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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 01/11/2011

Parents say Hardy in disarray; Henderson readies plan for improvements

By Bill Turque

Turmoil continues at Hardy Middle School, where some parent activists have renewed their calls for the removal of principal Dana Nerenberg. An "emergency parent/teacher meeting" has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss what some parents describe as the deteriorating environment at the Georgetown school. Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who said in November she had no plans to replace Nerenberg, says DCPS is finalizing a plan it will announce this week "to ensure a safer and more positive student experience at Hardy."

The school has had a bumpy time under Nerenberg, named last year by former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee after she reassigned longtime principal Patrick Pope. Some parents say that tardiness, fights, scheduling snafus and disrespectful behavior toward staff have been on the rise since the beginning of the school year.

A group of parents met with Nerenberg and Cluster 5 instructional superintendent Eric Redwine Friday to air their latest grievances, which include her handling of a hallway fight and three allegations of corporal punishment involving the same teacher. Henderson did not respond to e-mailed questions about the allegations. But according to minutes of the meeting, written by Candy Miles-Crocker, a parent leader, there were questions about why the teacher was allegedly allowed to remain in the classroom while the investigation proceeded. The minutes say Nerenberg told the parents that the teacher is receiving "classroom support."

DCPS is required by law to report any allegation of corporal punishment to the Metropolitan Police, which determines whether the matter warrants criminal investigation. If police decide that it does not, DCPS is charged with investigating and taking disciplinary action, if appropriate.

Miles-Crocker said in the minutes that the school's lunchroom has been in "chaos" since the end of winter break because Nerenberg's assistant principals are not adhering to the bell schedule. Boys are staying in the cafeteria beyond the allotted time, giving the 7th grade girls who follow 15 minutes to get and eat their lunch. Many of them are late to their next classes, she said.

Miles-Crocker also said that whatever plan Henderson has in mind, it's been devised without serious input from parents. She added in the minutes that it was a mistake to leave Nerenberg in charge of her old school (Hyde-Addison Elementary) along with Hardy, limiting the time and attention she can devote to the middle school.

"We all make mistakes," Miles-Crocker wrote. "However it's extremely rare to hear anyone in DCPS admit that a mistake was made."

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By Bill Turque  | January 11, 2011; 12:50 PM ET
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Parents and teachers and even DC Council tried to tell Rhee to leave Hardy alone.

I hope people who were so blind are beginning to see Michelle Rhee did nothing but wreak havoc on DCPS. If there were so many bad teachers she got rid of then why didn't we see a meteoric rise in test scores and a pall of serenity light upon DCPS? It's been nothing but chaos since her arrival and departure. Newsflash: It will only get worse!

If anyone gives her a dollar in her new endeavor that person is a fool.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 11, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Too much damn pride and cowardice to the neighborhood community to let the man that lead the school to success come back. Simply re-install Pope as principal.

This is a prime example of what actually runs DCPS. Common sense is a distant priority to concerns about public relations and public image. Henderson will not re-install Pope to preserve Rhee's image. if any of this happened on Pope's watch we would have read about this for SURE!!!!

Posted by: oknow1 | January 11, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Any attempt by DCPS to remedy this situation is too little too late. What about the fact that there was no winter concert because the master schedule, that non of the staff supported, could not accommodate the music program? The principal and assistants could not figure out how to create a schedule that would place students in different bands in the correct classes. Turque forgot to mention, 12 families have left this year! More will follow......

Posted by: madmom1 | January 11, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

If you go to the Hardy school website and click to see their newsletters, you are taken to a website to enter your email address that reads:

"Hyde-Addison Elementary School uses which guarantees the permanent removal of your email address from its mailing lists."

