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Shepherd Parents Meet to Consider Next Move

Parents at Shepherd Elementary, upset by the abrupt dismissal Friday of principal Galeet BenZion, will meet this evening to formulate a response to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

Leaders of the school's PTA will ask parents to vote on a series of resolutions that would roll back the firing and essentially place BenZion on probation--and under the direction of principal "coach" Jamie Miles--until Feb. 1, when her status would be reassessed.

BenZion's sudden departure, announced late Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend, has exasperated Shepherd parents, who have now been through four principals in the last year. Rhee, who is scheduled to meet with Shepherd parents on Thursday night, has not provided a reason for firing BenZion, her handpicked choice in July to lead the high-achieving school. DCPS, citing confidentiality laws, generally does not discuss specific reasons for firing administrators.

Another resolution under consideration tonight asks Rhee to provide details of the decision to dismiss BenZion to PTA president Earl Yates; local school restructuring team chair Rhonda Davis-Smith; Board of Education member and Shepherd parent Sekou Biddle; Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and an unidentified DCPS parent.
If after discussing the details, "they advise the Shepherd PTA it is in the best interests of the Shepherd School community" that BenZion not return, Rhee would affirm the appointment of Miles as interim principal and begin a national search.

Bill Turque

By Marcia Davis  |  October 15, 2008; 12:57 PM ET
Categories:  Education  
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Small clarification: Counting Ms. Miles, we are now on our 6th principal since last December.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 15, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

5 principals in 12 months! Rhee has been top dog for over 12 months so she really has shown poor judgment many many times at this one school!

The poor students. This sounds like adults putting adult issues before the children.
Too much stress, drama and instability....

I think in addition to having principal coaches in DCPS we also need a chancellor coach. Clearly inexperience is at work here.

Posted by: AL | October 15, 2008 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Maybe chancellor rhee's administration is different in this case, too, but don't principal coaches have to have been principals in order to coach other principals? Or are chosen people going to be continuously promoted to positions just outside of being teachers?
Miles was a coach last year in one of the clusters under Barbara Adderley. She was in charge of testing for the cluster. Never did she run a school. How is she more qualified to be an interim than the principal who not only holds a doctoral degree but was already in place and abruptly snatched out by chancellor rhee, who named herself a 'benevolent dictator?' How could a hand-picked choice go wrong in in three months? If there is a problem, didn't they check references prior?

Posted by: southyrndiva | October 15, 2008 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Incredulous offers this explanation for the new principal's assignment:

Burrowing in to protect the employment of the new principal:

A likely explanation for the new, midyear, Shepherd ES principal appointment? Sharp enrollment declines in DCPS and looming budget shortfalls of enormous magnitude due to recent spendthrift ways compounded by new and soon-to-be-announced tax revenue shortfalls.
Implication? Staff positions such as "principal coach", a slot the new appointee came from, cannot be carried any longer. Time to protect some of those staff in the safe harbors of line positions at the local school level.
And, what safer harbor than to Shepherd ES, where a 6th principal in 25 months --next July -- would be educationally unthinkable?

This won't be the last one.

Posted by: Incredulous | October 16, 2008 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Hey Bill... isn't DC life grand but a challenge!!!

My daughter attends Shepherd, and I am one very passionate by the oves Rhee makes, but this one hit home and upset my daughter and just mind-boggles us all... its not necessarily the firing with me... but more the staff and children having to adjust to 5 leaders in one years time... I hope this pricipal is the one!

Posted by: mrshaight | October 16, 2008 11:48 PM | Report abuse

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