"They didn't give me a reason," Bonds, 35, said. "According to their policy, I completed two successful school years and a probationary period. I built the radio production program without a curriculum. I took the kids to South Africa and took them to competitions where they placed 4th and 6th in the nation. I also won an award as outstanding First Year Teacher in the high school division in the '06-'07 year."
"I was hurt, angry and frustrated ... they used outrageous lies which had nothing to do with our teaching ability. The principal never came to my room. He even said I was a good teacher but it was a personal issue. He lied to me in a meeting and when I stood up to him, I became a target. It was very personal and very political ... I was replaced by a substitute with no experience."
She said the principal came to McKinley as an intern after a five week training period. He replaced Dan Gohl, a popular principal described by Bonds and others as a fair and passionate educator.
The Joplin, Mo., native said she hasn't seen the inside of a classroom since she was let go.
"I have not been teaching since," said Bonds. "It was my passion. I enjoyed being with the kids every day. I let them see how to operate in the real world. I wanted to be a positive energy. It took me two years to find (another job). I have a master's in communications and was seen as being overqualified. So I've been doing administrative assistant stuff because bills don't stop."
Union officials expressed frustration as teachers continue to be axed.
Washington Teachers' Union President Nathan Saunders described DCPS officials' actions as a "lust for new teachers, which is overwhelming the interests of veteran teachers."
Saunders, 46, said the contract negotiated by his predecessor George Parker was abnormal because it lacks the provisions to protect teachers from these types of dismissals.
"Even they (DCPS) admit that teachers have less information than they ever had before," he said. "It undermines the security of the teachers. (Michelle) Rhee bought teacher protections and he sold teachers out. Even in this coming fiscal year, teachers will get a five percent increase in salary but have less job security.
"I offered to give back $18 million to the Mayor to rescind certain parts of the contract and he said no thank you and you know how badly the city needs the cash."
Candi Peterson, WTU's general vice president, wrote a scathing response in the Washington Teacher blog shortly after the lay-offs, "teacher firings are a continuation of Michelle Rhee's educational plan to terminate a significant share of the D.C. teaching workforce while establishing job loss as a likely consequence of poor classroom test scores on standardized tests."
"In D.C., 55 percent of a teacher's performance evaluation is tied to student test scores in the testing grades. Prior to getting elected as D.C. Mayor in 2010, Vincent C. Gray, who was then Chairman of the D.C. City Council, stated that there was controversy over IMPACT teacher evaluations after the announcement of 241 teacher firings. At the time, Gray stated that he wanted to look further into the 2010 teacher dismissals."
Now that Gray is mayor, Peterson said, "We have heard nary a word from (him) on this issue. I guess with all of the ethical dilemmas the Gray administration has faced during his short tenure as mayor – teachers' dismissals aren't the priority they once were while he was campaigning. If Gray doesn't take the time to review the IMPACT controversy, then shame on him."
For Leigh Mosley, an Adams Morgan resident who has been teaching all of her adult life, her firing came as a jolt.
"My nose was to the grindstone. I had no idea about Rhee and it was hard to keep a finger on the pulse of machinations," she said. "I had no overall sense of what was going on because my job was so demanding. I was at work every day from 7 a.m. until night doing my job."
"I had an overall sense of what Mayor Fenty was doing but I had no idea that it would be so swift or so sweeping."
When she was fired, Mosley, 66, said she was teaching at Luke C. Moore Academy in Northeast, which she characterized as the last stop for students trying to get an education.
"The principal said I wasn't doing an adequate job which was ridiculous because I got a positive rating," she said. "Rhee sent out a letter saying if (principals) didn't like you, they could get rid of you. I wasn't so bad. I didn't sit around and wait. I got a new job two weeks later."
"I saw Rhee and confronted her and she said, 'it's too bad, there's nothing you can do about it.' I said I would get a lawyer and she said she had lawyers too."
Mosley and Bonds said a judge ruled in their favor, saying that the 78 fired teachers were entitled to backpay if they were unemployed. Mosley, however, got nothing because she had found a job. Bonds said she fared no better because DCPS officials reversed an earlier promise and appealed the ruling.
