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Hardy parents turn up rhetorical heat in fight with Rhee

Hardy Middle School parents angry about the ouster of principal Patrick Pope have accused her of attempting to "segregate" attendance at the school.

The charge comes as the group intensifies its campaign to force Rhee to reverse her decision, which is effective in June. They've met or scheduled meetings with almost every member of the D.C. Council. On Monday, they plan to rally at Freedom Plaza and speak at the council's DCPS oversight hearing. There will be another protest Friday, March 19th, this one at the school.

The temperature of their rhetoric is also starting to soar. Here is a paragraph from the press advisory announcing next week's plans:

"This is a schedule of upcoming rallies and protests to express outrage with Michelle Rhee's ill-conceived decision to remove longstanding principal from Hardy Middle school and institute admission changes to segregate attendance. The Hardy Community is OUTRAGED that Hardy has been targeted for unwarranted destruction!"

Nayada Cowherd, the contact person listed on the press advisory, did not return an e-mail message. Same for Hardy LSRT chairman Keenan Keller.

Rhee has said that she wants to attract more neighborhood families to the Georgetown school, which currently draws a majority African-American population from across the District. The results to date have not been encouraging, but she says it's still early to know if her plan is working.

The dispute has created what some other Hardy parents describe privately as an increasingly shrill and even intimidating atmosphere. Some fear that the struggle to reinstate Pope will ultimately tear the school apart.

"I think there is definitely another side to what folks are thinking about Pope's departure but you aren't going to get anyone to be very vocal in the current environment," wrote one who asked not to be named. "The best thing [Rhee] could do is remove Pope immediately, so the school can get on with the healing and transition process. That would show to incoming and returning parents that there is plenty of time for things to settle down before the new school year."

Rhee says she wants the school, which has relied almost exclusively on an application process for enrollment, to fill out-of-boundary seats through the annual on-line lottery. Good faith completion of the application, which includes a commitment to the school uniform policy and a parental promise to participate in the school community, would remain a condition of enrollment, according to DCPS.

Yet the press advisory refers to the "elimination" of the application process. It also claims that one of the issues at stake is "removal of the Arts and Music Program from the Hardy Curriculum." Neither Rhee nor principal-designate Dana Nerenberg have said any such thing. In fact, in a Feb. 16 letter to faculty and staff, Nerenberg wrote: "I also want to emphasize that I value Hardy's commitment to the fine arts and look forward to continuing and possibly broadening this fantastic offering."

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By Bill Turque  |  March 12, 2010; 8:09 PM ET
 
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Comments

"wrote one who asked not to be named. "The best thing [Rhee] could do is remove Pope immediately, so the school can get on with the healing and transition process. That would show to incoming and returning parents that there is plenty of time for things to settle down before the new school year."

Is this the typical insight level of people with opposing points of view who don't want their name mentioned?

Imagine the uproar if the principal were pulled out of the building "immediately" before the end of the school year. Some healing process.

Posted by: efavorite | March 13, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Just a reminder- another major issue for the Hardy community (teacher and parents alike) is that no conversations were had with us prior to Rhee's decision!

Posted by: dcpsteacher1 | March 13, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Are the usual and frequent posters here aware that the incoming principal comes with no less experience as principal, at the same school, as Pope arrived with when he came to Hardy MS a dozen years ago? Or, when protesting about excessive admin responsibilities in covering two schools, that Hardy MS has had one or another assistant principal every year for the last decade, most recently Pope's predecessor, returned from retirement?
How about that total classroom arts time declined under Pope?
Or that protests will disappear if the Chancellor promises that several staff, including the assistant principal, remain in place?

Posted by: incredulous | March 13, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

There will always be some dissent with any difficult decision, however, the animosity and anger that has been created by Rhee's decision could have been avoided.

Why didn't she engage the Hardy community from day one? This would have built trust and allowed her the opportunity to share her rationale during an inclusive process.

Instead she allows the race card to fester by meeting with mostly white affluent Key ES and other upper northwest parents. And only after it is a done deal, she announces her decision to Hardy parents.

This demonstrates extremely poor leadership and a complete lack of understanding of the DC community.

She should have foreseen this from the start. Now the school looks to be imploding. This did not have to happen.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | March 13, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

At what point is it the Hardy PTA/LSRT actions, and not Rhee's decision or lack of meetings with Hardy before the decision, that are to blame for disrupting the Hardy community and lowering in-boundary enrollment?

