Since an independent arbiter determined the illegality of his termination from D.C. Public Schools, teacher Jeff Canady has been in a battle with DCPS’ central office for what’s estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars of back pay.
In Canady’s reinstatement as a DCPS employee, however, lies a bigger question of whether he’ll receive fair treatment on the job, even with union protections. He recently recounted the stigma of his 2009 firing following him, even as he flourished in other educator roles.
“Prince George’s County couldn’t hire me because the case wasn’t resolved,” Canady told reporters during an April 29 press conference at the Washington Teachers’ Union headquarters in Southeast.
A teacher evaluation deemed Canady ineffective in the classroom, ultimately leading to his termination. At the time, he taught third grade at the now-shuttered Emery Elementary. In the aftermath of his ouster, Canady cited the high marks his students received on their tests and his professional trajectory before Michelle Rhee’s installment as chancellor.
The subsequent court proceedings spread over the next decade, during which Canady exhausted his savings and pension, battled homelessness and unsuccessfully attempted to teach elsewhere.
During the press conference, Canady reflected on what he described as more pleasant relationships with superintendents prior to Rhee.
Four months before his ouster, Canady had been nominated for DCPS Teacher of the Year. Several years earlier, he counted among several aspirants of a seat on the D.C. State Board of Education. With DCPS’ support, Canady also entered a graduate teaching program at Harvard University.
Canady lamented the inability to explain to Prince George’s officials why the case hadn’t been resolved so many years out.
“The county executive wanted to hire me but he couldn’t do that with a firing over my head,” he said. “Why does arbitration take 10 years? They’re waiting for teachers to die or lose hope. They never intended for someone to navigate this process.”
In recent years, Canady has organized on behalf of teachers on Capitol Hill, led a weekly Bible study at the U.S. Senate and shaped legislation to address lead water exposure while working in D.C. Council member Mary Cheh’s office.
Within that same time, the institutional and racial composition of DCPS teachers, staff and personnel has changed significantly — which some say is because of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system implemented after Canady’s termination.
IMPACT has also been considered a key factor in the teacher turnover rate of 20 percent. While it incentivizes effective teacher performance with cash bonuses, critics say that IMPACT assesses teachers exclusively on student performance and administrators’ subjective views.
During the Standing Ovation Awards In February, a group of teachers gathered at the District Wharf in protest of IMPACT, created by Jason Kamras, who has since left DCPS to lead Richmond Public Schools. Months later, WTU officials say they’re in the midst of conversations that could lead to a revamp of the teacher evaluation system.
“The teacher evaluation system is controlled by legislation in the D.C. Council that says the school district must have control,” said WTU President Elizabeth Davis. “We’re hoping to change the legislation and do bargaining on the new evaluation that teachers will work to develop with DCPS.
“IMPACT isn’t trusted by teachers and in 10 years, it has morphed into a weapon,” Davis said. “We want IMPACT to be gone because even if Jeff returns, it will be used to retaliate against him, and evaluate him subjectively.”