Earth to Dan, your educrush’s non-profit is involved in a federal probe


I think that older teachers who have lived through multiple superintendents in an urban system (three in the past three years in Philly) are wary of something like this. The devil is very much in the details.

It could be a great way to get and retain new teachers, but an older teacher who has stuck through some of the insanity of a district like DC, this can smack of feeling like “See… if only teachers worked harder, they’d get better results…” that seems to dominate a lot of the rhetoric these days. It’s also hard, if you’ve been through twenty years of your teaching career, to believe this stuff. A lot of urban teachers have been taking it on the chin despite their best efforts. I can’t fully articulate why, but I do understand why an initiative like this doesn’t quite pass the sniff test.

One commenter, Lori Jablonski, also shared why Rhee herself was suspect because of her associations with a local Sacramento charter operator, St. HOPE Academy. She headed up the high school, and when she was appointed to the Chancellorship, was on the Board of Directors (look how proud they are of her!). Ms. Rhee is not the only former St. HOPE leader looking to move up. Her boss, and the founder of St. HOPE, former NBA star Kevin Johnson (a local boy made good), is currently running for Mayor of my fair city.

Lori discussed one incident from when Rhee and Johnson were at Sacramento High,

After a Sacramento High School teacher’s report last year that a 17-year-old student told him she was inappropriately touched by Kevin Johnson, Johnson’s personal attorney and business partner investigated the complaint for the campus. State law requires that authorities be notified immediately when school officials learn of such an allegation. But – before police were called in by the teacher – Johnson’s attorney, Kevin Hiestand, questioned the girl during an internal investigation, according to interviews and e-mails obtained by The Bee. Following the school’s internal investigation, the student recanted. (The Bee is not naming her because of her age and the nature of the allegation.) Sacramento police investigators, who never interviewed Johnson, later found “no merit” to the allegation and declined to pursue the case in part because the girl recanted.

Now the girl did recant, BUT am I not the only one that finds the subverting of a proper investigation disturbing? Rhee was in charge of the school at that time.

In her comment, Lori hinted at a federal probe into St. HOPE, but, the story got really interesting this week, when the federal government barred St. HOPE and a former official (not Ms. Rhee), from access to federal grants and funds for up to a year. Here’s the lede from the Bee:

The federal government Thursday released findings of its investigation into management of the nonprofit St. HOPE volunteer program founded by Sacramento mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson, citing violations that include having youthful participants run personal errands and wash his car. The findings from the federal probe followed by a day the government’s announcement it was barring Johnson, St. HOPE Academy and a former official from access to federal grants and contracts for up to a year. That, in turn, left city officials scrambling Thursday to figure out what it would mean if Johnson were elected mayor. Questions that the city attorney is looking into include whether Johnson would be able to vote on projects involving federal funds and whether his position at the helm would affect the city’s eligibility for federal money. Meanwhile, worried parents whose children attend Sacramento High and a K-8 school run by St. HOPE called its office Thursday wondering whether the suspension of federal funds would affect their students’ education.

So, we are about to elect a mayor, that could preclude the city from getting federal grants and contracts for the next year. I’m guessing since we have a “weak” mayor/strong city manager system, the feds will probably let it pass, but it has been suggested that Mr. Johnson get stronger mayoral authority, and perhaps some control over schools (impossible I would guess since the city and school district boundaries are not contiguous). Who needs the Palins when you have drama like this? Will the students get their lunch? Will the teachers get paid? Will the curb cuts for the handicap be done? Stay tuned for more!

4 Comments to

“Earth to Dan, your educrush’s non-profit is involved in a federal probe”

  1. September 27th, 2008 at 4:05 pm      Reply Doug Noon Says:

    For more on Michelle Rhee’s latest, NYC Educator posted a link to a blog called The Washington Teacher, so we can follow Michelle’s latest exploits from the ground. Take a look at this recent post, for instance, which tells us about a teacher shortage in DC schools, now into the fifth week of classes, after 270 teachers were fired this summer.

    Plenty of fun for all of us. Good luck on that mayoral election… Folks in Alaska can see now where that might lead.

  2. September 27th, 2008 at 5:53 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

    Yeah, these folks seem to be all about action, but unconcerned with consequences? Really sloppy execution, and Johnson’s response is, oh, this is no big deal. I’m sorry, but suspension from government grants and contracts is a big deal if you are running for mayor.

  3. September 28th, 2008 at 9:58 am      Reply Dan Meyer Says:

    Your snide dismissal of her credentials in your second paragraph makes me doubt the possibility of healthy dialogue in this forum.

  4. September 28th, 2008 at 11:08 am      Reply alicemercer Says:

    Dan, I would suggest that this is NOT the proper forum for a discussion of a merit pay package. But, in your forum on that discussion, it was framed around the personality in a way that was, rather unquestioning. If I was snide about Ms. Rhee’s credentials it’s not the degree that I call into question, but because I see it as part of a pattern of arrogance AND cutting corners shown by the lack of a proper child endangerment investigation at Sacramento High School, and the link that Doug provides showing that many schools in D.C. this year still lack teachers after wholesale firings that have not been followed up by hirings.

    What I’m trying to show is what Chris Lehmann talked about, why the oldsters are more skeptical, and can even be hostile to new pay plans. When it’s wrapped around a “personality” they often have feet of clay. This one certainly does.

    You’ll excuse my bitter tone in this piece but I never pull punches on politicians (which is what I consider Rhee and Johnson to be even before he was running for mayor), and my city almost elected a guy (and may still given his charm) that broke federal laws.

    This is what I would suggest to Dan, start a thread about merit pay, there is supposed to be something buried in the new state budget about math and science teachers getting pay premium. Do it around a plan, not a person. I didn’t participate in your earlier discussion for a reason.


  1. Michelle Rhee’s leadership called into quesiton by federal investigation « D2 route
  2. Earth to Dan, your educrush’s non-profit is involved in a federal probe « Educational Rheeform
  3. This is not good… | Reflections on Teaching

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