City Desk

Fenty Vexed by School Questions

This morning, local reporters gathered at a press event at the John A. Wilson Building honoring the World Team Tennis champion Washington Kastles. We, of course, were interested in something besides the fabulous tennis team. That, of course, was to give Mayor Adrian M. Fenty one more opportunity to explain how his twin sons ended up in out-of-boundary Lafayette Elementary School.

Things got pretty darn testy. Listen here:

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WTOP's Mark Segraves kicked things off by asking Fenty if every student who wanted to get into Lafayette Elemetary got in.

"I'm not answering any more questions about Lafayette or my kids," he replied.

Segraves' rejoinder: "I'm not asking you about your kids. I'm asking you about the process..."

"I'm not answering any more questions," said Fenty. "I'm not going to answer any more questions about my kids."

Segraves then points out that Fenty hasn't answered any questions about his kids.

"I've answered one question about my kids," Fenty replied. "The question is: Are you going to send your kids to D.C. Public Schools? I answered that question yes. That happened Monday, Aug. 24. I'm not gonna answer any more questions. I really do want to respect you guys' right to ask questions, but...I am asking you to please respect the fact that my kids' personal life and their privacy needs to be respected."

Then WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood—who reported Tuesday the Fenty in fact followed the lottery process—took a stab in his drawl: "Mr. Mayor, I agree with that, that's why I've tried to frame the question as not anything about your children at all but just to say that you followed the process."

"You can ask me about process, about anything else except anything having to do with my kids. I'm not going to answer any more questions about my kids. But I appreciate the fact that you guys have a job to do. I urge you—I'm in charge of a $10 billion budget and a 33,000...employment force. There's gotta be other issues you can know ask me about."

Segraves with another try: "You can dismiss this issue with one word..."

Fenty then turned directly to Segraves: "Mark, I'm not answering any questions about my kids....Stop asking."

Another try from Segraves: "What does it say to the parents and the taxpayers in the District of Columbia that the chancellor of the schools, the deputy mayor of education and the mayor...none of those three people send their children to their neighborhood schools."

Fenty embarked on a spiel about how he's hired a 1,000 new teachers, filled principal vacancies, made renovations in every school, raised test scores, and has more kids taking AP classes. "I could go on and on about the achievements of our school system. I think that's what I was elected to do, and I think that's what the chancellor was appointed to do. If you want to talk about issues that are different than the main issues affecting the school system, that's perfectly within your right, but I am smart enough to know that we are running the school system in the way that we were elected to do. But if you want to keep talking about issues that are different from what we got elected to do...I'm not going to answer those questions."

Then it was LL's turn. He barely even started the question before Fenty interrupted.

"Mike, you've asked me this question every day for the last three days. You're the No. 1 political reporter for City Paper. You have to at some point to find another issue to ask me about. I'm in charge of a $10 billion budget. I have 33,000 employees. I have 40 agencies that work for me. We have 4,200 police officers; we protect the city. We have education, we have health care issues. There are affordable housing issues. There are people who are incarcerated in this city. Every day for the last three days you have asked me the exact same question. And I respectfully told you I am not going to answer any more questions. So please just stop asking."

Then LL got his question out: "Can you assure the parents that the process is not subject to political influence?"

"If you a question about the process of how the schools are run, I will have somebody from the school system I will get you a statement....If you have a question about the process, I'll get it to you. If you have a question about my specific personal family, I'm not answering it."

Then Segraves again, about how reporters were provided with explanations on how the children of Deputy Mayor Victor Reinoso were admitted to similarly high-performing schools.

"Mark, I'm not even going to even answer one question about my kids. It doesn't matter how many times you ask me, I'm not gonna answer. This is what I'd like you to do: Seeing that I'm not gonna answer any more questions, and seeing that at least for the foreseeable future I'll still be the mayor of the District of Columbia, there has to be another story, another issue that WTOP is interested in....I'd like for you to excuse me to leave."

Segraves: "You actually haven't answered my question."

Fenty: "....My answer is that I'm not gonna give you any information."

Segraves: "You ran on accountability, transparency..."

Fenty: "Mark, how long are we going to stand here and have this conversation? Just let me know...I'm not going to say anything different. Can I be excused to go?"

With that the discussion moved to the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center (the lawyers are working on it) and the fate of a bill to put D.C. statues in the Capitol's Statuary Hall (no answer).

UPDATE, 4:30 P.M.: There is also video of the exchange.

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  • Q™

    Good grief. LL, you and Seagraves are FRAMING A GUILTY MAN, which doesn't bode well for you. It is obvious that he got special treatment. A better question would be to those parents who wanted their kids to get into Lafayette but couldn't.

