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Oyster-Adams principal calls out rude parents

Oyster-Adams Bilingual School in Woodley Park was the setting for one of last year's nastier school community disputes. In June 2008 Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, whose two daughters attend the school, fired principal Marta Guzman, along with about two-dozen other D.C. school leaders.

Guzman's dismissal aggravated ethnic and class tensions at the diverse K-8 school, where a dual language immersion program divides classes between native Spanish- and English-speaking children. The then-co-chairman of the PTA charged that Guzman was ousted by a cabal of dissatisfied and largely affluent Anglo parents who exploited their access to a school mom who also happened to be chancellor.

It looks like Guzman's successor, Monica Liang-Aguirre, is having her own issues with some Oyster-Adams parents. The Dec. 11 "Friday Folder" for school families included a stiff letter from the principal about some out-of-bounds adult behavior.

"Faculty, parents and students have witnessed parents yelling at security officers because they want to park in the turn-around at Oyster during morning drop off," Liang-Aguirre wrote. "I have been forwarded hurtful and insulting emails that were sent to teachers and staff. It pains me to say we've had parents yell at, insult, and humiliate a variety of personnel in phone conversations, conferences and in public meetings."

Liang-Aguirre reminded parents that this all fell a bit short of the official school values that they need to model for the kids: "Act with Integrity, Live Graciously, Lead by Example and Think Globally."

She essentially told parents to get a grip, and suggested several ways to "avoid the pitfalls of disrespectful communication," like asking for a meeting instead of firing off an obnoxious e-mail.
Susan Stevenson, co-chair of Oyster Adams' LSRT, said Liang-Aguirre's letter was on-target.

"I thought it was great letter," Stevenson said, appropriately aimed at a small minority of school parents. "I think a problem with our society in general is lack of civility. I just feel like we as a society need to be more kind to one another. I hate to see when people are hateful to security guards or teachers. There's no place for that."

Liang-Aguirre's message comes in the wake of grumbling over who got to go to a White House Halloween party. Oyster-Adams was one of eleven D.C. area schools given a limited number of tickets, and Liang-Aguirre had just 48 hours to submit names. Some parents later complained that they had no idea how tickets were distributed or that they were even available.

It also turned out that a "random sort" of the school's 650 students ended up awarding a ticket to one of Rhee's daughters--either fifth grader Starr and second grader Olivia, it's not clear who--meaning that the sibling and the Chancellor were also eligible to go. Rhee declined the tickets, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway.

In any event Liang-Aguirre acknowledged that it could have been handled more deftly.
"I apologize that this was not done in a more public and transparent manner," she said in her Nov. 20 Friday Folder.

Liang-Aguirre, who did not respond to phone or e-mail messages Wednesday, is an Oberlin College and Harvard Ed School graduate who co-founded an Arizona charter school that serves disadvantaged Latino children. Her husband, Jesus Aguirre, was DCPS director of operations until earlier this month when Mayor Adrian M. Fenty named him interim director of Parks and Recreation (replacing another former Rhee deputy, Ximena Hartsock).

Stevenson said she thought Liang-Aguirre was doing "a fantastic job."

--Bill Turque

By Washington Post editors  |  December 16, 2009; 4:56 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque,Education  
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Hooray! It's about time a principal had the courage to be a Leader. If only more principals followed suit!

Posted by: lk11 | December 16, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: MUPPET | December 17, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Unlike other principals or school systems, nothing will happen to this principal because Mrs. Rhee has her back.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | December 17, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Paragraph two, first sentence, contains a factual error. Oyster-Adams does NOT divide classes between native Spanish- and English-speaking children. Each classroom has approximately equal numbers of both, learning together. The kids are all taught in Spanish for half of each day, and in English for the other half. It's a great model.

Posted by: davidl99 | December 17, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Why is this news? Her letter does an appropriate and thoughtful job of reminding parents that kids learn from adults' behavior. In addition to noting rude behavior she also said Oyster-Adams students "learn about hard work and volunteering,... helping others... the power of community, passion for bilingualism and multiculturalism and strong advocacy for what you believe in" from Oyster-Adams parents. She reminded parents to be positive not negative examples. Both sides were important to her message, not just the negative.

Posted by: MarianneDC | December 17, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Hardy Middle School,

Get ready for dealing with these kinds of parents more often. While they are indeed the minority, it is true that schools west of the park have some very rude and vocal parents who think they are entitled to get what they want when they want it because they are white and affluent.

Unfortunately, at Hardy Rhee is feeding the fire by removing the principal without input from the mostly black parents of Hardy while giving in to the demands of the affluent mostly white Key, Mann and Hyde parents. This will just embolden some parents sense of entitlement and lead to this type of poor behavior.

A good leader knows how to heal divides. Rhee's ineptness makes it much worse.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | December 17, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Isn't this typical behavior at youth league soccer matches? Don't get it twisted all of them are not an Elin Woods...and have a temper. It just take one Laila Ali type momma to squash the whole that old hip hop song by LL Cool J "Momma said knock you out."

Posted by: PowerandPride | December 18, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

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