The District’s top school official removed the principal at Ballou Senior High School from her post Monday amid allegations the Southeast Washington school graduated students who were chronically absent and others who could scarcely read and write, officials announced.
The action came less than a week after Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson had given Ballou Principal Yetunde Reeves a vote of approval.
An article published last week by WAMU and NPR said the school awarded diplomas to seniors who did not meet graduation requirements and that administrators pressured teachers to pass students. The school system and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education are conducting investigations to determine what potentially went awry at Ballou.
“We take this issue very seriously, and we know that policies must be explained clearly and implemented with fidelity,” Wilson wrote in a Monday news release. “This investigation will restore integrity to the process by providing students, parents and the broader community with answers.”
Reeves has been assigned to “another function in the district,” according to the news release.
Reeves did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Monday evening.
The school system named Willie Jackson, principal of Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School — and a Ballou alumnus — as principal of Ballou until the investigation is completed and a permanent leader is named. Jackson is expected to return to Phelps once a permanent principal is selected for Ballou.
It’s unclear what prompted the chancellor to reverse his earlier position that he had no plans to remove Reeves, who has led Ballou since 2014.
“I personally believe Principal Reeves should be renewed based on my visits with the school,” Wilson said at a news conference Wednesday.
D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman Kristina Saccone would not say Monday whether public pressure or findings in the investigation might have prompted the chancellor to reassign Reeves.
“The investigation is ongoing, and we are not going to speak to details until we have results,” Saccone said.
The investigation is expected to be completed within 45 days, school district authorities said.
The WAMU-NPR report found that a majority of Ballou’s 2017 graduating class missed more than six weeks of school. D.C. school policy dictates that students will fail a class if they are absent 30 times.
The school posted a graduation rate of 64 percent in 2017, up from 50 percent in 2012. The school also showed steady improvement in its Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores, a standardized test.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said last week that the citywide investigation will look into adherence to attendance and graduation policies throughout the District.