Fired D.C. Teachers Speak Out
Barrington M. Salmon | 8/10/2011, 7:44 a.m.
When District of Columbia Public Schools officials announced the latest round of teacher lay-offs in mid-July, Kadesha Bonds understood the range of emotions of those affected.
The Alexandria, Va., resident used to teach radio production to 11th- and 12th-graders at McKinley High School in Northeast. Bonds said she loved her job and enjoyed interacting with her students. Then on August 2, 2008, two weeks before the start of school, she received a certified letter telling her that she had been fired. She was one of 78 teachers terminated by former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
"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."