The president of the union representing D.C. public school principals is alleging that D.C. Superintendent Clifford B. Janey dismissed several school leaders this spring without adequate warning.
Bernard C. Lucas Sr., who heads the Council of School Officers, said the principals of Ballou Senior High and Beers Elementary were let go without having received notice that their jobs were in jeopardy. Lucas said he was contacted by three other principals -- whom he declined to identify -- who had similar complaints.
School system officials declined to say how many principals lost their jobs at the end of the school year or to discuss individual cases, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters.
Tenure for D.C. principals was eliminated in the 1980s, and the school leaders typically work under a year-to-year arrangement.
In a recent letter to Janey, Lucas said the school system may have violated its collective-bargaining agreement with the union by failing to provide the principals with the results of full evaluations indicating whether they were performing "within a broad framework of acceptability." That three-year agreement expired last fall, however, and the union and school system are preparing to negotiate a new one.
Lucas, who is demanding a meeting with Janey, conceded that the union may not have strong legal grounds to challenge the dismissals. An arbitrator in the past has ruled that a superintendent has the right to dismiss principals even if they received positive evaluations.
Lucas said the problem of principals being let go predates Janey's appointment as superintendent last August.
"This is the third year DCPS management failed to implement the evaluation process," he said. "Without an evaluation, the dismissals seem to be arbitrary. What standards are you using to move people in and out?"
During an April meeting with Washington Post reporters and editors, Janey said that 25 to 40 percent of the system's 140 or so principals "are not the caliber they need to be."
He said that some principals were hurting the school system's efforts to control special-education costs, by referring special-needs students to private facilities and by failing to curb lawsuits from parents seeking such placements for their children.
Janey said at the meeting that although he expected some principals to improve through "rigorous development," others would have to be replaced through "an involuntary separation."
Emily Y. Washington, a longtime community activist in Southeast Washington, where Ballou and Beers are, said she applauded Janey's dismissals.
"I think it's a credit to the District that we have a superintendent who has the courage to make necessary changes that will lead to school improvement," said Washington, who teaches reading at Luke Moore Academy Senior High School in Northeast.
The principals dismissed at Ballou and Beers said they are considering filing appeals.
Daniel Hudson was hired at Ballou last fall, after a tumultuous academic year during which a student was fatally shot at the school and a mercury contamination by students kept the building closed for a month. Hudson, who had previously been the principal of a northwest Pennsylvania school, said in an interview that as soon as he arrived at Ballou, he found teachers habitually showing up late or not coming to school, students roaming the hallways during classes and a central administration unresponsive to his pleas for help.
He said he received a preliminary evaluation in March that showed he had passed in four of seven categories. The categories in which he received low scores were related to student achievement, he said.
"Why didn't the superintendent try to communicate with me if he had a problem with me?" Hudson said. "If he was dissatisfied with my performance, there should have been some kind of process to help me improve. None of that happened."
Anthony A. Fears, who was principal at Beers for four years, said he was evaluated earlier this year but never received the results of the assessment. He said the school had met academic benchmarks the last few years and that he had introduced a musical theater program and established a partnership with NASA.
Hudson will be replaced by Karen Smith, according to Jacquelyn Davis, D.C. director of New Leaders for New Schools, a principal-training program from which Smith recently graduated. Smith previously was assistant principal at McKinley Technology High School in Northeast Washington and a teacher at Cardozo Senior High School in Northwest, Davis said.