Jan 29, 2014

Allegations that Orr Principal Berates Pregnant Parent and Student After Flotus Visit

Flotus visit to Orr Elementary
By Candi Peterson

An elementary school principal, Niyeka Wilson of Benjamin Orr elementary school located at 2200 Minnesota Avenue SE Washington, DC 20020 202/671-6240 may be in hot water and under investigation for disparaging comments she made on Facebook about a pregnant parent and student with respiratory problems at the school.

Here's what the DC Parent Action Consort (known as PAC) reported that Orr's principal posted on her personal Facebook wall:

"Soooo.... 1 ambulance + 3 EMT guys + 1 hyperventilating can't breathe kiddo + 4 Metro Police Officers + 1 pregnant mentally disturbed parent screaming + 2 suspensions + 1 allegation of assault by me (FML) = a DYNAMIC DUO that conquers that and continues an in progress meeting @ the same doggone time !!! Adventures of Principal Willie and Omplare S. Magass."

The Facebook post was subsequently deleted, after complaints were filed by parents.

Under the alias of DC parent Action Consort, presumably to protect the identity of Orr parents, several emails were forwarded to DC City Council members Alexander, Barry, Bonds, Cheh ,Graham, Grosso, McDuffie, Orange and Wells in an appeal seeking disciplinary action of Wilson for her misdeeds.

A December 1 email titled; Principal Berates Pregnant Parent and Student After Flotus visit.
The email reads as follows:

"Weeks after the FLOTUS fanfare at Benjamin Orr in Southeast DC, Niyeka Wilson, first year DC Public Schools (DCPS) principal at Orr, posted disparaging comments on her Facebook page toward a pregnant mother of several Orr pupils and a student that experienced severe respiratory complications.

The at-large community is outraged! Facebook is no place for knowingly, with reckless disregard, and despicable personal feelings of expressed malice, towards those Principal Wilson is employed to cultivate. It is irresponsible to state on Facebook that a "can't breathe" student and a "pregnant mentally disturbed parent screaming" as the "Adventures of Principal Willie." This has a negative impact on her ability to successfully lead reform at Orr and collaborate with parents, a mainstay of her professional duties.

Orr Elementary has a large at-risk student population, and currently in "turnaround" status. According to greatschools.org, Orr is ranked below average. How can a turnaround plan produce expected results if parents feel they have been ostracized by the principal? Consequently, good leadership and parental engagement is critical toward the successful transformation of this historical Anacostia neighborhood school.

Principal Wilson's comment is indicative of a bad leader who has failed at the primary responsibilities of leadership in service to students and parents: shaping, and fostering a vision of success, creating a hospitable school climate, and strengthening family engagement to directly enhance learning outcomes. This is not only a leadership flaw but a character flaw, too. Mrs. Wilson owes Orr parents' and community an apology.

We expect Kaya Henderson, Chancellor DCPS and Jesus Aguirre, Director of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) give serious consideration for disciplinary action for such a gross act of wanton negligence.

We ask that you impress upon Chancellor Henderson and Mr. Aguirre to act immediately."

Thank you,

DC Parent Action Consort

In a response January 15 email from DC Council member Yvette Alexander writes "If these allegations are true, I am deeply concerned with the lack of sensitivity and unprofessionalism characterized by this principal and would question their continued tenure at Orr."

Chancellor Kaya Henderson responded on January 27 to the Consort's emails apologizing for the lack of responsiveness to the complaints indicating that she and Instructional Superintendent John Davis had not been made aware of the complaints previously. Henderson writes; "If you reported this to anyone at DCPS, can you please share to whom, so we can figure out where the breakdown in communication has occurred? It would also be helpful to have any additional information that might be helpful as we investigate this situation....."

I am glad to know that there will be an investigation into this matter by the school district. I agree wholeheartedly with Council member Yvette Alexander. Assuming these allegations are confirmed, Wilson should be giving her walking papers. Anything less would be criminal and sends the wrong message that children in schools East of the River don't MATTER. We all know if this occurred at a West of the park school, heads would roll. Stay tuned for updates on Principal Wilson.