Fired DC Teacher And Union Activist Gets His Job Back Nearly 10 Years Later

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter
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A teacher and union activist fired from the Washington, D.C., public school district after a low performance score can resume his job almost a decade after his termination.

Former D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) chancellor Michelle Rhee fired Jeff Canady in 2009 after the teacher earned a low performance score, according to The Washington Post. But nonprofit group American Arbitration Association ruled that Canady, who had taught in the district for 18 years before being terminated, could return.

“I’ve been a hostage for nine years,” Canady said. “And the District wants to keep it that way.” (RELATED: DC Graduation Rate Cut Nearly In HALF After Corruption Scandal)

DCPS claimed Canady achieved a poor score in an evaluation that preceded Rhee’s evaluation system. But the teacher, as well as the Washington Teachers’ Union, asserted Canady’s third-graders performed at a high level and that DCPS gave Canady a low score due to his high-profile criticism of the school district, WaPo reported. DCPS alleged the union used Canady as part of more comprehensive class action litigation, but did not pursue Canady’s individual case for several years, after which the district claimed it had lost emails and documents relevant to the teacher’s case, according to the report.

The American Arbitration Association assigned blame to DCPS for delaying much of Canady’s case, as well as unfairly evaluating the former teacher and displaying “anti-union animus” toward him.

Canady and nearly 1,000 other DCPS educators lost their jobs during Rhee’s 3.5-year chancellorship. DCPS fired around 200 of them due to poor performance, laid off 266 of them in 2009 due to budget pressures, and let the remainder go upon discovering they did not complete new employee probation measures or have the correct teaching license under the No Child Left Behind law.

“I’ve been fighting for justice for people for years,” Canady told WaPo. “Surely if I am going to fight for others, I am going to fight for myself.”

The former teacher said his termination has taxed him emotionally and physically, as well as “devastated” his relationships. He has not maintained steady employment since his firing.

Rhee founded and served as CEO for education reform group Students First after her 2007-2010 tenure as DCPS chancellor. Students First promotes charter schools, providing mayoral control over school systems and judging teachers in accordance to student standardized test performance, reported The Los Angeles Times. Prior to Students First, Rhee served as founder and CEO of The New Teacher Project for a decade, helping districts, unions, state agencies and nonprofits partner in recruiting new teachers.

She once fired a principal on camera and used the footage for a PBS show.


DCPS spokesman Shayne Wells told WaPo the district “just received the arbitrator’s decision and is in the process of reviewing it.”

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