Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, caught up in a nasty dispute last month over D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's firing of principal Marta Guzman, has a new leader. Rhee, whose two daughters attend the Woodley Park school, has chosen someone with close ties to her top staff. Monica Liang Aguirre is a distinguished educator in her own right, but she is also married to JesÃºs Aguirre, DCPS director of operations. In her announcement of the move, Rhee took pains to point out that he holds a "non-supervisory position," meaning he won't be managing his wife.
Rhee's dismissal of Guzman, one of about two-dozen principals whose contracts were not renewed for this fall, revealed deep divisions at Oyster-Adams, the site of a popular dual language immersion program where classes from kindergarten through eighth grade are evenly divided between native Spanish and English-speaking children.
Guzman's supporters charged that she was ousted by a clique of connected parents who exploited access to a fellow parent who also happened to be chancellor. Others say Guzman's management of the school had become disorganized and unresponsive. An advisory committee of Oyster-Adams faculty also supported Rhee's decision not to renew Guzman.
Aguirre was recommended to Rhee by a panel of parents, teachers and community representatives who interviewed several applicants who had passed muster with DCPS. At least one member of the panel, Eduardo Barada, objected to the selection, saying that it smelled of cronyism. The other applicants presented to the panel by Rhee were especially weak, he said, to grease the selection of Aguirre.
"I believe everything was fixed," said Barada, an Oyster-Adams parent and co-chair of the Oyster-Adams Community Council, the PTA. "I have nothing against Monica, but it was a set up."
Aguirre is a graduate of Oberlin College with a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Like Rhee, she has roots in Teach for America, which recruits college graduates to spend two years teaching in underperforming schools. She and Jesus Aguirre founded Tertulia Pre-College Community, an Arizona charter school that serves disadvantaged Latino children. She was most recently acting executive director of Advancement of Girls Education, a nonprofit that funds scholarships for African girls.
Rhee's message June 20 to the Oyster-Adams community announcing Aguirre's appointment, effective July 1, is below:
To the Oyster-Adams Bilingual School Community:
As you know, this year we have conducted a nationwide search for the best principal candidate for Oyster-Adams Bilingual School. Thanks to many of you who have engaged in the principal selection process for Oyster by examining the candidates and making recommendations to me. I am grateful for all of your work on behalf of our students.
After carefully considering the experience and skills that research tells us good principals must have, and weighing your thoughtful recommendations, I agree with your recommendation that Monica Liang Aguirre is the strongest candidate for the Oyster principalship. You were obviously impressed with her credentials, experience, and potential for success at Oyster, and I am delighted. Monica and I worked together on a teacher preparation team 14 years ago in Houston, TX; I was impressed by her then as well. I am happy to report that she has accepted the offer of Oyster-Adams Bilingual School principal. Her official appointment will begin on July 1, 2008.
Monica's commitment to education is a family affair. Her husband, JesÃºs Aguirre, currently serves DCPS as Director of School Operations; his is a nonsupervisory position of principal and school support.
Thanks to everyone that participated in the principal selection process, especially the school community panel that interviewed a number of quality candidates. I wish Monica much success as she leads the Oyster community and every Oyster student towards academic success.