D.C. public schools officials reported in late May that 16 city schools would open this fall with new principals. Since then, one of those schools reported a sharp rise in test scores and its principal was reappointed. But nine additional principals are departing due to retirement, resignation or “non-reappointment.”
That means that at least 24 of the District’s 112 schools — about a fifth of them — will see leadership turnover this year. That figure, which excludes the 13 schools that closed in June, is lower than in the recent past: 27 percent of D.C. schools opened with new principals in each of the past two years, according to data compiled by longtime D.C. education watchdog Mary Levy.
Still, principal turnover remains far higher than in neighboring suburban school systems, a fact that parents and education activists say has led to instability and stalled improvement in too many schools. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has said that training, recruiting and keeping strong leaders is key if the school system is to continue making gains.
“More than anything else, we need to get the right people leading our schools,” Henderson said recently, speaking about Tubman Elementary’s gains under Principal Harry Hughes over the past five years. “Consistency of leadership is really important.”
Tubman is one of the nine schools that lost its principal since May. Hughes was promoted to instructional superintendent and has been replaced by Amanda Delabar, previously an assistant principal at Columbia Heights Education Campus.
The other eight schools, according to reports from parents, school officials and departing principals, are: Aiton Elementary, Cleveland Elementary, C.W. Harris Elementary, Miner Elementary, Stanton Elementary, Stoddert Elementary, Tyler Elementary and Hardy Middle.
Officials had initially named Nalle Elementary Principal Kim Burke among those to be replaced. But test scores released late last month showed that the school had made some of the city’s largest gains, including an increase in math proficiency of 27 percentage points.
Burke has now been reappointed, school system officials said Wednesday. They declined to explain that decision or confirm that it was related to test scores, citing a policy against discussing personnel matters.
That may not be the final word. The school system’s most recent organizational chart was published in June and officials have not released a comprehensive list of new school leaders.
The principal at H.D. Woodson High, Richard Jackson, fell ill this summer and is out on medical leave. Officials tapped Darrin Slade — who has been a DCPS principal in Ward 7 for more than a decade, most recently at the now-closed Ron Brown Middle School — to lead Woodson in Jackson’s absence.
Slade’s appointment triggered resistance from some parents and teachers, who circulated an online petition arguing that DCPS officials should have sought input from the school community before making a decision.
Woodson teacher Maxine Elbert, the school’s union representative, said after meeting with Slade that she feels hopeful the school year will get off to a good start under his leadership.
“I think he’s going to be good for the building on the discipline side, helping get behavior with some of the students in order,” Elbert said. “I’m very hopeful.”