matter. If this is what we want, then by all means, we should support the Mayor's plan. I didn't take the survey. But if I did, I would not have voted for either proposal. None of the teachers I've talked to at my school and others voted in favor of either proposal. Many of them are still asking, "What survey?" delegate at Turner ES informed me that none of theteachers at her school received the survey. Guy rightfully assessed the survey as "flawed". Iwould like to add that the process used to garner theopinion of the 4,200 members on the two proposals was also flawed. I would hope that the WTU executive board would be more interested in fully engaging WTU membersin critical decisions such as this one and less interested in promoting their self-serving, individual opinions. Unfortunately, gone are not the days of leadership without vision beyond the four walls of the executive board room. In closing, the question asked by several members, "Why did we have to support either proposal?", was never answered.

If the WTU leadership believe that the New DC Order is interested in saving the teachers union or any labor union, it had better wake up and smell the stench of a gentrified city and a privatized school system and realize that there is no place in such a system for a teachers' union.

Elizabeth Davis is WTU member and middle school teacher in Washington, DC.

The Washington Times
Rank-and-file teachers deny voting for Fenty takeover
By Gary EmerlingTHE WASHINGTON TIMESPublished March 2, 2007

AdvertisementMembers of the Washington Teachers Union say they never voted to support Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's school takeover plan, despite Tuesday's endorsement of the proposal made by union leaders on behalf of the group's 4,200 teachers.

"The members who heard [union President George Parker] make that announcement, many of them were shocked," said Elizabeth Davis, a teacher at Hart Middle School in Southeast. "Why is it that the union leadership take it upon themselves to take a position that its members have not taken?"

Union leaders announced the endorsement during a Tuesday press conference that preceded Mr. Fenty's final public testimony before the D.C. Council in support of a mayoral takeover of the school system. According to a press release from the mayor's office, the union "put the endorsement vote to its membership who overwhelming[ly] voted in favor of Mayor Fenty's plan." However, teachers said delegates representing union members never voted at meetings held to query Mr. Fenty and Board of Education President Robert C. Bobb about their respective school-reform proposals.

"There were a number of people that really weren't on board with [the endorsement] in terms of the fact that we didn't like Fenty's plan," said Laureen Butler, a teacher at Spingarn Center at Spingarn High School in Northeast and a union delegate. "A number of us felt this was a ploy that 'OK, the school board's [plan] was totally unacceptable so we would have to go with Fenty.'

"Union Vice President Nathan Saunders said a membership vote in advance of the endorsement was not taken or required by union regulations. Mr. Parker and Mr. Saunders said endorsement decisions are the responsibility of the union's roughly two dozen executive board members, who did vote in favor of Mr. Fenty's proposal.

"We [worked] extensively in order to make sure our teachers were included and their opinions were heard," Mr. Parker said. "We're like any organization -- we're never going to please 100 percent of the people all of the time."

Mr. Saunders said the endorsement was made after an extensive feedback process, which included phone calls to union members inviting them to attend meetings with Mr. Fenty and Mr. Bobb. Union officials conducted and distributed an analysis and rating of both proposals. Officials rated Mr. Fenty's plan much higher than Mr. Bobb's plan. Officials also said the decision to endorse Mr. Fenty's plan was based in part on a "survey of our 4,200 members." Union leaders said yesterday that between 1,100 and 1,200 union members responded to the survey, with more than 60 percent supporting Mr. Fenty's proposal, more than 30 percent undecided and only 7 percent supporting the school board's proposal.

Kerry Sylvia, a teacher at Cardozo High School in Northwest, said teachers were only given about a day to respond to the survey, which contained limited options: Support Mr. Fenty, support Mr. Bobb, or remain undecided. In addition, the survey was only sent to e-mail addresses provided to members by the union, which Ms. Sylvia said many teachers do not use regularly.

"As far as a means of getting teacher input, I don't think they did it in a way that really accurately represents the opinions of the membership," she said. Mr. Saunders defended the endorsement. "A decision was made [and] we were very deliberate about the manner in which it was made," he said. "We've got some disheartened souls here, and that's OK. This is a serious minority position."

Ms. Davis said some union members are considering filing a complaint with the Public Employee Relations Board about how the decision to endorse Mr. Fenty's plan was reached. The debate has often been heated around Mr. Fenty's proposal, which would give the mayor's office direct authority over the 55,000-student system and shift the school board into a largely policy-setting role.

Some council members, however, have suggested amendments to Mr. Fenty's plan that would grant the school board more authority. Mr. Bobb -- who previously pledged to resign if a mayoral takeover is instituted -- did not return a call for comment yesterday on what action he will take if the Fenty plan passes.

Friends of Fenty Help Mayor Get Back on Democratic Track

Join Friends of Fenty
Let’s help Mayor Fenty get back on the democratic track!
Figure 1 Map of Fenty's house
On Tuesday, March 13th, scores of residents will gather in front of Mayor Fenty’s home asking the Mayor to re-join the coalition that put him in office. We will ask the Mayor not to abandon the ideals contained in the City Charter. We will also ask the Mayor to join with us in drafting a consensus plan that will provide a world-class education for District students!

Democracy NOT Bureaucracy!
Rally at Fenty’s House
4712 17th St, NW (near 17th and Decatur)
Tuesday March 13th at 6:30pm

Sponsors: Friends of Fenty, Save Our Schools, DCPS Full Funding Coalition, Fix Our Schools

DC Area Writing Project to Host National Conference

Urban Sites Network
NWP Urban Sites Network Conference
Improving Writing in Urban Schools: A National Agenda
April 20 - April 21, 2007 Washington, District of Columbia Host site: District of Columbia Area Writing Project
Join us in Washington, DC to help us further a national agenda to improve the teaching of writing in urban schools. The DC Area Writing Project (DCAWP) at Howard University is proud to serve as host for this year’s Urban Sites Network Conference in our nation’s capital.

As a network of writing project sites, the Urban Sites Network (USN) links urban teachers and writing project leaders across the country to improve the teaching of writing and learning for urban children. The Urban Sites Network, established in 1988, promotes site development among member projects, builds community and colleagueship among teacher leaders from urban school districts, large and small, and sponsors programs of national interest. USN takes a special interest in teacher inquiry and professional development and supports the sharing of promising classroom practices for the teaching of writing through online discussion forums, conferences and retreats, and minigrant programs, all of which broaden the fund of teacher knowledge and expand the dissemination of urban teacher research.

Register Now!
The deadline for conference registration is April 1, 2007. Download the registration information and form (PDF).
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings
Gloria Ladson-Billings is the Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the 2005–2006 president of the American Educational Research Association. Ladson-Billings’ research examines the pedagogical practices of teachers who are successful with African American students. She also investigates Critical Race Theory applications to education. She is the author of the two critically acclaimed books, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children and Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms, and has published many journal articles and book chapters.
For more, read a profile of Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings.