Sunday, October 12, 2008

More on Shepherd Elementary School firing

Earl Yates, the President of the Shepherd Elementary School PTA has released the following letter regarding the recent dismissal of Shepherd's Principal Dr. BenZion.
Dear Colleagues:

At a meeting (requested previously by Chancellor Rhee) at the school at 3:30 today, Ms. Clara Carty, Instructional Supervisor for DCPS Cluster II, which includes Shepherd, informed assembled teachers and parents that Dr. Principal BenZion had been dismissed earlier today "for unforeseen reasons." There was no suggestion that the dismissal was related to school management, instructional outcomes or any other objective measures of performance.

Recall that Dr. BenZion is the principal whom Chancellor Rhee appointed effective July 1 of this year, not heeding the School Panel's recommendation of candidates who were experienced DCPS teachers and administrators. Given her appointment, however, the school community worked closely with the Dr. BenZion to effect a leadership transition aimed at ensuring a high-performance school year by the entire school community.

Parents and teachers at this afternoon's meeting expressed their shock, frustration, and anger at this action as a cynical decision - announced at the end of the school day before a 3-day week-end - that will AGAIN disrupt and set back the work of our teachers, learning by our children, and the trust of this community in the judgment and professionalism of the Chancellor and her DCPS lieutenants.

Ms. Carty agreed to convey to the Chancellor the request by parents and teachers present at the meeting that Chancellor Rhee come to the school to explain her reasons for dismissing Dr. BenZion, and her expectation of its impact on the education of our children this second year in a row in which Shepherd loses a principal during the school year.

We asked, in fact, that the Chancellor - along with Councilwoman Bowser and Mayor Fenty - come to our PTA meeting on Wednesday, October 15 to explain this decision.


In response to those parents who have already asked what we do now, I do not have any magic answers, but I think we dare not wait until sometime next week for the Chancellor or other dispatched DCPS officials to come and offer equally preposterous explanations of why our school year has again been short-circuited by a decision that appears unwarranted and is clearly ill-advised.

Ms. Carty distributed a letter from the Chancellor that offered no more meaningful explanation than "it is difficult for me to tell you that Galeet BenZion will no longer be the principal of Shepherd." The letter also said that the Chancellor has "appointed," with no consultation, no school/community input, a new principal, who has no experience as a principal, nor DCPS teaching experience.

My personal view - we don't need an appointed Principal Coach at this point. We need back in office the principal in whom we had seen a commitment to increasing academic excellence at Shepherd, and who had - apparently to her peril- advocated strongly for her school to have the resources that DCPS is reasonably expected to provide to facilitate that.

It will be hard to sit through this three-day week-end just accepting this bad decision and its certain consequences. I will check on arranging meeting space - maybe at the library on Georgia Avenue, maybe Saturday, maybe Monday - to allow for an exchange of ideas on strategies for the way forward. I welcome your suggestions. Thanks. EARL

Earl Yates


Parent Teacher Association

Shepherd Elementary School
Bill Torque blogging at the Post has more.


incredulous said...

"Recall that Dr. BenZion is the principal whom Chancellor Rhee appointed effective July 1 of this year, not heeding the School Panel's recommendation of candidates who were experienced DCPS teachers and administrators"

Mr. Yates, with the second long phrase, beginning "not heeding the School Panel...." you discounted the value of everything else you wrote, and every appreciation of your BenZion. How very unfortunate for the kids and supportive teachers, staff and parents at Shepherd.
Why did you do it Mr. Yates? Did you feel you needed to show how important you are as a parent leader at the school? With reminders such as contained in that phrase, you signaled that BenZion didn't have 100% support. There were still parents and or staff noting every mistake she made, complaining and reporting them to buddies Downtown.
How very sad for the students, teachers, and BenZion. Kids at Shepherd had a chance with a principal who could see dimensions of development and performance so far beyond filling in the bubbles on the tests.
And you screwed the pooch.

Anonymous said...

I thought his point was that this was Rhee's hand-picked person -- not someone she could claim was foisted on her by parents, teachers, etc.

The phrase reinforces the general theme that Rhee is arbitrary, unresponsive, and irresponsible. She even reverses her own opinions (which nevertheless trump everyone else's opinions) quickly and without credible explanations.

incredulous said...

When former Shepherd ES principal Galeet BenZion last Friday wrote of her firing: "According to the Chancellor I am not the right fit to this community," it reflected actions by some in that community, probably incessant fault-finding, calls and emails to Downtown. Those are the irritants the Chancellor told a surprised Wilson HS PTA meeting last March caused her to take over the school with assignment of a veteran Chancellor's "Special Assistant".

Every appointment of a new principal is Downtown's; and every principal has been on notice from their first meeting with the Chancellor that they serve at her will, without tenure rights. Every parent could have known that from the dismissals of principals at the end of SY07-08. And even before then, from the takeover of Wilson HS last March by an on-site Chancellor's "Special Assistant."
In summary: Every appointment is Downtown's,so Mr. Yates was not restating the obvious, that Downtown was replacing at midyear its own appointee. Only those claiming to have legitimate authority announce after a debacle that they have not been "heeded." Mr. Yates at once reasserted a claim of local hiring authority and explained why BenZion was subverted by some in the Shepherd community: The Chancellor had not followed the local recommendation.

A likely explanation for the new, midyear, Shepherd ES principal appointment? Sharp enrollment declines in DCPS and looming budget shortfalls of enormous magnitude due to recent spendthrift ways compounded by new and soon-to-be-announced tax revenue shortfalls.
Implication? Staff positions such as "principal coach", a slot the new appointee came from, cannot be carried any longer. Time to protect some of those staff in the safe harbors of line positions at the local school level.
And, what safer harbor than to Shepherd ES, where a 6th principal in 25 months --next July -- would be educationally unthinkable?