Fraud Accompanies Michelle Rhee, Part 3

This is the last of 3 guest columns on this topic, by the same author.

The sequence of events as described above along with multiple other factors listed below, give credence to the opinions of many that the 2010 DC Democratic primary election was a referendum on Michelle Rhee; however, I prefer to view the election as political democracy self correcting.



1.      Never Vetted

Adrian Fenty violated the review panel requirement; he broke the law in picking a Chancellor without allowing a review panel of stakeholders to participate in the selection process. Fenty did not inform the council of his choice until the eve of the announcement and did not give her name to a panel of parents, teachers and students as the takeover legislation required.


2.      Not Qualified

Michelle Rhee’s title was chancellor, not superintendant; her title was changed because she did not meet the qualifications for employment as a school district superintendent. DC’s children need and deserve: the best, the brightest and the most qualified school leaders.


3.      Résumé Discrepancies


•       Taught in Harlem Park Community School, one of the lowest-performing elementary schools in Baltimore City, effecting significant measurable gains in student achievement. Over a two-year period, moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90% of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher.


The following text is excerpted from the “The Daily Howler,” an American political blog written by Bob Somerby.


In a wealthy suburban school district, that would be a remarkable record—one a principal ought to verify. In a school like Harlem Park, it would be an educational miracle—a revolution.

If so, Michelle Rhee should have been arrested and held for further study. If those deserving Harlem Park kids really did achieve at those levels, a young teacher had authored an educational miracle; she had somehow managed to solve a heart-breaking, decades-long educational puzzle. The school should have been crawling with researchers, trying to figure out what she’d done.



•       Classroom practices featured on “The Home Show” and in the Wall Street Journal and the Hartford Courant.


Unless something is missing from the Nexis archives, Rhee’s claim about the Courant is simply a bald-faced misstatement. How about Good Morning America? In the Nexis archives, transcripts of the program only date back to July 1996. (There is no report on Rhee, or on Harlem Park, in the archives after that date.)


4.      A Question Of Ethics

Just after D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty nominated Michelle Rhee for the chancellor’s job, Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson, Rhee’s “boyfriend,” personally called nearly all 13 council D.C. City Council members and flew from California to tell them that Rhee is a hands-on executive who works round-the-clock. He credited her with helping to turn around Sacramento High School. “He was the showstopper,” recalled D.C. State Board of Education member Mary Lord. “It was sort of like, if she’s got the support of a star like that, it’s all well and good.”


Most recently, a little more than a week before the September 14th primary, Chancellor Rhee campaigned for Mayor Adrian Fenty as a “private citizen” though DC’s Hatch Act mandates that government employees not to use their positions to influence elections.


5.      Budget Pressure Debacle

In the spring and summer of 2009, Chancellor Michelle Rhee hired 934 new teachers; just six weeks into the school year in October 2009, Rhee fired nearly 400 DC Public School employees, including the 266 teachers citing a $43.9 million dollar budget pressure. Later, it was discovered that the budget pressure never existed; Rhee claimed a math error caused the budget discrepancy. On April 13, 2010, five months after the October 2009 mass firing, Rhee announced a $34 million budget surplus that she intended to use to fund the groundbreaking contract for which she has been much heralded. Only, District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, said that the $34 million dollar surplus did not exist because DC Public Schools’ central office overran its budget by 30 million dollars.


6.      Smear Tactics

In February 2010, Fast Company, an online magazine, followed up on a September 2008 story it ran on the “Iron Chancellor” Michelle Rhee.  The article addressed accusations by the Washington Teachers Union that Rhee had manufactured a budget pressure to excuse the firing of 266 teachers. Rhee’s response was:”I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. … Why wouldn’t we take those things into consideration?” Later, Rhee finally released a statement explaining that only one (1) teacher had been accused of sexual impropriety and that only 9 of the 266 teachers who were fired in October 2009 had dubious work histories. However, 257 teachers were also slandered and included in the list of teachers fired for budget reasons.


7.      Unbecoming Behavior

•       Michelle Rhee behaved in a manner unbecoming of the high standard expected of a chief executive officer.  In December 2008, DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in all black, stone-faced and holding a broom; the caption next to the photograph read, “How to Fix America’s Schools.” Rhee’s aggressive actions, her abrasive and oftentimes demeaning talk with regard to her inherited DC Public Schools staff, along with that broom picture (a broom is a floor-sweeping device used specifically to sweep out trash), was most indicative of her meager estimation of veteran DC Public School educators. The cover was intentionally debasing and threatening.