  • Marciela

    He could be looked upon as an elitist liar given that the rules don't apply to him or anyone else in his 'crew.' I use the word 'crew' because he and his minions act like they are a gang, as if they are The Untouchables. I think parents who wanted their children to go to certain schools across the city, despite the quadrant they live in, should do a class action or take some other type of legal action because that's all Fenty and his 'crew' seem to understand. Not that, mind you, Nickles wouldn't create a new law or edict to cover Fenty. If you ask me, Nickles is Mayor and Fenty is his flunky because he certainly trumps Fenty at every turn. I'm just saying ...

  • Concernedaboutdc

    Fenty is going to turn this into his next "Baseball Ticket" fiasco.

    It is not about his twins or their privacy. Everyone understands that and, certainly, the reporters acknowledged that more than once. However, to hide behind his kids in the face of legitimate questions about selection process and procedures is quite frankly punkish.

    Had the Mayor only said, I am the Mayor and if my children are to attend public schools, they will attend the best in the city, it could have killed this story. Rather, he chooses to fan the flames of inquiry by his sheepishness on the issue.

    The Mayor and his AG are their own worse enemies.

    May they be put out to pasture in 2010.

  • Q™

    I agree. The problem is that Fenty is taking this personally (as he should), but treating this almost like the media is making a referendum to get his kids kicked out of Lafayette and sent to West. The media has much to play in this as well, hence the "reframing" of the questions. The angle of the story (rightfully so) is that he subverted the waiting list. If WCP or the Post had a copy of the waiting list, say June 15, 2009. That can easily be proven. Likewise, the pressure will be put on the SUBJECTIVE process of who gets in and who doesn't.

    Just because you are on the waiting list doesn't mean that you will get in. It only means that you should be given fair and equal consideration in a first-come-first-serve manner.

    @Concernedaboutdc -- Yes his arguments are punkish and yes the story would be over if he said he "exerted executive privilege". However, doing so would have him on record as admitting to being arrogant and autocratic. Something he would NEVER admit. So, we basically have a non-story where he is throwing Lafayette under the bus because of his ego.

  • James

    Keep on this story, Mike. The readers/citizens care. Did he circumvent the process? We want to know.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    The questions are about what Fenty did, not Fenty's kids. Did Fenty follow the same rules everyone else has to follow? If not, why not?

    Those are legitimate subjects of inquiry. Keep after him, LL - eventually he may realize he has to explain what he did.

    Fenty needs to explain what he did - it has nothing to do with his kids.

  • huh?

    I think that the funniest part of this back-and-forth is that Fenty refers to himself as a smart man. Sorry buddy, but that's just not the case. As other posters have stated, any other person with a brain would just fess up to using the office for personal gain. People might not have liked it, but it wouldn't contribute to wrecking his political career.

    This just makes me wonder about all of the other ridiculous cover-ups that are going on in the city. And while I appreciate LL covering this story, we all know there are other issues out there.

    It's funny that the mayor is wants questions about other issues, because my sense is that he does not know how to answer them and would use the same evasive tactics to get around them.

    The only thing this guy actually knows how to do is constituent services. I'll give him that. Beyond that, he lacks vision and intelligence. Plus, he's a plain old arrogant SOB.

    Anyone but Fenty in 2010!

  • Sick of Fenty

    I,quite frankly, am sick of this mayor. It is so obvious that the process was circumvented for his children. Segraves told him time and again that he
    was not asking about his children, but about the process.
    Yet, Fenty (coward) refused to answer him, stating instead that he would answer no questions about his children. Well, Mr. One-Term I HOPE Mayor, he was not
    asking you any questions about your children. If you couldn't understand that, than you are NOT SUITED TO RUN

  • Downtown rez

    Great story. You should totally follow up with the Obamas about how they got theirs into Sidwell Friends. LOL

  • Skipper

    Can we also have an investigation of how other current Councilmembers' kids managed to magically get into out-of-boundary schools?

  • Rock and a Hard Place

    Fenty can't answer the question. If he circumvented the process he will certainly be a one-term Mayor. If he didn't circumvent the process the question then becomes what is wrong with West Elementary? And, if West isn't good enough for Fenty's children how is it good enough for anyone else's? Either way he is screwed.

  • He’s an Idiot

    We all know that if they had in turn asked him about the police dept., his answer would be "I'll have someone from the Police dept. get back to you with that info." Ask him about the school layoffs of all the people who worked their butts off this summer to have the schools ready in time and his answer is "I'll have someone from the School system get back to you with that info." Ask him about the Nats tickets that he stole and why he stole them and he says.... you guessed it, "I'll have someone from the Mayor's office get back to you with that info." Lolol That's his standard line. We also all know that people from individual agencies are no longer allowed to answer questions from the press/public without first getting the correct answer from WHO???? FENTY!

