The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

One in four D.C. public schools has a new principal this year

Eva Steinman, 6, walks with her father, Jon Steinman, following Eva's first day of school at Cleveland Elementary School on Aug. 24 in Washington, D.C. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

One in four D.C. public schools started the school year this week with a new principal, continuing a pattern of high turnover in the District’s traditional public schools.

Schools under new leadership included five of the city’s high schools and three dual-language schools. The list also includes three new schools that opened this year.

High turnover has been a persistent concern among many parents and teachers in the District, who say inconsistency promotes instability and undermines progress and confidence in the system. Last summer, D.C. public schools announced 21 new principals for the school system’s 111 schools. By comparison, Montgomery County had 23 new principals in a system with 203 schools.

Principals left for different reasons, including retirement and personal reasons. Some left abruptly, including Peter Cahall, who resigned from Wilson High School in the middle of the year after sending a letter to the D.C. Council saying he was not going to be reappointed because of test scores. Ivor Mitchell, principal at Roosevelt High School, left in the spring citing family reasons. Since then, the school system has appointed two different interim principals while it looks for a permanent replacement.

Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said some principals are being moved into different roles in the school system and some are being promoted within their schools or at different schools. “All turnover is not bad turnover,” she said.

Many of the newly appointed principals are graduates from the school system’s new principal training program, the Mary Jane Patterson Fellowship, so they are familiar with the curriculum and the “DCPS way,” she said.

“I feel more comfortable about principal turnover this year than I have ever before,” she said. “I feel like this group of principals will hit the ground running.”

Henderson announced last spring that the school district would begin offering three-year appointments to high performing principals in exchange for an agrement that they would stay in their schools for three years, a nod to community concerns and the notion that it takes time to build relationships and begin to see progress.

Some high-performing principals to get three-year appointments

In all, 22 principals were offered the longer contracts. Decisions were based on principal evaluations that were introduced in 2012-2013 and sort the school leaders into performance categories according to school-wide achievement goals and a “leadership framework” that evaluates performance in various areas, including family engagement, instruction and operations.

The principal evaluations have been controversial in part because they have yielded low results for many District school leaders and can lead to termination.

In the 2013-2014 school year, the largest number of principals were rated “minimally effective.” Seven principals were rated “ineffective.”

Here are the new principal appointments this year:

See full list of names and bios for new principal appointments this school year

Abdullah Zaki — Dunbar SHS

Aimee Pressley — River Terrace

Alethea Bustillo — Bruce-Monroe ES

Alysia Lutz — Janney ES

Angel Hunter – King ES

Annie Mair (interim principal) – Payne ES

Arthur Mola – Bancroft ES

Courtney Aldridge – Johnson MS

Cynthia Robinson-Rivers — Van Ness ES

Davia Walker – Thomas ES

Elena Bell — Peabody-Watkins ES

Felicia Owo – Smothers ES

Jada Langston – Luke C. Moore Academy HS

Jade Brawley – Shepherd ES

Kara Kuchemba — Bunker Hill ES

Kim Martin — Wilson SHS

Kortni Stafford – Kelly Miller MS

Loren Brody – Takoma EC

Malaika Golden – Aiton ES

Megan Vroman – West EC

Norah Lycknell — Brookland MS

O’Kiyyah Lyons-Lucas – Powell ES

Rinaldo Murray (interim principal) – Washington Metropolitan

Roman Smith – Kramer MS

Sah Brown (interim principal) – Roosevelt HS

Sharon Holmes – Simon ES

Sundai Riggins – Hendley ES

Zara Berry-Young – Malcolm X