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Posted at 05:32 PM ET, 12/10/2009

What did Kaya Henderson say and when didn't she say it?

One of the reasons Hardy Middle School parents and staff were so angered by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's Dec. 4 announcement that she was replacing respected principal Patrick Pope was that it seemed to contradict prior assurances that Pope would remain in place.

At the raucous Dec. 4 meeting in the school cafeteria, Hardy LSRT member Keenan Keller confronted Rhee with news that deputy chancellor Kaya Henderson was on record ruling out any leadership change. Keller said she was asked about it at a meeting of the NAACP's Washington D.C. branch.

"There was a direct question put to your deputy chancellor," Keller said.

Henderson, who read Keller's assertion in The Post, said she made no such statement. "I don't mind being in the newspaper, but I like it to be for something that I said," Henderson said.

Keller said this week his information came from two people who heard Henderson: NAACP branch president Lorraine Miller and D.C. Vote public affairs director Eugene Kinlow. Miller did not return a phone message. Kinlow was less definitive when contacted Thursday.

"I can't really recall if it was a specific Hardy question or a generic question about moving principals around, so I really can't speak to it."

It turns out that your D.C. Wire correspondent was also at the NAACP meeting, although it took a few days for him to figure that out. It was held Nov. 12 at Israel Baptist Church, but when Keller described the event to the Hardy audience on Dec. 4, he said it was "last week," leaving your correspondent--who is easily confused--with the idea that he was talking about a different event.

He doesn't remember Henderson saying word one about Hardy.

Rhee wants to attract more neighborhood families to the Georgetown school, which currently draws much of its 70 percent minority enrollment from across the city. She has said that Pope, who pioneered Hardy's arts and music program, was not as effective as he might have been in marketing Hardy as a neighborhood school.

Still, the Hardy community did have reason to believe that Pope would stay.

Charlotte Brookins-Hudson, former Hardy parent and PTA president, received a Nov. 3 e-mail from William Yukstas, a member of Rhee's staff, who said the school would remain open to out of boundary students and that Pope would stay as principal.

"This is not set to change in any way nor will school leadership," Yukstas wrote.

Rhee, asked by Keller about the e-mail at the Hardy meeting, said: "We wanted to make sure we were able to communicate to the Hardy community at one time, with me being able to explain exactly what was happening. So we were waiting for this time in order to do that, so people could ask questions and I could answer them."

"So let me be clear," said Keller, whose day job is majority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. "You actually had your staff misrepresent the position rather than saying we can't make an announcement now?"

"That's absolutely our fault for not being clear about the fact that there was an announcement to be made," said Rhee.

--Bill Turque

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By Washington Post editors  |  05:32 PM ET, 12/10/2009

Categories:  Bill Turque,Education

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