    We are so on to you Fenty.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Fenty may have met his Waterloo here. As for Pres Obama, he's paying the tuition at Sidwell Friends. Anybody who pays the freight can go there, basically. There's an admission test, but the main test comes when dad pulls out the checkbook.

    What's funny is if that crazy lady had built the "mayoral mansion" [like Gracie Hall in NYC] Fenty would be living just off Foxhall Road & could send his kids to school with the rich white people's kids without breaking any rules. Fenty is going down - & he'll drag Nickles & Lanier down with him.

  • fedupcitizen

    He is just so arrogrant and a total jerk this man is not being held accountable for his actions. I for one want to know about a stadium field that cost we taxpayers 553,000.00 that his name has been placed on. Now mind you people are being laid off. I respect that he doesn't want to talk about his children and mind you I'm not asking, what I do want to know is did he circumvent the process?

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  • false_cause

    What would be shocking is if his children didn't go to one of the best schools in the system. It's in his interest to do the best for his kids and he's in a position of power to make it happen. No one should be surprised that he wants this for his children or that he can make it happen. Corruption is as old as government, especially the little stuff that won't hurt anyone.

  • Madness

    In this recession why has no one come up with the bright business idea of creating anti-Fenty tshirts,lawn signs, baseball caps and bumper stickers.

    A starter slogan could be…”Fenty Fooled Us” or "Everybody Hates Fenty" colored in green and white which are Fenty’s campaign colors.

    Or “Fenty Fired Me” tshirts for Fenty’s contribution to DC’s unemployment rate.

    Maybe bumper stickers for cab drivers that say in every language, "Welcome to DC, we hate our mayor" so that tourists can see and Fenty becomes the national embarrassment he deserves to be.

    For school kids shoulder bags can be made that say "My Education has not been Rheeformed!"

    Lastly, mens tshirts that say "Fenty I know your wife, hire me!"

    Since Fenty wants his name everywhere in this city let's give it to him.

    Just a thought.

  • D

    The defenders of the status quo show up anywhere to parrot the union talking points. This entire experience has started making me anti-union.

    I have yet to meet one single person who is both a DC resident and is anti-Fenty. The Maryland Teachers who teach in DC hate him, but the DC teachers? Love him.

    The reason you don't see anti-Fenty t-shirts is that he's popular, duh.

  • Rock and a Hard Place

    I am a District resident and am anti-Fenty, and have always been anti-Fenty - and proud of it! How's this for a slogan: Shelve Fenty In '12

  • fedupcitizen

    I am a DC resident and I can't stand him, find me the dc teachers that love him. So that we can have a long conversation.Also where are the dc employees that also love him

  • DC resident who hates Fenty

    Where's the like button for the journalists? Great job, Bloodhound Gang! Keep digging.

    Fenty refuses to disclose his travel plans. He takes 2-hour breaks everyday to workout. He's such a pussy, Fenty won't ride his bike without a taxpayer-funded police escort. Fenty again is a pussy when he 'hires' police security for $50,000 to accompany him on political/partisan trips. Only a complete asshole would forge his kids' little league applications. Let's not forget the 'streetlight user fee' aka the fucking tax for streetlights that don't work idea. Stop bleeding the city dry with your personal shrine to yourself, a new baseball field, that costs taxpayers $500k.

    I'm not even sure if Fenty likes pussy. Always wearing spandex and sweating with guys. Supporting gay rights. Lobbying for gay games. Coincidence?

  • LMAO

    I feel you, D.
    The handful of haters who post here are alone in their own little echo chamber. Hey, Haters: Fenty's approval ratings are north of 60%, Rhee's are even higher. :P

  • yada yada yadaa


    DC is so smart - they re-elect Marion Barry and Holmes, over and over. What about all those idiots who 're-elect' the Daleys? And Ahmadinejad ? yada yada yada

  • Hill Rat

    Total PR nightmare over nothing. A smart guy would have solicited proposals from the principals of various high-performing schools (and their in-bounds school too) and created competition to have the mayor's kids at their school. The burden of circumventing the system then lays at the feet of the principal, but you spin that into a yarn about how much latitude and discretion the Chancellor gives to principals.

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  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    There's a strange feeling that all of the Fenty-lovin' posters here are the overpaid-underaged members of his staff.

    Or perhaps these bong holes are just dumb enough to walk around the 3rd floor of the Wilson bldg talking about that they post here.

  • Ward 5

    I too am a DC resident and very much anti-Fenty. Along with almost all my friends and family...

