Sunday, September 02, 2007

Rhee wants authority to fire

For the three plus years that I've been following the District's public school system I have been hoping for someone to come along with the tenacity to take DCPS's bloated, ineffectual head office. Today may be that day.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee is preparing plans to fire up to several hundred employees over the coming year, part of a major restructuring of the school system's central office aimed at streamlining operations, District government sources said.

As the initial piece of her strategy, Rhee has begun drafting legislation that would ask the D.C. Council to suspend personnel laws so that the chancellor would have the authority to terminate employees without having to reassign them to other jobs. Rhee also has been meeting with council members to lay the groundwork for their political support, members said.

The chancellor's actions are aimed at taking on the intractable central bureaucracy of the 50,000-student system, blamed for scuttling generations of reforms, said council members who have met with Rhee. During her informal chats with parents, community meetings and a two-day teacher training event last week, Rhee has vowed to create a central administration that is more receptive and responsive when dealing with parents, teachers and principals.

In past years, for example, the central office has allowed thousands of school facility work orders to languish, failed to deliver paychecks to teachers on time and had trouble supplying principals with supplies and equipment.

Rhee is exploring whether she has the legal authority to fire employees without council action. But she is aiming, if necessary, to present a formal legislative proposal to the council by the time members return from summer recess Sept. 15, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans are being formulated. Rhee is said to have the full backing of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who fired Superintendent Clifford B. Janey and replaced him with Rhee in June.
Make no doubts about it: Rhee and Fenty will meet all kinds of resistance to this plan --there are plenty of folks with a vested interest in the status quo -- but for the sake of the District's student population I hope they can pull it off.

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