When DCPS fired Eastern Stewart on March 25, it made clear why. In a public statement, it cited the investigator’s admission that he lied to an interview subject by claiming that school system chief of staff Lisa Ruda wanted to quash an investigation into alleged misconduct at McKinley Technology High School.
But in the sometimes Kafkaesque world of human resources, Stewart wasn’t entitled to a reason. When labor relations chief Traci Higgins met with Stewart to explain why DCPS fired him, she said, in essence, because it could.
“I asked specifically what I did wrong. I specifically asked what policy I violated,” Stewart said in a phone conversation “They said I was an at-will probationary employee and that’s why they terminated me.”
Higgins referred a request for comment to spokeswoman Safiya Simmons, who confirmed that Stewart, hired in August, could be let go with no questions asked or answered.
“By definition, an at-will employee can be terminated at the discretion of the employer without the employer providing them with an explanation.” That doesn’t mean, she added, that there isn’t one.
Stewart was looking into the use of a $100,000 grant from AARP and other activities at McKinley, which school officials said are still under investigation. He now says he didn’t lie to anyone, and will have more to say about what happened at McKinley as soon as he gets clearance from his lawyer to talk.
“They were stupid to fire me,” he said.