Nov 11, 2008

So You Wanna Become a DC Principal ?

Really. Well here's what becoming a DC Principal gets you : FIRED ! Hart middle school is the subject of controversy in DC Public Schools. First an article appeared in the Sunday Post which told an all too familiar tale of DC teachers being assaulted, teachers teaching outside of their certification area, substitutes covering classes, overcrowded classes, unruly students, possession of handguns, violence and a lack of supports promised by Rhee's office to a school being restructured. Hart is a school which merged with P.R. Harris Educational Center this school year against the advice of parents and community activists. Here is today's article written by Post Reporter Bill Turque (page B 1) in its entirety. My question is who is to blame ? Is Chancellor Rhee firing her way to a better school system ? You be the judge.

D.C. Fires Principal After Surge Of Violence Educator Says She Was 'Set Up' at Hart Middle School

"The principal of Hart Middle School was fired by District officials yesterday after two months of disorder and violence that included assaults on at least three teachers. Kisha Webster was informed of her dismissal at a morning meeting with Lisa Ruda, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's chief of staff.

Dena Iverson, Rhee's spokeswoman, declined to answer questions and referred instead to a letter over Rhee's signature that was sent to Hart parents yesterday. The letter, which did not mention the school's problems, said Webster would be replaced by a central office administrator, Billy Kearney, who had been serving as the school system's director of principal recruitment. Kearney was a key figure in the filling of more than principal 40 vacancies over the summer, about half of which were created when Rhee fired people for poor performance.

Webster, 37, a former assistant principal at MacArthur Middle School in Anne Arundel County, is the third principal to be replaced since the beginning of the school year. Galeet BenZion, principal at Shepherd Elementary, was fired last month, and the principal at Shadd Transition Academy was reassigned to other duties.

In a phone interview yesterday evening, Webster said she had been "set up" by District officials. She said she was put in charge of the Anacostia middle school without the resources made available to other struggling schools. Hart was one of nearly two dozen D.C. schools placed in federally mandated restructuring for failing to meet benchmarks for math and English test scores. Last year, just 17 percent of Hart students read at proficiency level.

Webster said publicity about the situation at Hart also played a role in her dismissal. On Sunday, The Washington Post published an article that described a school in disarray, with students fighting, roaming the halls and disrupting classes, according to parents, teachers and police. One student was arrested for possession of a shotgun."If I had been able to keep things quiet, I'd still be there," Webster said.

Webster had been hired as principal of Roosevelt STAY, an evening program at Roosevelt High School for people 15 or older who want to complete work on a diploma. She said she was reassigned to Hart after the principal who had been hired decided not to accept the post.
Hart's disciplinary problems did not begin this year. A review team that evaluated the school last year for Rhee noted many of the same conditions that contributed to Webster's ouster.

The school was a shambles when she took over in late July, Webster said. Summer renovations had barely begun, and the school had 21 teacher vacancies. With the summer hiring process winding down, she said, she was "forced to grab whatever was left" from a pool of teachers "excessed" by schools that had closed or experienced enrollment declines. At meetings of principals, she said, colleagues told her that she had teachers they were happy to be rid of. Webster said principals at some other schools that were being restructured under the federal No Child Left Behind law had more latitude in hiring teachers. Brian Betts, the new principal at Shaw at Garnet-Patterson Middle School, was able to replace more than 30 of the 37 teachers who finished the 2007-08 school year.

Webster also said academic programs and social services promised by Rhee as part of the restructuring never got off the ground. Many of the people involved are still in training, she said. Only one instructor is available for an accelerated reading program. Webster said she tried to avoid suspensions when discipline deteriorated because they are counterproductive. "They come back worse than when they left," she said. "They come back with this swagger. It's 'I was suspended, now what?' "Eventually, however, the suspensions mounted, and there were nearly 80 in one week in October, she said.

There is plenty of blame to go around for Hart's predicament, Webster said. She acknowledged that she probably alienated staff members by coming in with an attitude that was too hard-edged -- an attitude she said was influenced by her superior's judgment that the school was in terrible shape. "I will tell you, when you come into a building where you are told everyone is crap, you come in hard," she said. In retrospect, she said, she should have taken time to form her own opinions. But others also shoulder responsibility, including an administration that didn't understand, or care to acknowledge, the depth of Hart's needs. "I would say that everyone is responsible," she said. "The community, the administrators, the teachers, the central office." Courtesy of (Posted by The Washington Teacher).


Anonymous said...

How many principals has Rhee fired in total? Seems like way too many to count. Unbelieveable ! I am just curious if there are any other actions that Rhee can take ?

Concerned Parent said...

We should demand that Rhee go in and become principal at Hart herself, since she is such the expert and she insists that socio-economics have nothing to do with student academic performance. After she is done at Hart, she can go over to Anacostia and we'll see how far she gets. Then we need to send a message to President Obama about this hatchett woman who is doing absolutely nothing to improve the academic performance of "our" children.

Anonymous said...

Washington Post stated William Wilhoyte is leading DCPS team "Amazing".
African American teachers better make sure he doesn't send you to work in maintence or the school warehouse like he's done to others.

Anonymous said...

Rhee believes she a weapons expert at DC police academy. "Fire, Fire, Fire". Donald Trump is starting to look a little soft. By the way is Rhee qualified to be a principal?

Anonymous said...

