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New Principal for Oyster-Adams

Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, caught up in a nasty dispute last month over D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's firing of principal Marta Guzman, has a new leader. Rhee, whose two daughters attend the Woodley Park school, has chosen someone with close ties to her top staff. Monica Liang Aguirre is a distinguished educator in her own right, but she is also married to Jesús Aguirre, DCPS director of operations. In her announcement of the move, Rhee took pains to point out that he holds a "non-supervisory position," meaning he won't be managing his wife.

Rhee's dismissal of Guzman, one of about two-dozen principals whose contracts were not renewed for this fall, revealed deep divisions at Oyster-Adams, the site of a popular dual language immersion program where classes from kindergarten through eighth grade are evenly divided between native Spanish and English-speaking children.

Guzman's supporters charged that she was ousted by a clique of connected parents who exploited access to a fellow parent who also happened to be chancellor. Others say Guzman's management of the school had become disorganized and unresponsive. An advisory committee of Oyster-Adams faculty also supported Rhee's decision not to renew Guzman.

Aguirre was recommended to Rhee by a panel of parents, teachers and community representatives who interviewed several applicants who had passed muster with DCPS. At least one member of the panel, Eduardo Barada, objected to the selection, saying that it smelled of cronyism. The other applicants presented to the panel by Rhee were especially weak, he said, to grease the selection of Aguirre.

"I believe everything was fixed," said Barada, an Oyster-Adams parent and co-chair of the Oyster-Adams Community Council, the PTA. "I have nothing against Monica, but it was a set up."

Aguirre is a graduate of Oberlin College with a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Like Rhee, she has roots in Teach for America, which recruits college graduates to spend two years teaching in underperforming schools. She and Jesus Aguirre founded Tertulia Pre-College Community, an Arizona charter school that serves disadvantaged Latino children. She was most recently acting executive director of Advancement of Girls Education, a nonprofit that funds scholarships for African girls.

Rhee's message June 20 to the Oyster-Adams community announcing Aguirre's appointment, effective July 1, is below:

To the Oyster-Adams Bilingual School Community:

As you know, this year we have conducted a nationwide search for the best principal candidate for Oyster-Adams Bilingual School. Thanks to many of you who have engaged in the principal selection process for Oyster by examining the candidates and making recommendations to me. I am grateful for all of your work on behalf of our students.

After carefully considering the experience and skills that research tells us good principals must have, and weighing your thoughtful recommendations, I agree with your recommendation that Monica Liang Aguirre is the strongest candidate for the Oyster principalship. You were obviously impressed with her credentials, experience, and potential for success at Oyster, and I am delighted. Monica and I worked together on a teacher preparation team 14 years ago in Houston, TX; I was impressed by her then as well. I am happy to report that she has accepted the offer of Oyster-Adams Bilingual School principal. Her official appointment will begin on July 1, 2008.

Monica's commitment to education is a family affair. Her husband, Jesús Aguirre, currently serves DCPS as Director of School Operations; his is a nonsupervisory position of principal and school support.

Thanks to everyone that participated in the principal selection process, especially the school community panel that interviewed a number of quality candidates. I wish Monica much success as she leads the Oyster community and every Oyster student towards academic success.

Michelle Rhee

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  June 24, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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Fenty and people whom he's appointed to high-profile positions are taking cronyism to new heights. Need a job? Just become friends with the mayor.

Posted by: Sick&Tired | June 24, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Cronyism = Fentyism

Posted by: Jonathan Rees | June 24, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

OH MY GOD!!!!!! I have never seen nepotism so boldly demonstrated. She might as well hire Mrs. Fenty. For this, I assure you she will not be here for seven years.

Posted by: Keon | June 24, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Does Bill Turque talk to anyone else within the Oyster-Adams community other than Mr. Barada? Is Mr. Turque interested in getting a wider range of views? His reporting is lazy. Looking at the credentials listed by Mr. Turque, it appears that Ms. Aguirre is more than qualified to head Oyster-Adams. Yet, he implies she is a crony unable to do the job. Had Mr. Turque presented her credentials first, maybe the story would have read differently. Had he talked to anyone other than an apparent malcontent, his reporting might have some semblance of impartiality. A master's degree in education from Harvard? Founded a school for disadvantaged Latino children? What more does Mr. Barada want? Is he after the principal's job? And Mr. Turque: there are 525 children at Oyster-Adams. Take Mr. Barada off your speed dial and find someone else to talk to next time you write about the school. At least you finally figured out the school was in Woodley Park, not Cleveland Park. Now, walk over there and meet someone new. It will do your writing some good to get some fresh air.

Posted by: new Oyster-Adams parent | June 24, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

The article by Bill Turque is cheap journalism. You should be embarrased to say the least, Mr. Turque. The opinions and views of the Oyster Adams community which is constituted by over 500 families, don´t represent Mr Barada´s points of view. If you were a half decent journalist, you would have bothered to call other people from Oyster and get the other half of the story. And if you had read the responses to your previous articles, you would have read that Eduardo Barada was amongst the group of parents that requested Mrs Guzman´s dismissal back in January. He´s an ignorant troublemaker that benefited from Guzman´s favours for years. That was Guzman´s style, favoritism and division, and that´s his style too!
And fyi he´s not longer the co-chair of the Oyster PTE. Thanks God for that because he did nothing during his service and left his co-chair with all the work load. If you bothered to ask people they will tell you that he put people off and that´s why the PTE meetings were so empty!
And with regards to Mrs Lian Aguirre, the staff and the parents of Oyster-Adams are thrill. Furthermore, we are very happy and grateful to Ms Rhee for allowing us to be part of such a transparent selection process.
Please Mr Turque, find another job.
A very annoyed reader.