  • DistrictIndependent

    This is eerily similar to how he refused to tell the press where he was going when he travels around the country(world) on the taxpayers' (foreign governments') dime. In this case, though, he's got a bigger problem. This is his pet issue, and when it's found out that someone rolled a red carpet out for his kids and circumvented the process, it's going to undermine what he has tried to amass in education accomplishments. For someone who was so adept at public image control, it's shocking how far and how fast he's fallen.

  • DistrictIndependent

    Oh, and to LMAO, I would not be citing that poll if I were you. If it shows anything, it highlights that the public is ready for another option. It also does not include voter-rich Ward 5 (certainly no Fenty bastion of support) or wards 7 and 8 (whose voter total put together is nothing to sneeze at). So, I would not be "lmao" until after September of next year.

  • Ron

    We all know it was politically influenced. For Fenty to divert the questions away like that, we know he's hiding the truth. To appeal the residents of DC, he should've just told the truth and reporters would've stopped asking the same question(s). But his behavior during that press conference is a sign of corruption.

  • Jamie

    "Great story. You should totally follow up with the Obamas about how they got theirs into Sidwell Friends. LOL"

    Maybe you aren't aware that Sidwell Friends is a private school that you have to pay for? "Q: How did the Obamas get their kids into Sidwell Friends. A: They wrote a check."

    You too can send your kids to Sidwell Friends, or purchase any other of the vast array of products and services that are available for purchase in this country, if you so choose to spend your money that way!! Wow!

    Now, back to the original question of how Fenty got his kids into a PUBLIC, FREE, and HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER school which supposedly every DC resident has the same shot at getting their kids into.

  • Reid

    I thought Michelle Rhee could send her kids to Oyster because her ex husband lives within the boundary.

  • Downtown Rez

    “Q: How did the Obamas get their kids into Sidwell Friends. A: They wrote a check.”
    Of course they did. And Sidwell will expect them to do much more than just that, if past is precedent.
    But how is it that there were two slots open for their children in the first place? Sidwell is also highly desirable and competitive and, while space may be infinite, space at Sidwell certainly is not.

  • meathelmet

    as a DC resident, i'm a fenty supporter, if only for 2 reasons:

    1) public school improvement through the hiring of rhee, as evidenced in increased test scores
    2) having the balls to finally stand up to the taxi driver union and get our city on a system that's not straight out of the third world

  • Reid

    The answer Downtown Resident us that Sidwell can run whatever unfair admissions process they want, it's a private school. Nobody is being denied aomething by a public entity when they lose out their spot to the Obamas. With Fenty on the other hand, he is denying two children a spot in a public school. If he used his position to do so it would pretty much be the definition of corruption.

  • huh?

    I challenge meathelmet to go into classrooms to see whether things have "improved" based on those test scores. Maybe Mr. or Ms. Meat will be impressed with the new buildings, but I'd bet meathelmet will be disappointed with everything else.

    and who the hell cares about taxis? seriously? you're placing a vote based on taxis? i hope that meathelmet is taking taxis a few times a day for this to be an issue!

    let me guess...meathelmet's white! maybe works in the fenty administration?

  • Downtown Rez

    You make some assumptions, the first of which is incorrect and the second unsupported.
    1) SF cannot simply up their class size at will. There are regulations governing occupancy and other matters apply under zoning. It is a business, and in the business for money. it makes sense to run at capacity (or as close to it as possible) to maximize returns on fixed costs (land, utilities, staff, etc). Probably, they always do.
    2) There is no evidence (and published reports to the contrary) that Fenty circumvented standard out of boundary procedures, improperly displacing anyone else.

  • candycane1

    WEll the other side of this is, if the out of boundry application doesn't seem to apply to elected officials, then turn it around on them. Take your children to the schools of your choice and demand that they be admitted, based on the new rule, " The Fenty Special" Since they make rules as they go along or perform as though they are above the law, then the average citizen has got to keep up and the new rules should apply to everybody. Perhaps the elected officials might stop being so obtuse in their thinking and remember that they get paid too much money as it is and that perks are not in the contract.(baseball tickets, parking spaces, first in line for schools, athletic fields named after them before death, fire cadets hosting xmas parties, showers being built in a councilmember's office and the list goes on) Come on 2010. The citizens need to make new rules. (All jerks must leave office)

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  • Terry Miller

    II think Fenty should know that the long term DC residents who have families who have lived here for years, HATE his guts. Those folks, regardless of what ward they live in, will NEVER vote for him again.

  • Darlene

    I agree with Terry Miller
    My family and friends live in DC and we too HATE Adrian The King FENTY.