•       Recently, Michelle Rhee recounted her year long ordeal as a “crappy” second grade teacher 18 years ago at Baltimore’s Harlem Park Elementary to a room of new DC Public School teachers. Rhee told the novice teachers that she placed pieces of masking tape on the lips of her thirty-five rowdy 2nd graders on a trip to the school cafeteria for lunch; after arriving at the cafeteria, the kids removed the tape along with the skin on their lips, which caused bleeding; thirty-five 2nd grade children began crying.


The other story Chancellor Rhee recounted to the group actually involved her speaking in Negro dialect when impersonating one of her students. “Lawwwd Ms.Rhee whatchu gonna do!!!!??” Rhee boomed, drawing a big laugh. “Lawwwd Ms. Rhee whatchu gonna do!!!!??” (Washington Post)


•       Michelle Rhee called DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray’s primary victory over Mayor Adrian Fenty a “devastating” blow to children in Washington’s traditional public schools.


8.      Poor Judgement

On June 27, 2008, former NBA star Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee’s boyfriend was the subject of an investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the misuse of $850,000 of Federal grant funds provided to St. HOPE Academy from 2004 to 2007.  Then DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee visited Gerald Walpin, who was inspector general of the government volunteer organization AmeriCorps. “The basic point of her meeting with me was to tell me what a great guy he was,” Walpin recalls, “and what wonderful work he has done, and that maybe he had made mistakes administratively, but that she thought I should give as much consideration as possible to his good work in deciding what to do.”  Previously, Rhee had called Walpin to see how the investigation was going; she was planning to include St. Hope in a group of educational organizations that would be hired to run 10 of the District’s most troubled high schools.


On four different occasions, young women or teenage girls had accused her boyfriend/fiancé, Kevin Johnson, of inappropriate sexual conduct. Three of the four were affiliated with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the parent body for the the volunteer organization AmeriCorps. Although charges were never pressed, one of the students said she was offered $1,000 per month in exchange for her silence. In the summer of 1995, allegations surfaced that Johnson inappropriately touched a 16-year-old girl. No charges were filed in the case. St. Hope was eventually ordered to pay back $425,000 of the AmeriCorps funds; however, no action was taken on the sexual allegations. A congressional investigation report contains charges that DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee handled “damage control” after allegations of sexual misconduct against Kevin Johnson surfaced. (The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times)


9.      An Accountability Double Standard

Brian Betts was Michelle Rhee’s superstar principal of Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson. Rhee recruited Betts from Loiederman Middle School in 2008 after he failed to get even an interview for four principal positions in the Montgomery County, Maryland school system. Betts was given “unprecedented power to mold his staff;” he personally selected 28 of his 35 teachers and staff. Betts said he wanted a school full of young, ambitious and not yet “jaded” teachers; he hired only two teachers with more than five years of experience. Betts received extra money from Rhee to hire two young teaching stars also from Loiederman to coach his almost entirely new staff.  Shaw had the best technology, texts and instructional materials. Shaw became Rhee’s showplace school, where she sent celebrities and reporters to observe her “best and brightest” do their thing. Quite remarkably however, the test scores of students attending Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson did not go

up; they actually went down. Tests scores are Michelle Rhee’s own yardstick to measure a school’s effectiveness. That very same year, Michelle Rhee fired a whole lot of principals, most of whom had far fewer resources than Mr. Betts; they likewise had consolidated schools with merged student populations and much better test scores. (Washington Post, 2008)


10.     If It Looks Like a Duck…..

Shady is, as shady does.


Our children in the District of Columbia, as do the children in Atlanta, need and deserve a quality education; their lives depend on it. They do not need to be caught up in the biggest power grab in the history of American public education. The Michelle Rhee story had the potential to become the greatest success story of the American education reform movement. “New chancellor takes on the worst performing public school system in the nation, disembowels the big bad teachers’ union and saves the day for thousands of poor and illiterate inner-city kids.” The only thing wrong with this story is that it is simply not true; it has been grossly distorted by nonsensical propaganda.


The deplorable truth is that cheating on state standardized tests has become a national epidemic; a lot of people know about it and a lot of people are not doing anything about it. Honesty, it seems, has not instantaneously yielded booming increases in student achievement levels; so across the nation, we have collectively resorted to fundamentally dishonest approaches to school reform.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that intelligence plus character is the goal of true education; I surely hope so.


Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 6:02 pm  Comments (12)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Would it be illegal for a “chancellor” to fire teachers in order to hire replacements from agencies with which she is associated? If so, is this being investigated? Thank you.


    • There are so many illegal and unethical things that that charlatan Michelle Rhee has done, and she’s gotten almost a complete free pas from the mainstream press.


  2. Didn’t Miss Rhee original resume state that she received “acclaim” from the Hartford Courant and the Wall Street Journal.


