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Posted at 2:13 PM ET, 01/12/2011

Henderson plan to improve Hardy Middle unveiled; many parents skeptical

By Bill Turque

Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson has rolled out a series of steps to address problems at Hardy Middle School. They include a new behavioral tool that asks each student to pledge to come to school on time, observe the rules and do their work. There is also a form that asks students to list three goals: academic, social and personal.

Under the new system, known as "Commitment to Advanced Achievement, students will be evaluated every two weeks on their progress toward reaching the goals. The form uses little smiley face icons to specify rewards for those who demonstrate progress: "recognition," "trips," 'lunch party," and "call home."

The listed sanctions come with little frowning faces: detention, counseling, suspension, etc.

The plan, explained in a letter sent home to parents Tuesday, also involves task forces of DCPS officials that will examine school climate and scheduling issues. Eric Redwine, the cluster superintendent for Hardy, will establish an office at the school and be there at least once a week. Staff from the DCPS Office of Youth Engagement will also spend time at the school and offer suggestions.

Parents will discuss the blueprint at a PTA meeting at 6:30 tonight. But the early reviews are not positive,especially from those who contend that parents were not involved in the plan's formation, and who regard the behavioral tool as something more appropriate for elementary school. They also say the plan lacks one essential element: the dismissal of principal Dana Nerenberg.

"When you are ready to have a serious dialogue with the stakeholders of Hardy Middle School and listen with an open mind, we are available," said Candy Miles-Crocker in an e-mail to Henderson.

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By Bill Turque  | January 12, 2011; 2:13 PM ET
 
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Comments

No...they are NOT using smiley faces. C'mon on now, who's bright idea was that at the salary level of 150k to craft such a juvenile way of reinventing a "progress report"? Alright, I give Candy kudos in regard to her response, may I ask did you use the smiley face icon in your email.

Posted by: PowerandPride | January 12, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

No...they are NOT using smiley faces. C'mon on now, who's bright idea was that at the salary level of 150k to craft such a juvenile way of reinventing a "progress report"? Alright, I give Candy kudos in regard to her response, may I ask did you use the smiley face icon in your email?

Posted by: PowerandPride | January 12, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure the problems that they are having at Hardy were unavoidable. I mean, Hardy has never had order and been successful...

Oh wait, it was until they got rid of the EFFECTIVE principal at Hardy and replaced him (sorry, promoted him to planning a school that would be just like Hardy, but on less expensive real estate) with a "New Leader" who was going to be the principal of 2 schools at once.

Is anyone surprised by this? Really?

Posted by: Wyrm1 | January 12, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

"They include a new behavioral tool that asks each student to pledge to come to school on time, observe the rules and do their work."

This is nothing new. KIPP has been doing this for years in their middle schools. Who does she think she's fooling?

Posted by: regina2204 | January 12, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"Commitment to Advanced Achievement"

Really? I thought Hardy was have bullying and violence problems.

How about "Commitment to quell the violence" or "Plan to bust bullying."

Posted by: efavorite | January 12, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

This is really laughable. Wouldn't it be much simpler to just restore Pope as principal? Oh wait a minute, I forgot, we're not dealing with people who actually know how to manage people and an educational bureaucracy effectively!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 12, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

How many other schools are experiencing serious problems but are not being given the same resources as Hardy?

It seems like Henderson's approach is damage control from Rhee's warpath. She moves from school to school in crisis when it is being exposed in the media. Crisis management is not a way to operate a school system.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | January 12, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Smiley faces and frowning faces. Very good ways to discipline middle schoolers.
It may work in elementary school, but not at Hardy. Sorry.

Posted by: Papaya21 | January 12, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Letsb--

I would expect most other middle schools are experiencing similar problems given that they are populated by middle school children. Maybe BT could do a little reporting and ask around, or just keep reprinting emails from Ms. Miles-Crocker who seems to have him on permanent cc.

Posted by: horacemann | January 12, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

horacemann is in a snit that removing Pope is such a public disaster.

Maybe they need to use smiley faces at Dunbar?
Do they use them at Shaw?
Sousa?

Posted by: edlharris | January 12, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Since Mr. Turque's blog was rather short on links to other articles or even to the actual letter sent home, here are some links to follow with more information and comments by parents and LSRT members.
=====================================
Hardy Middle School Still the Target of Reform and Frustration -- Georgetown Patch
The letter Tuesday (see PDF) said the school entered into a contract of ...
to discuss one particular teacher's handling of a hallway fight and alleged use ...

http://georgetown.patch.com/articles/hardy-middle-school-still-the-target-of-reform-and-frustration

The "Commitment to Advanced Achievement" form and the letter from Nerenberg and Henderson are available at the above link on the Georgetown Patch site.
======================================
Loose Lips Daily: Hardy Boys Edition -- Washington City Paper
The troubles started when then-schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee reassigned ...
about three allegations of corporal punishment involving the same teacher. ...