* When the PTA accuses Rhee of supporting school segregation, as they did last week?

* When they corner parents coming to parent-teacher night with a table on campus asking them to join them in opposing Rhee?

* How about in 3 months, when Principal Nerenberg takes over? Will the PTA/LSRT continue to table at school events asking parents to oppose Pope's replacement with Nerenberg, thus undermining her authority as principal in front of the students?

Ken Archer

Posted by: archerovi | March 14, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Ken Archer - are you acknowledging that the "blame" was originally Rhee's and now are you saying that it is shifting, or must shift to parents who continue to dissent? If Rhee's decision was a good one, why assign blame? If blame is appropriate, why would it have to shift?

What parent opposition, if any, would you be accepting of?

Is it wrong for parents to ask for support for their cause? Were they literally cornering people, i.e., making them uncomfortable, or just asking them? If people were made uncomfortable, couldn't they just walk away? Is there no way for people with an opposing point of view to organize?

To me, just based on what you've written, it sounds like you're trying to guilt trip people into going away.

Posted by: efavorite | March 14, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

This "dispute" shows some parental thuggery on the part of some, including a hint of it on this blogue. Harangue and corner other parents, DCPS officials, scream-til-red-in-face. If you want a "pure democracy, "schools will become islands where the DCPS management can't touch them and a bunch of over-zealous parents, or counter-change teachers, will bring the instructional value of the school to its knees. The DC government hires professional education executives and managers to do some thinking and make some decisions. They can listen and consult with parents and teachers up to a point, but they don't need to listen to every voice on ever issue all the time. What we probably need is more school closures, not only to reduce some of the still outrageous facilities-waste, but to cut down on the number of totally self-interested voices that demand to be listened to, all the time.

Posted by: axolotl | March 14, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

@axolotl --- "self-interested voices that demand to be listened to..." You mean, apparently, like yours?!

Posted by: Hmmmmmmm | March 14, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Hmmmmmmm,
You beat me to it on axototl.
for more on her inability to read, check her response to me at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/11/AR2010031104077_Comments.html

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | March 14, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

1. Still waiting for efavorite, phillipmarlowe, and axolotol to defend the selective recruitment and admissions practice of Hardy MS. Applicants are required to submit grade transcripts and a detailed personal assessment from a teacher or counselor who may recommend against them, and to attend a two-hour indoctrination session at Hardy. And NONE of that is about the arts program. Reads and sounds to me like sorority -rush behavior that equal-access types would insist be stopped when employed by public charter schools.

2. About half of Hardy's students are new each year. Nobody should be impressed by the ability of Hardy staff, whose sinecures have depended on patronage to arouse students to protest. After all, Hardy MS students participated in the Capital Gains program last year. Many are at risk of losing THEIR recommendations for high school slots.

3. What was the surprise that a DCPS official, Rhee in this case, would be concerned about 65% of fifth graders from feeder schools dropping out of DCPS after fifth grade? Why would so many students, all of whom had had an arts education in the feeder schools, decline Hardy attendance? Why would so many apply to Deal MS, a school with similar demographics, but torn up during construction? Why would so few students eligible for Deal MS apply to attend Hardy MS?

4. How did Hardy MS suddenly increase its enrollment by 75 students over its own projection last summer, unless it was from previously restricting access?

Answer (to #3 and #4: Hardy has been a privileged sorority-run reservation for over twenty years. It didn't start with Pope. He extended it for his dozen-years tenure. Explain or excuse that as his cynical marketing decision: There are more desperate students citywide to draw from than local students to attract. And an "arts curriculum" can be used as a basis for excluding and expelling less-motivated and insufficiently feeling-beholden students and parents, respectively.

That ends June 8, with Hardy's 8th grade commencement hooplah --cost me a mandatory $147 under Pope awhile ago (including a "prom" for 8th graders at a Silver Spring hotel). That's when all real instruction ceases at this middle school, hand wringing about educational concern for making up snow days, notwithstanding.

Posted by: incredulous | March 14, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Are parents really acting like thugs (thereby exhibiting "parental thuggery") because they are resisting a decision thrust upon them (while other parents are given a private audience and advance notice), are getting frustrated because they were lied to, and are losing it when they are disrespected and patronized in person and via sound bytes? Some people might call that "organizing" or even "non-violent resistance."