Mosley said while she's no conspiracy theorist, she believes these firings are part of a larger plan.
"What they're doing is getting rid of the old guard and replacing them with new, young teachers to prepare the city for the move into another direction," said the native Washingtonian.
"I moved from Boston when I was 20 and came here because it was 'Chocolate City.' But white people got tired of living in the suburbs and began moving back in with their children and want teachers who look like them."
"It's part of a whole movement to change the complexion of the city. Whether consciously or unconsciously, Fenty and Rhee were part of a group which wants to see the city change ... basically, it's a witch hunt, a plan to rid the District of black people."
Bonds and Mosley spoke of the trauma and dislocation the layoffs have caused within the ranks of the District's teaching community. Mosley described the situation as a domino effect that affects a considerably larger group of family members and others connected to the teachers.
Bonds said she wasn't sure what to make of Rhee – described by writer Jeff Chu in a 2008 Fast Company article as the 'Iron Chancellor' – when she took control of the school system.
Bonds said many of her colleagues were leery of Rhee primarily because of her background and the fact that she'd never run a school system.
"What was her background? We knew she was instrumental with Teach For America (and) it didn't work in D.C.," she said. "The turnover of teachers is really high, the new teachers don't know how to teach and (many of them are) white. They have no concept of our culture and heritage or how to deal with our kids. After two years, they get a master's for free and then go to Fairfax or Montgomery County to teach."
When Rhee was hired, it was hoped that she would shake up a moribund school system that had resisted meaningful change for decades.
"Children are losing their lives because we're not educating them well. But we're concerned about those adults? I'm not firing people because I'm mean or heartless or don't care about people. I'm just not willing to forsake the future of thousands of kids for the comfort of a few adults," Rhee said in the Fast Company story.
There is still a great deal of work to be done, as noted by Chancellor Kaya Henderson, 40, and evidenced by a disturbing gap in the results of the most recent achievement tests between children who live in wealthy DC neighborhoods and their counterparts who attend schools East of the Anacostia River. Further proof is a 2009 State Teacher Policy Yearbook which rated the District with a 'D' in terms of the way it delivers well-prepared teachers; expands the teacher pool; identifies effective teachers; retains effective teachers; and the manner in which it exits them.
Initially, Bonds said, Rhee made all the right sounds, voicing her support for teachers but that changed quickly.
"She called all these meetings to express support," Bonds said. "... If she was a teacher, she would know the pressures on teachers. With inclusion, modified lessons, IEPs, (Individualized Education Programs) and such, there is a lot on teachers. She just tried to make a name for herself. It's still like having Rhee in there but Kaya Henderson is more tactful. There shouldn't be one person (making these decisions). Who were Rhee's checks and balances?"
"Four hundred or more teachers have been judged under unfair guidelines. They plotted and lied to get me out. There are no safety measures in place. My story is not a rarity."
Mosley noted that the problems and issues assailing the District school system and teachers are playing out across the country.
"This is a problem nationwide. Does it necessitate a revolution? ... There is a lot of collusion between the press which is owned by people with an interest in keeping the status quo. They don't want people to be educated or make any noise."
"Capitalism is at its height. The level of greed and self-interest is at its height too. The fact remains that there seems to be a small group of people with a concentration of wealth who want to maintain that. The masses of people have nothing, don't have the basics. People need a place to live, healthcare, and education to have a somewhat decent life. Short of people getting into the streets, I don't know what to do," Mosley said.
The greatest tragedy, both women said, is that the fabled reformation of District schools is yet to take hold.
"Are children getting an education? Absolutely not!" Bonds said. "When I taught 11th and 12th grade, they couldn't write, spell or formulate a paragraph. The simple things they should know, they didn't. It's heartbreaking. I tried the best I could with what I had. They were being accepted into college but couldn't make it, couldn't function. The cycle continues."
"They should stop teaching to the test because it is not 'real world' practical. You need an overhaul. The old system needed to be fixed but it was a fairer way. As it is now, expectations are not clear because (they) change from day-to-day."