Michelle Rhee wants competent D.C. teachers — of any age

Friday, November 6, 2009

It is simplistic for critics of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to accuse her of hiring only young employees ["Rhee ignored instructions about cuts, council says," front page, Oct. 30].

Toward the end of the last academic year, I e-mailed Ms. Rhee to say that I wanted to help improve D.C. schools. I mentioned that my special-education students had passed standardized tests. Ms. Rhee immediately forwarded my e-mail to the director of special education, asking him to have someone call me right away.

I was interviewed by phone to see whether I qualified as an "expert teacher" who could be put on a faster track for hiring. Then I was interviewed downtown at the D.C. public schools central office. The interviewers did not appear to make note of the fact that I was 52; instead, they were excited about my track record and my ideas for special education. After that interview, reference checks, etc., I was interviewed by multiple school principals and was ultimately hired.

My age never seemed to be an issue at any point in the process. The primary question directed to me was whether I could produce results. Could I teach special education students in new and creative ways and help them become academically successful?

Since I have been hired, new issues have arisen, such as my ability to handle a lot of stress -- both my own and that of my colleagues -- as we all try to adjust to a rigorous performance-review system. But I have never felt that being 52 -- now 53 -- was an issue.

Ann Wilson, Bethesda

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