- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The D.C. Council yesterday gave final approval to legislation granting schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee authority to fire underperforming administrative employees.

“This is a piece of the puzzle,” said Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat. “It’s a long time coming, but I believe if we continue on this road of reform and change that we are on today, we will continue to see results.”

The council approved the bill in a 10-3 vote — the same margin by which members passed the measure on its first reading last month. The bill says administrative employees past a probationary period can be fired “at the discretion of the mayor” after they are served with a 15-day separation notice and as long as they have had a performance evaluation within the previous six months.

But council members amended the bill to name certain offenses for which an employee can be fired without having a performance evaluation, including being convicted of a crime after submitting an employment application and lying on a job application, Chairman Vincent C. Gray said.

The amendment, introduced by Mr. Gray, also omits the word “incompetence” as a reason an employee can be fired without a performance evaluation. Mr. Gray said an evaluation was necessary to determine employee competence. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said the chancellor and mayor wanted the word included in the bill.

“This is simply an effort to say that this council saw a job description, it saw a written evaluation, as essential to this process,” said Mr. Gray, a Democrat. “And we want to make sure we don’t undermine our own efforts.”

The legislation will affect 488 administrative positions in the school system, although city officials have said that only between 100 and 150 employees would likely be terminated.

Mr. Gray said the chancellor’s office told him that more than 600 performance evaluations of employees already have been completed in an effort to reform the school system bureaucracy.

Mrs. Rhee could not be reached for comment last night.

The bill’s approval did not come without opposition. Council members Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat; Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat; and Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat all voted against the measure.

They said the bill abdicates due process and that Mrs. Rhee already has the authority she needs to clean house in the school system’s central office.

“This is people’s lives we’re talking about,” Mr. Thomas said. “This is serious business.”

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