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D.C. Council Members Question DCPS Chancellor At Hearing on Teacher Layoffs

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After a day-long hearing on teacher layoffs in the District, several D.C. Council members say they want changes made in how the Public Schools are managed. Council Chairman Vincent Gray says he believes Rhee may have broken the law.
Kavitha Cardoza
After a day-long hearing on teacher layoffs in the District, several D.C. Council members say they want changes made in how the Public Schools are managed. Council Chairman Vincent Gray says he believes Rhee may have broken the law.

After a day-long hearing on teacher layoffs in the District, several D.C. Council members say they want changes made in how the Public Schools are managed. Council Chairman Vincent Gray says he believes Rhee may have broken the law.

Over the summer, the council cut approximately 9 million dollars from the DCPS summer school program. After the budget was certified -- Rhee decided to leave that program in tact - and instead make other cuts. That included a Reduction in Force or RIF off almost 400 school employees.

Gray says he will be talking to general counsel about the legality of her actions, "One if they already moved the money they couldn't do that legally. If the money hasn't been moved then the magnitude of the RIF has been overstated. They didn't need to be at the level that they did it."

Rhee says summer programs are important to help students graduate. Council members also chided Rhee on what one member called a "toxic environment" and another called a "culture of intimidation."

Even Councilman David Catania, a staunch supporter of Rhee, says Rhee needs to change the way she interacts with the council, "I need you to be a better communicator. I need that. And I need more respect and understanding directed towards this chairman. And I don't know how many times we can have this discussion."

Throughout all the criticism and questioning Rhee defended her decisions - pointing to advances in student achievement. "I would not have taken this step, had I not believed very strongly, that the advantages to going this route in the long run far out way the short term disadvantages."

Teachers who were laid off are expected to be dropped from the payroll Monday.

Kavitha Cardoza reports...

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