Monday, October 5, 2009

DC Public Schools

Over the last few weeks, Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Michelle Rhee has been putting teachers on the chopping block AGAIN. For more on her latest actions, click here. I'm not a product of the DCPS system nor do I work for it but I can't help but feel for these teachers and the students who've been affected by these latest lay-offs.

My Aunt is an educator in the DCPS system. When Michelle Rhee first came in under Mayor Adrian Fenty she announced the closing of several under-performing schools. My Aunt's school was one of them. Fortunately, she was just relocated to another school. Other teachers have not been so lucky.

I can understand that DCPS is experiencing a budget shortfall as are many other school systems throughout the country, but what I can't understand is why you're going to lay-off teachers from an already under-performing school system? What sense does that make? These students need as much help as they can get, laying off teachers only means you're increasing class sizes. In turn the teachers who are left will have to deal with a larger workload than they already have and that's not going to help anyone.

I'm so proud of the students who have been staging protests in hopes of making a difference at their schools. Their hope is to show Chancellor Rhee that what she's doing is not helping them but hurting them. I truly feel that Chancellor Rhee isn't looking at the bigger picture, but then again how could she? I really want to know how someone who was never even a school principal is even qualified to run an entire school system, something's just not right about that. She's obviously failed to realize fewer teachers means fewer opportunities for students to be able to learn. These students are already at a disadvantage, these lay-off are just continuing to damage an already broken school system.

Recently, I began my second year of volunteering with a program called College Bound, a program that provides weekly one-on-one mentoring to students attending schools mainly in the District, with a handful of students from Prince George's County (MD) and some who reside in the District but attend schools in Fairfax County (VA). Last week, the Director of College Bound, who was an educator in the DCPS before taking his current position with the program, spoke about what was happening in the schools.

This year, College Bound announced an initiative called College's Bounds 11 Campaign. The significance of the number 11 being in the Nation’s Capital, an estimated 11 public school students drop out of the system each school day. Eleven may not sound like a lot, but that equals over 4,000 students each year who drop out and I don't know about you but that's unacceptable. Donations are being accepted on College Bounds website, if you are interested in helping.

Going back to the actions of last week, I couldn't even imagine coming to my classroom on a Friday to end up being escorted out by the Police. And to make the situation worse these teachers will only be receiving a severance package of 1 month of pay. That is outrageous. Imagine teaching in the school system for 20 years to be told you've been laid-off and will only have ONE month of living wages, that's a complete slap in the face. Something has to be done, because I feel like the DCPS is in a constant downward spiral. If Chancellor Rhee is going to continue with her cuts she needs to at least give the students of the District some options, namely providing additional vouchers so more students can attend private schools. The students of DCPS are not a lost cause and I hope something happens soon to let them know otherwise.

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