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/looselips/2011/01/12/loose-lips-daily-hardy-boys-edition/
(Excellent comment by allan Assarsson at above link and full copy of letter)
=======================================
Downhill at Hardy Middle School -- Jonetta Rose Barras at the Examiner

http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/2011/01/downhill-hardy-middle-school
=======================================
DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 12, 2011 -- Washington Post (blog) - Mike DeBonis
Now attention is shifting back to good ol' Hardy Middle School, location of some of Rhee's most contentious battles.
Both Bill Turque and Jonetta Rose ...

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/debonis/2011/01/demorning_debonis_jan_12_2011.html
=======================================
The Georgetown DISH
Hardy parents erupt over Chancellor's letter -- January 12, 2011 | by Beth Solomon

http://www.thegeorgetowndish.com/thedish/hardy-parents-erupt-over-chancellors-letter
(a number of parent comments follow the article.)
=======================================

Posted by: interested8 | January 12, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Striking that Patrick Pope is to several here what Michelle Rhee is to so many "reformers", Napoleon in exile, Trotsky in Mexico City, the Shah, the savior.

Maybe the school is failing under the same burden of uncontrolled admissions of the difficult sort so many of the same recognize is part of some charter school appearances of success? Half of the 540 students are new this year. How many of the celebrants of supposed chaos volunteered to have it turn out otherwise? Nah, wait for Nap's return from exile (and the restoration of the Sisterhood?)

Posted by: incredulous | January 12, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

OMG

Will someone please pull Kaya's head out of Rhee's behind.

Kaya needs to stop carrying Rhee's pixx bucket and try to use the one brain cell she has and make the right decision regarding Hardy.

Smiley faces--what a stupid JOKE and an insult to the students at Hardy.

Posted by: guylady201001 | January 12, 2011 6:55 PM | Report abuse

I have said it before and I'll say it again: amateurs. Kaya Henderson and the "young, energetic" former TFAers once again put on display for all their utter lack of meaningful experience.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | January 12, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the staff at Hardy can use some of the behavior strategies that Rhee used when she worked miracles as a TFA teacher in Baltimore.

A couple of strategies that Rhee admitted to using were taping the mouths of her students shut and eating a bee.

My sarcasm may not be helpful but I could not resist especially since Rhee largely ignored the issue of student behavior and instead placed blame on teachers when students acted out. Now she continues to be a celebrity in many circles. I really don't get it.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | January 12, 2011 6:58 PM | Report abuse

By the way when did a "small fire" become acceptable? How many fires start out small and become a major event? These folks are clueless.

Posted by: guylady201001 | January 12, 2011 7:04 PM | Report abuse

I unfortunately see this as just a classic case of people prefer being wrong to admitting they are wrong. I don't think Hardy is the only thing broken by Rhee in the city. Ward 5 has no middle school and all of the education campuses are having the problem of those unruly middle school kid around younger ones. Oh and no gym, elementary size bathroom fixtures and furniture, lack of science labs, no foreign language, but that is not covered much, not West of the park.

Posted by: Mulch5 | January 12, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Our children are not game pieces. This is real life! And for DCPS to continue playing w/our children instead of educating them makes me angry. Henderson and Neurenberg cannot play w/our childrens lives. Neurenberg is alum of Bullis and Johns Hopkins...I'm positive they were not playing w/her education! Don't let her play w/childrens lives.
*****@horacemann: you speak from ignorance. I have BT on fwd. :)

Posted by: ColoredSpirit | January 12, 2011 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Channel 5 FoxNews had a report on the meeting which went for over 2 hours:
http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/dc/outrage-over-safety-issues-at-hardy-middle-school-011211

"Why do we need a halftime principal? Why can't Hardy have a full-time principal that's here all the time?" asked parent Mike Wilker.

"At what point do you say, ‘It's not working.’ Either you [Nerenberg] admits it or your administration admits it or the chancellor admits it," said another parent.

The meeting was very contentious and principal Dana Nerenberg, at times, looked close to tears and had few answers.

"We're working with our teachers to provide them any support they might need around professional development and other supports and resources as well as looking at best practices that we can glean from other schools," said Nerenberg.

