22 Assistant Principals Are Latest to Be Fired

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 19, 2008

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee fired 22 assistant principals this week, her second round of school administrative terminations, which came about a month after her dismissal of 24 principals.

Rhee, who previously said some of the principals were dismissed because she differed on the direction in which they were taking the schools, offered no reason for firing the assistant principals. Although the administrative leaders work on year-to-year contracts and can be fired without cause under D.C. law, an official with the principals union said the action appears to violate the contract because many of the assistant principals were not given a required evaluation.

In March, after the D.C. Council gave Rhee the authority to reclassify hundreds of employees in the central office, she fired 98 people. Last fall, when Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) sought the reclassification, Rhee said she wanted the same authority to fire ineffective teachers.

Mafara Hobson, Rhee's spokeswoman, wrote yesterday in an e-mail: "Both principals and assistant principals serve at the will of the chancellor. The decisions were made based on the chancellor's consultation with principals and instructional superintendents." Hobson said 22 of 60 assistant principals were dismissed. She declined to elaborate, citing personnel policies.

Aona Jefferson, executive vice president of the Council of School Officers, the union representing principals and assistant principals, said 46 dismissals surpass the number of administrative leaders let go during any year in the past.

"They were given no evaluation in some cases," an apparent violation of the contract, Jefferson said, adding that the union has filed a class-action grievance against Rhee.

"All persons have the right to know why they were not reappointed and on what basis were the decisions made," Jefferson said. "These appear to be random, arbitrary, political, discriminatory and personal in nature."

Rhee has not responded to two requests the union made last month seeking information on the principal firings, Jefferson said.

Rhee's letter, which the assistant principals received Tuesday and yesterday, said in part: "I'm writing to provide you with notice of my decision not to reappoint you to the position of assistant principal with the District of Columbia Public Schools for the 2008-09 school year. The action is effective at the close of business on June 30, 2008."

The letter said the assistant principals are to perform their duties until June 30, when they will be required to vacate their offices and surrender school property to instructional superintendents.

Assistant principals have gone "beyond the call of duty and this is the thanks they get," Jefferson said.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company