Today’s Washington Post includes an article by Perry Stein in which she reveals that her newspaper and the Associated Press has obtained an email from Kaya Henderson which demonstrates that the Chancellor solicited money to support her system’s annual teacher recognition ceremony from Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, a food vendor that a whistleblower lawsuit had accused of stealing millions of dollars from DCPS.
The reporter adds that the 2013 email to Warren Thompson, the president of the food vendor, came two months after the lawsuit was filed and at a time that the contract with DCPS was coming to an end. Apparently the Chancellor asked the company to contribute toward her event at the highest level which at the time was $100,000. The firm ended up committing to $25,000 to which Ms. Henderson reacted by exclaiming “You Rock!” The money went to the DC Education Fund, a non-profit that hosts the gala.
The Post quotes Michelle Lerner, the DCPS spokeswoman (no relation) as commenting about this story, “We followed all the rules here.”
Let me be as clear as I can. Ms. Henderson did absolutely nothing wrong.
First of all, the Chancellor has no role regarding DCPS vendor selection. This is done through the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement. These decisions then must be approved by the D.C. Council. Councilman David Grosso, the chairman of the Council’s education committee, states that he never has discussed DCPS contracts with the Chancellor.
But all of this is really beyond the point. Organizations and companies frequently fundraise for events from the vendors with which they do business. This to me seems only natural. Good vendors become strong partners in the mission of the groups to which they provide products or services. This is true in the for-profit world and it applies equally for 501(c)3s. I’m sure if you looked at money raised for charter school events you would find instances absolutely identical to the one written about this morning.
Ms. Perry indicates that the City Bridge Foundation, FedEx and Cisco have all donated in the past to the Standing Ovation for D.C. Teachers gala. That’s a great start. I hope that these are only a sample of names, and that in the future the list of those supporting hard working educators in this town becomes much much longer.