Losing staff - or a school - is hard on many but it doesn't have to lead to what's happening now. There's a way to do things and a way not to do things. By now you would think that Rhee and her staff would know the difference. Or perhaps they do know and just don't care... Either way, they are sabatoging the reform. People who support the ideals of the reform and even some of the reform efforts find it increasingly difficult to back DCPS lock, stock and barrel when it rolls over parents and doesn't genuinely communicate.

I emphathize with the parent who felt they could only anonymously say that not everyone is sad to see Pope go. It's unfortunate that parents were not given opportunities to talk among themselves as a community to share their views. This needs to happen regardless of who will lead the school and I wish you and your fellow parents luck.

And anyone who thinks that parents shouldn't have a voice or have their suggestions/feelings/initiatives considered by downtown probably doesn't have a child in DCPS or thinks very little of their own ability to meaningfully contribute to the debate.

Posted by: verumputo | March 15, 2010 1:12 AM | Report abuse

"1. Still waiting for efavorite, phillipmarlowe, and axolotol to defend the selective recruitment and admissions practice of Hardy MS. "

I was going to defend the "selective recruitment and admissions practice" until I read your next to last line:
"That ends June 8, with Hardy's 8th grade commencement hooplah --cost ME a mandatory $147 under Pope awhile ago"

Can't be that selective after all.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | March 15, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Hardy crisis particulars are new to me, but both sides seem debatable and sustainable. Therefore, there must be a compromise of some sort. What I do recognize, from above and other posts is: parent unwillingness to compromise. If each had his/her way: all schools would stay open so there is one down the block, kids could go any school they wanted, take any program. Parents could, with impunity, bash any teacher, principal, and Chancellor Rhee. Each parent could condemn and indeed lead the race to the bottom for their kids. One of my favs is a group of parents from one Ward wanting to bar parents from another Ward from contributing their time and a little money to a school. Unfair they said. Parents need to get real. Things are not perfectly equal, not every desire can be met, not every decision can be influenced, and you will make some compromises. And you need to accept some things you do not want. If you can't manage that, pray for a scholarship to Sidwell Friends or some other private school. Public school is public school and it is not a pure democracy. PhilMarlowe: please read carefully and doublecheck yo comprehension.

Posted by: axolotl | March 15, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

PhilMarlowe: please read carefully and doublecheck yo comprehension.

Posted by: axolotl | March 15, 2010 10:34 AM

YO.
To repeat:
For more on her (axolotl) inability to read, check her response to me at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/11/AR2010031104077_Comments.html

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | March 15, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Phil, hon., you are the one w a comprehension issue. You cannot believe that incompetents remain in the schools. You believe Chancellor Rhee said she had cleaned them all (repeat, all) out with the RIF. She never claimed that. In addition, sometimes incompetents get hired, good teachers go bad, and, conversely, bad teachers become effective, but that is rare. You must observe this in your own school. In yor case, Phil, I believe you must be a good teacher and you will stay good, even with occasional miscomprehension. I would not mind having a kid in yur class (I think); you might object, however. I was hoping to meet you at the hearing today, but since we both use assumed names, it might be difficult. If you are at the hearing, shout out: "I am Phillip Marlowe!!"

Posted by: axolotl | March 15, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

If the Hardy community can keep up the full-court-press Keep Pope Alive campaign through the end of the month, they will succeed in doing one thing--making sure that in-boundary applications for next year are zero or next to zero.

If you asked the in-boundary parents "Please list the reasons you are hesitant to enroll your student in Hardy. Is it:
a) Principal Pope is leaving
b) my child would be seen as part of the force that is destroying the school
c) No Starbucks
d) We are uncertain about how the school is going to operate next year
many of them are going to say d.) General uncertainty is a potent disincentive. My child was in a good DC elementary school which lost its beloved longtime principal to a transfer. At that time, my personal view was that it was great that another school was going to benefit from her vitality and organizational skills. But then we got saddled with an interim principal, and then a replacement adjunct temporary half-asleep principal, and then a vacuum. In less than eight months, a school which was doing very well by any metric became filled with restive parents, gloomy teachers, and dilapidating systems.

In hindsight, I perhaps missed the chance to protest the transfer. In any event, the school didn't fall apart, despite the multitude of dark days when it felt like it might.

So I have to sit back and look at what the activist Hardy parents are doing and wonder if, win or lose, they'll find their children attending a middle school that is neither what it was nor what they hoped it would become.

