That’s Right Nate

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Archive for the ‘St. Hope’ Category

Catching Up With Michelle Rhee

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Yes, it’s one of those Michelle Rhee articles and I’m trying to figure out where to begin as we catch up with the single most destructive force in education today.   Michelle recently got engaged to former NBA star, Sacramento Mayor, and accused sexual predator Kevin Johnson.   This is rather big news as there is a scandal brewing in Washington involving Rhee, Johnson, and Johnson’s Charter School Saint Hope.

During the Summer of 1995, a 16 year old girl went to the police claiming that Johnson had fondled her.   During a phone conversation recorded by the Phoenix police, Johnson apologized to the girl.   The Sacramento Bee stated that they had received a copy of a proposed settlement agreement, under which Johnson would have paid the girl’s family $230,000.   After conducting an investigation, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute, on the grounds that there was not a reasonable likelihood of conviction.  This sort of thing would have stopped Kevin Johnson from being hired as a principal.  Fortunately, for Mister Johnson it didn’t stop him from running a very large charter school.

With Michelle Rhee on the board, In 2003, Johnson  formed St. HOPE Public Schools, a pre-K-12 independent charter school system that provides education to nearly 2,000 students in seven small schools.  The allegations soon followed.   In 2007 another police report was filed by a student who also claimed that Johnson fondled her.   After allegations of intimidation, those charges were dropped when the student recanted her testimony.

Gerald Walpin, Inspector General of Americorps began an investigation of Johnson after he was charged by 3 young women employees of making inappropriate sexual advances towards them and it became known that Johnson had misused some of the $800,000 in federal Americorps money given to St. Hope.   Johnson had used the money to pay volunteers to engage in school-board political activities, run personal errands for Johnson and even wash his car.  He even offered one teacher $1,000 a month in hush money secretly transferred to her bank account.

So what was Michelle Rhee’s role in this scandal.   First, she was described as complainants as being the one in charge of damage control at St. Hope.  She approached the Inspector General to try to intervene for Johnson.  “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.”

This is the same Michelle Rhee who has shown no such patience for the teachers who she has shown the door.   I wonder how she balanced the good that they had done.  The end result of the investigation was the Johnson agreed to pay back half the money from Americorps and to pay back the rest of it within the next 10 years.   Meanwhile, Inspector General Walpin was fired.

While parroting right wing talking points in my own satirical blog, I’ve learned that among the keys to a successful blog, nothing is more important than not backing down from your own opinion no matter how hard it slams into the windshield of fact.  Andrew Wolk has learned that lesson well.   In his blog posting on Michelle Rhee, he holds her up as an example of a public innovator while completely leaving any specifics out of his glowing report.   I had a brief chuckle at reading it, but when I read E Favorite’s response, I found something interesting—the growing number of public figures who have quoted Michelle Rhee, who have had to issue apologies.  E Favorite found three, “Specifically, they are John Merrow of PBS… , Jay Mathews of the Washington Post… and Michael Petrilli of Education Next and the Fordham Foundation…”

Mayor Fenty is not doing well in opinion polls and it looks like he may be on his way out as DC’s mayor.   Michelle Rhee has clearly hurt him.   Unfortunately, when she goes off to save somebody else she will have left a lot of destruction in her wake.   If you’re coming in late, please check out my 4 part report on Michelle Rhee from last month here .


Written by thatsrightnate

November 24, 2009 at 8:27 pm