"All I hear is we’re going to study the problem. I don't hear any action. I haven’t heard any action all year. Taking six weeks to change a schedule is ridiculous," another parent countered.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | January 13, 2011 2:01 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Gray,
When you were on the council and parents were complaining about the change at Hardy Middle School, you like other rational thinking individuals thought the idea of having one principal run two schools was stupid. The fact that Patrick Pope is somewhere in central designing a replica of the Hardy program and a new school which the city has no money to build is just stupid. The fact that a task force is needed to "study" the problem when the problem of ineffective leadership has already been identified is a waste of resources and again a clear act of stupidity. The interim chancellor who became second in command on a bachelor's degree and recently received her master's degree is making decisions regarding Hardy that clearly demonstrate that she is not qualified and has the same skill level as Rhee. Basically, our children are witnessing adults practicing stupidity everyday they attend school. If there is no order, teachers can't teach and children can't learn.

Mr. Gray, I know you've said you are not interested in micromanaging DCPS. However, you can't micromanage what hasn't been managed in the first place. Therefore it's time for you to step in and step it up.

Posted by: candycane1 | January 13, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I attended the meeting at Hardy last night. In the interest of balance and fairness, there were also several parents (both new to Hardy and returning) who reported positive experiences for their children and who expressed a desire to move forward in supporting the school and its new administrative team. Unfortunately that is rarely mentioned in the majority of blog entries or news reporting. Everyone has their own unique experience--let's not presume to speak for an entire school community.

Posted by: teacherparent | January 13, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

""We're working with our teachers to provide them any support they might need around professional development and other supports and resources as well as looking at best practices that we can glean from other schools," said Nerenberg."

**
"Best practices"???
It seems these best practices were in place last year.
What changed?

**"We're working with our teachers to provide them any support they might need around professional development"
see above

Posted by: edlharris | January 13, 2011 8:40 AM | Report abuse

The last stakeholder survey, conducted in May 2009, had 28% of the students disagree mildly or strongly with the statement: "The school is orderly and in control." 20% did not feel safe outside around the school. Only 9 parents responded to the survey.
How much worse are things are Hardy MS this year?

Posted by: incredulous | January 13, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

A major meeting at Hardy and Kaya was a no-show. Is this what we are establishing polar-opposites in being seen as in Rhee and not being see as in Henderson? Now, Kaya...girrrrrrrrrrl I want you to come to Hardy and use those same tactics that you are known for and that has gotten you to that level of being recommended as the next chancellor. You ask, what am I talking about? EXACTLY.

It seems this is the school system of OZ and all of sudden they are realizing they are not in the land of Rhee/Fenty any more. So Henderson/Nayankori/Ruda and others are in arm-n-arm skipping down the yellow brick road.

Finally, Kaya, your mama was a superintendent and your best friend was the chancellor at some point there should be a consensus building of making you a success at the job that Arne wants you to maintain.

Posted by: PowerandPride | January 13, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

When is DCPS going to practice fair justice. The students need proper leadership to achieve. Restore Pope!

Questions to Henderson:

Why would you put the worst administrators in one of the best schools? On the other hand why would you put those administrators in any school?

Watch out there will be more schools coming out of the closet about weak administrators destroying an entire school culture.

"Injustice any where is a threat to justice everywhere." Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted by: helluvateacher | January 13, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

More from the 2009 stakeholder survey:

I Feel Safe at my School:
38 Strongly Agree
50 Agree
9 Disagree
2 Strongly disagree

http://www.dc.gov/DCPS/Files/downloads/ABOUT%20DCPS/Surveys-08-09/Hardy%20Middle%20School.pdf

Posted by: edlharris | January 13, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Best practices...why don't we just implement the green, yellow and red light practice.

In elementary school, teachers use a stoplight system to promote proper behavior in children over the school day --stopping unwanted behavior (red light), cautioning against smaller infractions (yellow light), and providing ample opportunities to learn from mistakes and “get back to green.”

Sorry for the sarcasm Hardy parents, but this whole situation is beyond a joke.

What burns me up is the fact that the administration doesn't realize that Middle School is where a lot of kids sink or swim. This is not a time where we need a half time principle. Our children do not have the luxury of being guinea pigs while the TFA’s as the go through their period of trial and error.

Lastly, two things leave a bad taste in my month on how the Rhee/Henderson regime has handled the Hardy debacle. First, that parents issues felon deaf ears and the situation had to explode before it was address. I heard the parents complaining about scheduling, bullying and tardiness in September. Especially with a school that has done well. The second bad taste is that this a school that was doing well w/ engaged parents and the Rhee/Henderson disrespected and belittled. Don’t we always comment about parent involvement on these blogs?

Posted by: thelildiva4u | January 13, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

This is not a good behavioral strategy and will not work. I've seen similar strategies at other schools and they almost all fail because they don't address the real problems of behavior.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 13, 2011 6:30 PM | Report abuse

From the beginning of this saga, more than 18 months ago, there has been a consistent failure of honest leadership from DCPS in it's approach to the Hardy community. At every turn, the school community was disenfranchised in favor of external interests.

