Keeping Pope alive
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's office says its policy is to answer all letters. But after waiting nearly two months for a mayoral response, a group of about 120 seventh graders and teachers from Hardy Middle School decided on more direct action Thursday morning.
Their campaign started in the second week of December, a few days after Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced the replacement of popular principal Patrick Pope. The decision triggered bitter criticism from parents and faculty, who contended that Rhee was trying to squeeze African-American kids out of the newly renovated school. It's a charge vehemently disputed by Rhee. She said she wanted Pope to begin developing a new middle-school arts magnet elsewhere in the city and also hoped that the new leadership of Hardy, which is in Georgetown, could more effectively market the school to neighborhood families.
But Pope's ouster hit some of the kids hard, so they wrote to Fenty asking him to reconsider. When they got no answer, they wrote another round of letters and hopped the number 36 Metrobus to the Wilson Building (two buses, actually, with boys and girls separated) to deliver them personally.
They climbed the front steps of the Wilson Building chanting "Pope! Pope! Pope! and flashing signs such as "Don't Smash Hope, Keep Principal Pope." Security guards allowed English teacher Janelle Henry to take three students to Fenty's third-floor offices with the shopping bag full of letters.
Ashley Marshall, the new director of Fenty's correspondence unit, said she didn't know what happened to the first batch of letters, but promised a response to the latest group.
Pope, who founded the highly regarded visual arts and instrumental music program at Hardy, is scheduled to be replaced this summer by Dana Nerenberg, principal of nearby Hyde-Addison Elementary, who will run both schools. Henry said that the none of the Hardy faculty pushed the kids into trip -- although she is using the letter-writing effort as a class assignment.
"None of this has anything to do with the teachers," she said. The student reps agreed.
"We wanted to have our voices heard," said Asia, 12.
Shannon, also a 12-year-old seventh grader, said of Pope: "He knows everybody's name, and he keeps us under control."
While Fenty wasn't available, Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) invited the entire group out of the cold and into a first-floor room, where he held an hour-long impromptu version of one of his "youth hearings." Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) joined him on the dais, which was taped by Channel 13 for future broadcast. Gray's spokeswoman,Doxie McCoy, said Gray also planned to send a letter to Fenty registering his support for Pope.
Update at 6:20 p.m.:
DCPS spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway sent over this statement:
"We appreciate our Hardy students' passion for their school and we understand why they will miss Principal Pope. Students should absolutely share their point-of-view and we look forward to continuing this dialogue.
Changes in top personnel have been made to take the most advantage of the leadership talent available to DCPS. Mr. Pope will remain principal of Hardy for the rest of this school year, and then will leave to lead a new citywide arts magnet school to open in 2011. "
Follow D.C. Schools Insider every day at http://washingtonpost.com/dcschoolsinsider.
For all the Post's Education coverage, please see http://washingtonpost.com/education. Or follow us on our Facebook fan page, or on our Twitter feed "PostSchools".
February 4, 2010; 4:35 PM ET
| Tags: Adrian Fenty, Hardy Middle School, Michelle Rhee, Patrick Pope replaced, Vincent C.Gray
Save & Share: Previous: DCPS feeling IMPACT?
Next: Early dismissal Friday
Posted by: incredulous | February 4, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: modern1 | February 4, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DEDICATEDEDUCATOR | February 4, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: edlharris | February 5, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: candycane1 | February 5, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: aby1 | February 5, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: aby1 | February 5, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ame_hr | February 5, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: onemorecardandits22 | February 5, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.