And now Rhee is in Sacramento doing KJ's transition? Come on. Seriously? I'm in shock. I hope she's not getting paid for her time there.

angry Sac parent said...

From Sacramento: I'm so glad to see you are all on to the fact that Rhee is now helping her good buddy KJ here in Sacramento. What KJ,with Rhee's help, has wrought at the former Sacramento High School is truly pathetic. They love to tout it as a successful model of school reform, but the fact is the school is operating with half the student population it had before the takeover, an 85-90% staff turnover rate and a policy of counseling out those kids with the highest needs and the lowest academic performance. It is remarkable that both KJ and Rhee have been allowed to ride this lame horse into positions of even great power.

It may be reaching, but some here in Sacramento are noting that since the Sac City school district needs a new superintendent (and with KJ salivating over the possibility of expanding mayoral control over schools), Rhee may indeed be keeping her future employment opportunities open...Rhee as the newly-minted Sacramento Education Czar? Crazy-sounding...certainly. But those of us here in the river city who have dealt before with the two of them have ceased to be surprised by the level of willful insanity found in so much of the hype surrounding the education "reforms" of KJ and Rhee.

I am so sorry so for the people of Washington DC.

DC Teacher Chic said...

You are phony. If Rhee had defended this principal, you would say, "Shame on Rhee! She's keeping a principal who lets the kids beat on the teachers!" But the second she fires the principal, you are mad at her anyway. Just admit that you don't like her!

And Candy, I would prefer that you not post anonymously on my blog anymore. Look at it this way - when you post using your blog's name, it creates a link to your blog, and then you can get more readers.

I know what I'm talking about, here. I have one of the most popular education blogs in the city.

I love Teaching said...

As always, Rhee wants to silence principals. If a principal speaks out, he/she is doomed! Rhee needs to be held accountable and realize that the experienced educators are key to DCPS student success.

The Washington Teacher said...

Response to Posters:
Anonymous: I do not know the exact number of principals that have been fired in total in DCPS. I am sure it is approaching 50 because if memory serves me correctly approximately 40 plus principals were fired last school year. Good question about whether there are other actions that Rhee could take in this situation. I think that given the fact that Hart was not provided with the promised resources and supports and teaching staff as required under NCLB- all of the blame cannot be placed on this principal. It seems that this administration believes that firing is their only solution.

Anonymous # 2: I can't answer whether Rhee is qualified to be a principal.

DC Teacher Chic: What does phony have to do with anything ? Being judgemental of others is very unbecoming. Live and let live. I provide another type of forum than you do. I encourage my viewers to look at the facts and arrive at their own conclusions. BTW I hate to disappoint you but I haven't posted anonymously on your blog. I have no reason to be anonymous. Perhaps you should note that unlike many others who blog, I use my real name. Rest assured I know how to get readers to check out my blog. Thanks for stopping by. ;)

DC Teacher Chic said...

Actually "Speak the Truth," my principal gave me a TOP rating of 3 in classroom management, and I have a copy of the evaluation (thanks Ms. Nelms!) to prove it.

I'll make sure to speak about the importance of principals supporting teachers when I meet with a representative from fenty's office who has asked me for an interview. While I have not named my school in media interviews, I will certainly name my school to him.

Fellow DC Teacher said...

Washington Teacher,

You did an excellent job modeling for DC Teacher Chic on how to disagree respectfully with others.

Also, I appreciate the set up of your blog where you throw out the issues and ask for other people's opinion.

What are your opinions of Rhee taking on the additional responsibility of being a member of KJ's transition team in Sacramento? I think it is outrageous!

jmannii said...

There is too much work to be done here in DC. Rhee needs to be here fixing up special ed!

DC Teacher Chic said...

I do not believe that I was disrespectful.

DC Educator said...

What they did to that principal and that program is so similar to the story at Shadd, except Shadd hasn't gottent the media play (only God knows why.) Reading the earlier of the two recent Post articles you literally could have replaced Hart with "Shadd" when they were describing the lack of resources and the student behaviors. It's so disheartening and such a clear example of scapegoating to make up for poor mismanagement/planning on the front end.

Speak The Truth said...

Speak the truth said...
DC Teacher Chic- ,

You are extremely arrogant to sit there and judge everyone, meanwhile because you have poor class management skills the children became so out of control that you quit.

Your point that people would be mad either way— if Rhee fired the Hart principal, Kisha Webster or if she kept the inexperienced principal completely misses the point.

The larger issue here is that Rhee should not have merged two troubled schools together; appoint an unqualified principal because her first two choices didn’t want the job and Webster was the only one left; then underestimate the number of students that were to attend the school and therefore had staff shortages (still to this date); then fail to provide the social services that were promised; and finally did not give all of the expertise and supports necessary from central office to the principal and teachers to overcome all of the huge challenges that the school presented.

I know you’re mad because you did not get your salary doubled with Rhee’s contract proposal but it looks like as a green tier employee you would have been fired by now anyway.

Anonymous said...

Mac Farland,Anacostia,Hart ! We see it and know what's up ! Go Mrs. Gobel and we'll cover you as hard as we can !Special Education,teacher contract in crisis,Abolishment Statute,No self-goverance in DC ? Say watt ? This is the United States of America and we the people believe in democracy. Counsil members were exasperated with Rhee's handling of $100 million re-shuffling of school funds ? Where is the data expenditures for tax payers Mayor Fenty ?