Posted by: gardyloo | March 15, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

@incredulous- Hardy did NOT participate in the capital gains program, ever. No Hardy students are at risk for losing their HS recommendations. I completed 150+ recommendations for students this year. I did not deny one single student a recommendation.

Posted by: dcpsteacher1 | March 15, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

dcpsteacher1:

Quoting from Brandenberg's blog presentation of test scores, find Hardy on the second group, on the last line:

"Note that in the first graph, which is of the experimental group, nine middle schools saw declines in their reading scores: Browne, Garnett-Patterson, Whittier, Langdon, Takoma, Emery, Brightwood, Burroughs, and Jefferson. Only five middle schools had gains in reading: Hart, Miller, Hardy, Eliot, and Stuart-Hobson."

Not an endorsement of Brandenberg's analysis, or expression of belief in the data. (In his latest blog entry, he tells us, explicitly, he cannot make sense of many enrollment counts for schools he confidently wrote about.) So, maybe confusion of treatment and controls, like another confusing changes and levels, is just a scramble and error. Brandenberg's is not the first report that Hardy MS was in the treatment group.
Or, you were the last to know about incentives that was supposed to have put your students on the right track for the future.

Posted by: incredulous | March 16, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

incredulous, when the Post reported the announcement for Capital Gains, Hardy was on the list:

The schools include middle schools (Hardy, Eliot-Hine, Hart, Jefferson, Kelly Miller, Garnet-Patterson-Shaw and Stuart-Hobson) and newly consolidated schools that serve middle schoolers as well as pre-K, kindergarten and elementary students (Brightwood, Browne-Gibbs-Young, Burroughs, Emery, Langdon, Takoma and Whittier).

The selections were made without regard to geographic balance, said Roland G. Fryer, a Harvard economist and principal investigator for the school's American Inequality Lab, which studies issues of poverty and race. Fryer said he built an algorithm that included the 28 District schools serving middle school students and generated about 30,000 possible combinations that gave him two blocs of 14: one to receive the cash incentives, and a control group that would not.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/28/AR2008082803439.html?hpid=sec-education

There was also this story about problems with Capital Gains at Hart MS:
Capital Gains Takes a Loss a Hart Middle School
Among the many things that appear to have gone wrong at Hart Middle School this fall is DCPS's "Capital Gains" program, designed to pay 6th, 7th, and 8th-graders up to $100 every two weeks for good grades, attendance and behavior.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dc/2008/11/capital_gains_takes_a_loss_a_h.html

Posted by: edlharris | March 17, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

And incredulous,
the Capital Gains was announced in 2008 in front of Hardy Middle School:

"We believe this is the time for radical intervention," Rhee said at a news conference outside Hardy Middle School in Northwest Washington. "We're very excited about this particular program."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/21/AR2008082103874.html

DCPS does not list Hardy as a current participant, but it does not say when it dropped out.

Posted by: edlharris | March 17, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Hardy was selected to participate in Capital Gains, but the parents protested and it wasn't included in the program. Why? Because our children went through the application process to attend Hardy. Our children want to go to Hardy. They come from all wards of DC, some by public transportation, some by the parents who get up early to drop them off at school. Our children do not need to be paid to attend school. They know the value of an education.

Posted by: ahipkins | March 17, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

@edllharris:
Not your error in quoting. The assignment to treatments was by a [randomized] block, not "bloc" design. The work on assignment to treatment v control was easy. Excessive sums were probably paid for exposition of sophisticated statistical methods for reduction in potential overall imbalance of treatment and control groups. Think of that balancing as assignment of sports teams to Divisions in the construction of a fantasy sports league where divisional assignment was expected to maximize competition within and between divisions. Excessive sums because the methods are just software operations on existing (and fallible) school data already in databases; and because the largest threats to robust and valid results from Capital Gains were in implementation of treatments and recording of valid data. Presumably, all the extensive behavioral data collected accurately about kids in treatment schools should and will be collected about kids attending the schools in the control group.
If Hardy dropped out, the blocks became unbalanced. That only complicates, by adjustment, the calculation and presentation of some parameters and statistics.

Posted by: incredulous | March 17, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

The teachers at Hardy met with the representatives from Harvard and made it clear that we were not interested in participating. We never took part in the program, although we were named as a participating school.

Posted by: dcpsteacher1 | March 17, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

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