Education activists say they may have for now lost their battle to stop Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration from closing 23 schools and to play a larger role in plans to overhaul 27 schools with low-achieving students, but their work is just beginning. There certainly seemed to be evidence of that last night at Shaw Middle School.
Nearly 100 of them - representing teachers, parents and labor organizations - met in the school's auditorium in Northwest to direct their anger into an action plan against city and school leaders. Among the ideas: community organizing, rallies, strikes, a ballot initiative, a recall against Fenty and campaigns against D.C. Council members seeking reelection.
"If [elected officials] think you're going to organize against them, you can get things done," Rick Powell, political and legislative coordinator of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, said at the meeting sponsored by the Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools.
"There are things we can do. You are not powerless," he added.
Teachers, making presentations from the stage and commenting from the audience, expressed frustration with the school closings and school-improvement plans being carried out by Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
"Part of the reason [teachers] are so silent is that we've been beaten down," said Kerry Sylvia, a government teacher at Cardozo High School in Northwest. "Teachers are raked over the coals."
Nathan Saunders, general vice president of the Washington Teachers' Union, told the audience that he and union president George Parker were deeply divided over how members should respond to Rhee's initiatives. (D.C. Wire reported on that earlier this week.) Saunders said he thinks the union should fight, while Parker seeks cooperation with the administration.
"The WTU has got to do more. The WTU is a $3.5 million organization funded with your dues," he said. "You've got to say to George Parker and the executive board to get off your tail and provide leadership."
Benita Nicholson, a librarian at Green elementary in Southeast and Thomas elementary in Northeast, said: "Teachers understand that change needs to come. But change for the sake of change is not good change."