WASHINGTON -- Back from a speaking engagement at her alma mater, which kept her away from Monday's student protests, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee defended layoffs of almost 400 schools employees, including more than 200 teachers.
Following the layoffs Friday, students and parents held an informal protest outside McKinley Tech. On Monday, an organized protest began at McKinley Tech before students marched to schools headquarters, then to the D.C. Council.
On Tuesday, students from Spingarn High School went to the city's administrative offices at the Wilson building to show disapproval of the firings.
On Tuesday, Rhee told NBC4 the decisions were based on several factors, including individual performance.
"The chancellor tasked her principals with coming forward with recommendations about who wasn't getting the job done as effectively as they should, and in large measure, those are the people who were let go," Mayor Adrian Fenty said.
Jodie Gittleson, who was just five weeks into her first year of teaching when she was fired, said she doesn't think performance could have been a factor since she hadn't been given enough of a chance to perform.
"As a new teacher, I was never evaluated," she said. "So I was in school for 20-some days and never given a fair chance to be evaluated by my principal. Master teachers were supposed to come around and evaluate you."
The timing wasn't ideal, Rhee said, but the school system is doing everything it can to keep students on course.
"For a lot of our students, obviously, this is going to be a transition," Rhee said. "What we tried to do is work with the schools and the school communities to make sure that the cuts that were being made would have the least amount of disruption."
Rhee wasn't around for Monday's marches as she was at Cornell Universitydelivering a lectured entitled "Reforming Public Education: How to Change the Conversation." But she couldn't hide from controversy entirely at her alma mater. Members of the Cornell Organization for Labor Action distributed cards at the lecture to give students both sides of the story. They said they want Rhee to work more with teachers' unions instead of bashing them.