Firings Cut Payroll by $6 Million
Council Members Urge Rhee to Disclose More Details

By V. Dion Haynes and Theola Labbé
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The firing of 98 employees from the D.C. school system headquarters will reduce the payroll by about $6 million, according to data released yesterday by officials.

Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee fired the workers Friday, saying the action would improve efficiency in the 49,600-student system and save money that could be invested in classrooms. But because severance pay is still being determined and some workers will be replaced, officials would not say how much money ultimately would be saved.

According to the data released by Rhee's office, 26 people were fired from the extended-day unit and 40 from the Office of Information Technology. The extended-day unit oversees after-school, Saturday and summer-school programs. Firings from the information technology office account for more than 40 percent of its staff. The office, which has been taken over by the city's Office of the Chief Technology Officer, is in charge of school and central office computers and databases.

The remaining 32 firing came from several other departments: Academic Services; Office of the Chief of Staff; Compliance; Contracts and Acquisitions; Human Resources; Communications; Food Services; Special Education; and Office of the Chancellor.

The chancellor's office released the information yesterday after a Washington Post inquiry about the legality of withholding information on the firings. D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), who had demanded the names of the 98 people fired, received a list by department and without names, according to his spokeswoman.

"Chairman Gray is looking for more detailed information on performance evaluations for each terminated employee, and a letter to Chancellor Rhee will request such when it is sent," said the spokeswoman, Doxie A. McCoy.

A Post request for a more detailed breakdown of employees by department was referred by Rhee's office to Interim Attorney General Peter J. Nickles, who did not provide a response yesterday.

Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) said Rhee should be as forthcoming as possible about the firings, without violating privacy issues. "If you think you've done the right thing, then what's the problem with sharing the information?" Thomas said.

The dismissals from the technology office will save $2.4 million in salaries, according to Rhee's office. More than $1.5 million would be saved in the extended-day unit and about $2 million in the nine other departments.

The system is requesting bids for contractors to manage food services. Work in the other departments would be handled by staff, said Rhee's spokeswoman, Mafara Hobson.

Meanwhile, the chancellor's office also released yesterday the March 6 mayoral order stating that the proposal to close four schools, in addition to 19 previously identified, was final. Benning Elementary and Merritt Middle in Northeast Washington will close in June, and Park View Elementary and Garnet-Patterson Middle in Northwest will close by 2011.

"I don't agree with what Rhee and the mayor did," said Regina Marr, who has a son at Benning Elementary. "I'm going to put him in a charter school. I don't want to have no more parts of D.C. Public Schools."

Data base editor Dan Keating contributed to this report.

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