  3. Yeah, here it is:

    OFFICIAL BIO: Michelle Rhee’s commitment to excellence in education began in 1992, when she joined Teach For America after earning her Bachelor’s degree in Government from Cornell University. Her teaching career started at Harlem Park Community School in Baltimore, MD, where her outstanding success in the classroom earned her acclaim on Good Morning America and The Home Show, as well as in the Wall Street Journal and the Hartford Courant. Upon completing her service with Teach For America, she entered Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and graduated with a Master’s degree in public policy…


  4. Hartford Courant, June 6, 1994, Page A1 “EAI in Baltimore: A Mixed Report, Schools Cleaner, Safer but Middle School Program Lacking”
    Author: Liz Halloran
    This is a 69-graph front-page article on the second year of the Tesseract Program in selected Baltimore City Schools.
    Graphs 23-36 describe the Harlem Park second-grade classroom of Michelle Rhee, who is quoted several times in the article.

    Here is a brief excerpt:

    “As in most elementary schools, Harlem Park has some classrooms that are more successful than others. Some teachers, such as Rhee, have devoted long hours and weekends to learning Tesseract and keeping up with the voluminous paperwork involved in tracking student progress.

    Other teachers have been reluctant to move away from the traditional approach, . . .”

    I found this article in three minutes on the Courant’s archive. The keyword I used for the search was “Rhee.” It cost me $3.99 to download and read it.

    Shall I confirm the other “lies” that were on the resume? At some point, will the vituperation allow for an admission of error?

    It’s ironic that the article appeared on the 50th anniversary of D-Day. But in this case, the “D” stands for “defamation.”


    • I guess you didn’t read my prior posts where I reprinted this article, among others, in their entirety.


      • From the above, which was allowed to pass without comment or modification:

        “Unless something is missing from the Nexis archives, Rhee’s claim about the Courant is simply a bald-faced misstatement.”

        So, is the issue here was whether the article represented “acclaim”? This is the long and short of the issue?

        Can generally positive treatment in a generally positive article be shown absolutely to be something other than acclaim? Calling it acclaim may be a slight burnishment, perhaps, but not a “bald-faced misstatement,” whatever that is (something like an “ironclad suggestion,” perhaps?}.

        Maybe the three-part article, which didn’t lack for longness, could have spent a little more effort distinguishing between those charges which were matters of provable fact and those which were matters of the author’s opinion.


      • That is not a quote by me, but by someone else, who is mostly quoting “the Daily Howler’. Nonetheless I do take responsibility for reprinting it, despite knowing that it contains some elements with which I don’t quite agree. Saying that that one sentence (out of a very long article) constitutes “acclaim” for Rhee is one hell of a stretch.

        I will continue to say, as I’ve said before, that what Rhee claimed about herself in her resume is at least highly exaggerated, or not verifiable at all. Some of it does appear to be flat-out lies, as in the statement that she received acclaim in the Wall-Street Journal. Nobody who I have been in touch with who has access ot its archives can find any mention of her whatsoever from 1-1-1990 through 12-31-1999 anywhere in the WSJ. If you can find any such mention, jancdbuy, please let me have the entire article, and I will retract this claim.


  5. In regard to the late Brian Betts’ tenure as a principal, is it known whether any of the teachers he recruited came from TFA? Since good teachers improve as they gain experience teaching, I’m curious about this aspect.


  6. Recounting the likely cheating through directed answer-correction was fascinating. When integrity is so thoroghly lacking and incentives to cheat so great, who has the time to analyze the implications further?
    Whatever the considerable shortcomings, DC does maintain computerized individual records of students and their tests. It is not credible that so loosely budget an operation as DCPS under Rhee, with so much use of consultants, has not confirmed the fraud forensically by looking at the pattern of scores for individual students. Not difficult for statisticians, and not difficult for a clean administration to present exculpatory analyses. Either Accountability didn’t dare do the analysis, or it suppressed the results. Think of apprehending a shoplifters leaving a store with merch in pockets. And then NOT using software to automatedly process video surveilance records of the perps during the last year of their regular visits for fear of finding numerous instances of pocket-stuffing which went unapprehended?

    2. RE: Resume polishing: That is how a company is built over fifteen years, trying different approaches with potential clients, and being rewarded with contracts when an exaggerated personal story has been used to enhance credibility. Journalists get to surprise their editors and please readers with “news” when a period passes during which the historians dictum: “Examine the source documents” has been ignored.


  7. Agree with you.

    SOmetimes we might forgot what the basic.

    Thanks, man.


  8. […] – The Home Show, as well as in print in The Wall Street Journal and The Hartford Courant.  G.F. Brandenburg, sheds some light on the real story of the admiring profiles  as being either outright lies or grave exaggerations of the mention of her and her […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: