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Rhee's Proposed School Contractor Under Federal Probe

School activists are buzzing about allegations surrounding the head of St. HOPE Public Schools, one of six nonprofit education organizations that Chancellor Michelle Rhee is considering hiring to overhaul some of the 10 D.C. high schools in restructuring.

Circulating through listserves are articles from the Sacramento Bee alleging that St. HOPE founder and four-time NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson is under federal investigation for having an inappropriate relationship with a teenaged girl -- an allegation which the retired Phoenix Suns point guard denies.

The negative publicity apparently has not hampered plans for Johnson to appear at a meeting Saturday with parents and teachers at Eastern High School, where he is scheduled to describe his school in Sacramento and how his program -- St. HOPE stands for Help Our People Excel --can boost achievement in the troubled Capitol Hill school.

The Saturday event will be Johnson's third attempt to meet at the school. He initially scheduled a meeting in November. But parents and teachers didn't find out that the meeting was canceled until they showed up there, said Mark Roy, community member of the local school restructuring team which advises the principal.

"There was a miscommunication -- no one informed the invitees," Roy said. "People were upset."
The meeting was postponed to early this month. But that meeting also was canceled, Roy said, because Johnson had a scheduling conflict.

Rhee is under pressure from the U.S. Department of Education to devise a plan for fixing a total of 27 schools in "restructuring" -- schools where students failed for five consecutive years to make adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind law. Under the law, she can select among five courses of action: hire an educational firm to run the schools; convert them into charter schools; turn them over to the state, or in D.C.'s case the Office of the State Superintendent of Education; replace the staff; or try something else.

Roy says he thinks that Rhee, who previously served on the St. HOPE board, should pass on the organization until the probe of Johnson is complete.

"If there's smoke, there's fire," Roy said. "Once they get a clean bill of health, they can come back."

Dion Haynes

By Dion Haynes  |  April 29, 2008; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Education  
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