Monday, November 30, 2009

Michelle Rhee and St. Hope: What Didn't She Do?

Washington DC blogger lodesterre has been reading the Inspector General's referral to the U.S. Attorney; he/she's been asking many good questions--some of the same ones on our mind too.   Such as the issue of Michelle Rhee holding "conflicting positions" at  St. Hope.

According to the IG interview with former St. Hope employee Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez, the same time Rhee was listed as a St. Hope board member, she was identified as the consultant for the New Teacher Project (which recruited teachers for St. Hope schools), the consultant for the reconstruction bridge span  and the consultant for the reconstruction of the HR department.   On a memo she was listed she as the Chief Operating Officer for St. Hope Academy.  On an organization chart she was identified as president.    As lodesterre writes:
  • ...Ms. Rhee’s titles at the St. Hope Charter Academy boggle the mind. Were all the positions paid positions? How did she perform the duties of board member and Chief Operating Officer at the same time? As president, Chief Operating Officer and Board Member at the same time? as President, COO, board member and a consultant for St. Hope on three projects, at the same time? How did she act as a consultant for St. Hope on the New Teacher Project, an organization that supplies teachers to schools, and as a consultant for St. Hope’s Human Resource Department’s reconstruction? Did she suggest to the Human Resource consultant which applicants to hire? It must have sounded interesting.
  • Why, when  Rhee was apprised by St. Hope employee Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez about sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Johnson by 3 Americorps teenage volunteers, did she not contact California State authorities she was obligated to do under California law?  Was this another one of those irksome laws she sees no problem in ignoring because she “knows” better?
  • As COO and President, not to mention those consulting positions, was Ms. Rhee aware of the misuse of Americorps funds and volunteers as outlined in the Investigative General’s report of August 2008?  As one of the top three office holders of St. Hope it seems that either Ms. Rhee was aware and therefore participated or that she was not aware and she was negligent in her duties or these positions were merely window dressing for her resume and padding for her bank account.
  • Why did Ms. Rhee not only try to bring in St. Hope to run two DC schools but insisted that she need not recuse herself from the process despite her involvement with St. Hope and of her knowledge of the charges being investigated about St. Hope?
 (By the way, does anyone know what the reconstruction bridge span was?)

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Making the Grades with Kevin Johnson

    New allegations that mayor Kevin Johnson offered hush money to a young Hood Corps volunteer who complained of his unwanted sexual advances splashed across media outlets around the country last week.  The story has national legs given the zeal of congressional Republicans to underscore the involvement of Obama Administration officials in the dismissal of Inspector General Gerald Walpin, whose findings related to the illegal use of federal funds by St. Hope included the revelations.

    Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of Washington DC schools and Kevin Johnson's fiance, also has a role in the latest saga due to allegations she mishandled the Hood Corps volunteer's complaint while serving as a St. Hope official and also intervened with Inspector General Walpin on behalf of Johnson.  We will have questions about Rhee in a later post. 

    All of this plays out in the broader context of Johnson's controversial "strong mayor" proposal to change the city charter.    The bloggers at   believe this latest revelation underscores Mayor Johnson's lack of judgment and "outright creepiness," given that reports of inappropriate sexual contact with girls date back to Johnson's basketball days in Phoenix in the mid-1990s.

    While we certainly agree with the creepiness factor, we can't just stop there.  The willingness of so many people in Sacramento to ignore or explain away for so long this alleged pattern of behavior is supremely troubling, especially since Johnson was handed over a public high school with young girls in his charge.  More on this later too.

    For now, we would like to take this in a different direction.

    Walpin's investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct includes the following:

    "One Member, (redacted) reported that, in the February/March 2007 time frame, she was entering grades into the SAC High database system per Mr. Johnson's instructions at the St. Hope office at night, purportedly as part of her Americorps service.  (Redacted) contacted Mr. Johnson to inform him that she had completed the grades and wanted him to review them.   About 11:00 pm, Mr. Johnson arrived at St. Hope and instructed (redacted) to gather her things and come with him.  Mr. Johnson drove to (redacted) apartment, in which another Americorps Member had a separate bedroom, Mr. Johnson laid down on (redacted) bed.  (Redacted) sat on the edge of the bed to show him the grades..."

    Our Questions:  
    • Why was an Americorps (Hoodcorps) volunteer entering grades into the Sac High database alone late at night, without oversight by teachers or registrar?*
    • Whose grades? And for what class or classes?   
    • Why would Mr. Johnson, who does not have a teaching or administrative credential, be instructing an Americorps volunteer to enter grades and then be reviewing the grades the volunteer entered?   
    • Did Mr. Johnson regularly "touch" the grades at Sacramento Charter High School? 
    • Who, other than teachers and the registrar, are able to "touch" the grades at Sacramento Charter High School?

    *State Education Code Regarding Grades
    49066. (a) When grades are given for any course of instruction taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the determination of the pupil's grade by the teacher, in the absence of clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency, shall be final.
    (b) The governing board of the school district and the superintendent of such district shall not order a pupil's grade to be changed unless the teacher who determined such grade is, to the extent practicable, given an opportunity to state orally, in writing, or both, the reasons for which such grade was given and is, to the extent practicable, included in all discussions relating to the changing of such grade.