Thursday, October 16


Pressed on the Bill Ayers matter in the last debate, Barack Obama came up with a list of people he does pal around with and from whom he seeks advice. Not on the list was one person who could be described as liberal, but there was a retired Marine general and a Republican senator who's gotten zero ratings from SANE, the AFL-CIO, NARAL and the Alliance for Retired Americans. Also on the list: Warren Buffett whose firm has just bought $5 billion worth of Goldman Sachs stock and will be a major beneficiary of the big bailout.

But the most disturbing name to get praised by Obama was DC's school superintendent Michelle Rhee, whom he described as "wonderful." Although she has gotten rave reviews from a knee jerk, uncurious national media including the Jim Lehrer News Hour, she is in truth the Sarah Palin of public education, a superficially attractive character but grossly inexperienced character who covers up the reality of her incompetence - at least for the time being - with aggressive arrogance and a steady bombardment of bromides. She is also the cause of increasing anger among DC teachers and parents.

Since there are rumors that Obama might name her to a high position such as Education Secretary, the candidate's supporters would be wise to get him off such a kick as soon as possible. A good place to start would be for Obama to read this letter from a DC school parent to his council member:

Jason Okera Keene, Letter to DC Councilmember Bowser - I am writing to implore the Council to reign in abuses of power within DCPS. Shepherd is a good school; but you should know that DCPS has habitually hindered Shepherd Elementary and its families. Your constituents include the children of professional and/or striving and upwardly mobile parents who are always getting the short end of the DCPS stick. Customer service is nearly non-existent. . .

I hope this does not seem rude, but as my wife has now forbidden our children to return next fall, DCPS's lack of accountability is about to hit my family in its pocket book. The value of my house (specifically selected for the school) is thus now zero, and my property taxes will now produce a negative return. I take this personally. If I am going down this road, I am going down noisily; trust in that like you trust in God.

Chancellor Rhee's "[just fired principal] Benzion lacks leadership" argument is dubious at best. The appearance is that the termination was partially connected to Benzion's vigorous advocacy for resources (as parents demanded). Ms. Rhee picked her, and quickly managed her out when she proved unable to quiet us parents up. No evaluation, no performance feedback to speak of, and no regard for parents who are ultimate arbiters of what is best for their children. . .

The next principal is going to find the parents no less demanding. But it should not be this hard to provide excellence at a school with such great teachers and students. Yet and still, we've had seven principals in 5 or 6 years.

What vision there has been at Shepherd, the parents (not the Chancellor) have provided. Your school system is essentially hobbling Shepherd and driving many parents with the means to other institutions in droves. . .

It has been 16 months since Ms. Rhee's appointment, and things have, in some ways, gotten worse at Shepherd. I certainly do not expect miracles (it's DCPS, after all), and I chose public education with my eyes wide open. But this thing is broken and needs aggressive Council oversight to be fixed

DCPS's attitude was underscored in an interesting Washington Post article which showed that Chancellor Rhee feels that she is accountable only to [Mayor] Fenty, and not the Council. Ms. Rhee failed to attend a recent DC Council meeting at which her $2.5 billion dollar modernization plan was presented, because, "There's this crazy dynamic where every agency head is kowtowing. They sit there and get beat down. I'm not going to sit on public TV and take a beating I don't deserve. I don't take that crap."

Boy, oh, boy, her ego is sure intact.

Rest assured, should you disagree with my position, I don't even have time for further advocacy in this regard. I've got to go shop for schools.


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