The chief of D.C.’s secondary schools has been removed from her post, making her the highest-ranking official to be relieved of duties following an investigation into whether Ballou High School in Southeast Washington improperly graduated students.
D.C. schools spokeswoman Kristina Saccone said officials placed Jane Spence, the secondary schools chief, on administrative leave, but would not say when or if she would return to her job. Saccone would also not say when Spence was placed on leave.
All middle and high school principals report to Spence, who works out of D.C. Public Schools headquarters.
Spence did not immediately reply to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
The school system removed Ballou Assistant Principal Shamele Straughter last week. Reached Monday evening, Straughter declined to comment.
Ballou’s principal, Yetunde Reeves, was reassigned to the school system’s headquarters in December pending the results of the investigation. Chancellor Antwan Wilson announced last week — at the same time the first part of a District investigation into D.C.’s graduation practices was released — that Reeves would not be returning to the school. Neither Reeves nor her attorney responded to a request for comment last week.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education said in its initial report that Ballou’s administrators told teachers that a high percentage of their students were expected to pass and encouraged educators to provide makeup work and extra credit to students, no matter how much school they missed. As a result, Ballou graduated students who missed large portions of the school year — a violation of city policy.
The investigation was prompted by a November article by WAMU and NPR that said Ballou seniors who did not meet graduation requirements were still given diplomas. While the WAMU-NPR article focused on Ballou, the report from the state superintendent’s office examined attendance and grading practices across the city, determining that truancy is more severe at neighborhood schools such as Ballou than in charter or application schools.
Before working at D.C. Public Schools, Spence spent 13 years in Prince George’s County Public Schools, according to her biography. She was named Maryland’s high school principal of the year in 2011 while leading Bowie High School.