These new emergency damage control measures are imposed without input from the teachers or families is yet another form of Chinese Wall that will exacerbate tensions and ignore the fundamental problem. The real problem is centered on a new school administration (with strong support from DCPS Central Office) that has demonstrated over and over again that they have no ability and/or interest in the needs or opinions of the faculty and families of Hardy.

This started before the first day of school, when principal Nerenberg imposed a new school schedule without any deliberative process with an experienced group of teachers who were largely responsible for the development and modification of the schedule each year to accommodate changes in student needs and curriculum that they developed consistent with core subjects and arts programs. Despite having no professional experience at the middle school level or apparently with adolescent pedagogy, she insisted on changing not only the schedule, but reassigning veteran teachers to new grades before she even met them, much less undertake a responsible assessment process which should have included the faculty.

In my conversations with many teachers, they have said that Ms. Nerenberg could not have pursued a more provocative course. The schedule remains a mess, and the source of tremendous tension, as Nerenberg has consistently challenged the teachers requests, and when a teacher group presented a proposed schedule that would have addressed their concerns, she presented it for a vote without mentioning that her administration made critical changes. The teachers voted it down, and were understandably furious. I am familiar with so many examples of Nerenberg either whitewashing the truth or worse in her interactions with parents and teachers.

Teachers and families care about their children. To those who suggest that their love of principal Pope is motivation to sabotage the interests and safety of their children, I respectfully say that your are wrong. Sure, people are upset, but the new administration has been responsable for making an already understandably suspicious school community feel ignored and deceived. There have been too many half-truths, and too little effort to understand and appreciate the student body. Interim Chancellor Henderson's proposed sollution of adding additional layers of Task Forces and outside evaluators with no familiarity with the Hardy community will not work.

Because Hardy is so diverse, representative of every ward in our "One City", the very special and rare commodity that Hardy thrived on was "School Pride," built on relationships. That simple. This administration and DCPS just doesn't get it.

Posted by: AGAAIA | January 13, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

From the beginning of this saga, more than 18 months ago, there has been a consistent failure of honest leadership from DCPS in it's approach to the Hardy community. At every turn, the school community was disenfranchised in favor of external interests.

These new emergency damage control measures are imposed without input from the teachers or families is yet another form of Chinese Wall that will exacerbate tensions and ignore the fundamental problem. The real problem is centered on a new school administration (with strong support from DCPS Central Office) that has demonstrated over and over again that they have no ability and/or interest in the needs or opinions of the faculty and families of Hardy.

This started before the first day of school, when principal Nerenberg imposed a new school schedule without any deliberative process with an experienced group of teachers who were largely responsible for the development and modification of the schedule each year to accommodate changes in student needs and curriculum that they developed consistent with core subjects and arts programs. Despite having no professional experience at the middle school level or apparently with adolescent pedagogy, she insisted on changing not only the schedule, but reassigning veteran teachers to new grades before she even met them, much less undertake a responsible assessment process which should have included the faculty.

In my conversations with many teachers, they have said that Ms. Nerenberg could not have pursued a more provocative course. The schedule remains a mess, and the source of tremendous tension, as Nerenberg has consistently challenged the teachers requests, and when a teacher group presented a proposed schedule that would have addressed their concerns, she presented it for a vote without mentioning that her administration made critical changes. The teachers voted it down, and were understandably furious. I am familiar with so many examples of Nerenberg either whitewashing the truth or worse in her interactions with parents and teachers.

Teachers and families care about their children. To those who suggest that their love of principal Pope is motivation to sabotage the interests and safety of their children, I respectfully say that your are wrong. Sure, people are upset, but the new administration has been responsable for making an already understandably suspicious school community feel ignored and deceived. There have been too many half-truths, and too little effort to understand and appreciate the student body. Interim Chancellor Henderson's proposed sollution of adding additional layers of Task Forces and outside evaluators with no familiarity with the Hardy community will not work.

Because Hardy is so diverse, representative of every ward in our "One City", the very special and rare commodity that Hardy thrived on was "School Pride," built on relationships. That simple. This administration and DCPS just doesn't get it.

Posted by: AGAAIA | January 13, 2011 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Vincent Gray are you going to sellout the students of Hardy too ?

Posted by: BigTight33 | January 13, 2011 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Fight on dedicated parents of Rose Hardy. Unfortunately I could not continue to risk my daughter's physical and mental well being at Hardy and chose to withdraw her after she was assaulted by boy and bullying. Simply stated the school is not safe,the student teacher ratio is horrible and there is no discipline. Needless to say the local residents revel in the controversy as soon they will have the school for the neighborhood, for out of boundary parents will discontinue applying to the disfunctionally run middle school in Georgetown.

Posted by: diamondlee | January 16, 2011 11:43 PM | Report abuse

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