Posted by: An Oyster parent | June 24, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm most disappointed to see that you offered Eduardo Barrada another soapbox. My own experience supports everything the previous Oyster parent wrote. I'm looking forward to a more professional atmosphere at Oyster under the new regime.

Posted by: Another Oyster Parent | June 24, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I'll add, Mr. Turque, that your own credibility as a journalist (and the Post's credibility) is compromised by your continuing to sensationalize these articles. The most believable version of events rarely comes from a community's loudmouth, but how many times have you hinted at scandal based on Mr. Barrada's allegations? Most logical people don't see conspiracies everywhere.

Posted by: Another Oyster Parent | June 24, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Turque and Post readers,
Please note that the Oyster community is very happy with the decision WE HAVE MADE to select Mrs Liang Aguirre as our new principal. After interviewing several candidates, we were most impressed by Mrs Liang Aguirre and RECOMMENDED HER to Ms Rhee who has taken our UNANIMOUS VOTE into consideration and granted our wish to appoint her as our new leader. We are very grateful to Ms Rhee for giving us the opportunity to take part into the selection process which has been fair and very transparent. WE, ELECTED PARENTS REPRESENTING THE OYSTER-ADAMS COMMUNITY have been involved from the very early stages and have been giving the opportunity to express our preferences and priorities for our school. Every OTHER parent in Oyster ALSO had the opportunity to be part of this process by providing his-her questions and concerns to the selected panel. This is a big improvement from the time we elected our last principal. Once again, THANK YOU MS RHEE FOR HELPING US IMPROVE OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM.

Posted by: AN OYSTER -ADAMS PARENT | June 24, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it smacks of cronyism, but what happens when two highly successful people both want to work for the same system? She got this job based on her impressive credentials. BTW, do any of you realize that former superintendent Massie's husband was and I think still is a principal at Lasalle ES? A few years ago, I think it was City Paper that did an article about all the families in DCPS where both husband and wife work. I remember the Joneses, Tucksons, and others. Good luck to this new principal. It sounds like a lion's den over there.

Posted by: sasha | June 25, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Earth to the Post: "Deep divisions"??? Maybe you should broaden your interviews to more than just Barrada...oh but wait. That would pretty much kill your story because you'd see that everone else is on the same page.

Posted by: oyster parent of 2 kids | June 25, 2008 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Besides the above comments by Oyster/Adams parents which I entirely agree with, what has been glaringly missing from Mr. Turque's reporting is the teachers' perspective. It is not a"lion's den" here. We are a group of highly qualified and committed bilingual educators whose first priority is the teaching and learning of our students. Unfortunately, I believe that we have not had good instructional or administrative leadership for the past 7 years (Mr. Flores first, and then Mrs. Guzman). I am frustrated at seeing the hard work of my colleagues continually thwarted. Oyster has been resting on its laurels for too long, and I think that most of us are ready to come together to rebuild our diverse learning community. As a teacher, I believe that Ms. Rhee's decision was made for objective reasons and had nothing to do with prejudice nor her daughters' presence at our school. And another point of fact: Ms. Aguirre was selected by a large panel that had no idea of her affiliations with DCPS administration. One of my colleagues was overheard saying after the "cronyism" charge was made, "I don't care if she is married to George Bush, she is definitely the best candidate!" If Mr. Turque worked half as hard at his job as we work here at Oyster/Adams he would not be writing these damaging, factually flawed articles.

Posted by: Oyster Teacher | June 26, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting that none of the "Oyster Parents" will identify themselves. I'm sorry that Mr. Barada, who who as a parent is entitled his opinion, is being derided for what may in fact be an act of bravery and truth. As a product of the 60's and an observer the story clearly is the question of is it appropriate to hire the spouse of the Chancellor or any other official for that matter. I worry for a pattern in general within the Mayor's office -- a pattern of favoritism in government. I hope the anonymous parents would write Mr. Turque directly and provide a telephone number --they may be quoted openly in the future to put forth their views.

Posted by: A Grandmother | June 29, 2008 6:30 PM | Report abuse

REfering to the comment by a Grandmother:
why don´t you give your name too??????

Posted by: An Oyste Parent | June 30, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Cronyism is what Marta Guzmán practiced for years. Mr Barada´s was her biggest beneficiary by far!

Posted by: M. I. P. | June 30, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

The note above by an Oyster teacher is the best proof that Marta Guzmán deserved to be dismissed. Her-His views represent the views of ther teachers at the School. WE all are very happy with Ms Liang Aguirre´s appointment and wish that Mr. Turque stopped publishing such nonsense articles. There are other issues in the City that deserve more attention that this, just go out and see it by yourself.

Posted by: A. L. | June 30, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

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