Posted by: edlharris | January 11, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

It's mighty funny how Dunbar got all the publicity about how bad Bedford was. Was it because they considered the schools test scores were low and the background of the families? Now here is HARDY a school that has shown nothing but excellence in every area with a majority African-American population. The previous administration had numerous accoclades along with its nationally recognized teachers. The removal of Mr. Pope was a way to destroy the hundreds of children who travel from one side of the city to the other side of the city. They travel to take part in the Outstanding fine arts magnet program that was created by Mr. Pope. I know because my child attends Hardy. My child used to be at the subway at 6:15 am every morning so she could practice with the marching band and the jazz band at 7:30 am. She use to set her own alarm and never complained. Now she rarely wants to go because they never get to perform. Whats the use of practiciing when you don't get to showcase your talent? Thanks to no winter concert the first in HISTORY! This school is being destroyed by poor leadership put in place by the "Great" Rhee. The climate of the building has been destroyed. The morale of the students and faculty is at its lowest point. Parent's have complained at every level even to Congress and nothing has been done. How can Henderson state she will not bring Mr. Pope back. It's so obvious that it is the leadership that has caused this turmoil. I have complained to the administration about the cafeteria problems, theft, poor behavior from students with no consequences and how the fine arts program is almost gone. Nothing has been done. What does it take to remove the current administration. Maybe a student has to be sexually assualted,a gang fight, drugs, gambling class cutting etc. as it was alleged at Dunbar for Henderson to bring Pope Back? Here is an administration willing to sacrifice childrens education and safety because of its pride. GRAY NEEDS TO REMOVE HENDERSON AND THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION AT HARDY. FACE IT RHEE YOU DESTROYED DCPS AND HENDERSON IS CONTINUING IN YOUR PATH! POPE=HIGHLY EFFECTIVE! NERENBERG=INEFFECTIVE! According to IMPACT that means immediate termination!

Posted by: helluvateacher | January 11, 2011 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Please find in the next post, today’s letter from principal Nerenberg and interim Chancellor Henderson that was sent home with students. This letter, as so many previous news letters from the Hardy administration this year, have angered the vast majority of Hardy families because they do not reflect the current condition of the school as they know it to be.

This letter describes efforts to “build upon Hardy’s strengths,” but these are actually extraordinary damage control measures that are necessitated by the new Hardy administration’s consistent arrogance and ineptitude. This problem is compounded by the DCPS Central Office’s (Rhee-Henderson) inability to publicly recognize its mistakes, particularly when it comes to administrative personnel appointments.

Principal Pope, who built-up the Hardy Program for the previous twelve years, led one of the three top performing Middle Schools in the DCPS. Pope essentially ran the school with the help of a part-time assistant principal. He relied heavily on his close collaborative relationship with teachers, staff, and families. Today, principal Nerenberg has three full-time assistant principals and every support possible from DCPS Central Office. Nevertheless, the school is failing, so interim Chancellor Henderson’s answer is to pile more money and personnel into Hardy, but not address the fundamental distrust that her actions continue to inflame.

Hardy Middle School is suffering from the severe incompetence of the administrative team installed by Chancellor Rhee this past year. Rhee’s stated reasons were to increase Hardy’s identity as a neighborhood school, and to utilize former principal Patrick Pope’s talents to develop and lead a proposed Magnet Arts Middle School; this school will never materialize.

No longer can children's urgent educational interests and safety be put aside by school leaders and elected officials who advise "patience" because they may fear political consequences.

Affirmative action must be taken NOW to save Hardy middle School. A school that less than one year ago was described by both Michelle Rhee and Vincent Gray as a unique and high achieving model for others to emulate. Today, no one with direct knowledge would use those words to describe Hardy Middle School.

The rapid degeneration of the school over the past four months has been well understood by the greater Hardy community, who have made every effort to work within the system to address their concerns. Today there is a sense of desperation and betrayal that has overtaken hope. There is no legitimate reason to wait for change that is long overdue."


--- Nerenberg/Henderson Letter continued next post ---

Posted by: AGAAIA | January 11, 2011 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Nerenberg / Henderson Letter

January 11, 2011

Dear Hardy Parents:

Happy New Year! We are excited about the opportunities the turning of the calendar provides. In the past few months, we have worked to build upon Hardy’s strengths in our efforts to make Hardy the highest performing middle school in Washington, DC. During this time, both of us (Principal Nerenberg and Chancellor Henderson) have heard concerns from some parents, teachers, and students about the school climate at Hardy. Working together, we have developed a plan to address these concerns, and we wanted to share the specific actions we are taking. We are committed to a great second semester at Hardy, and welcome your continued involvement.

We are working strategically to address these concerns in the following ways:

- We have reset expectations for each of our students by facilitating the Commitment to Advanced Achievement. This tool, explained during Friday’s Advisory, asked each of our students to articulate an academic goal, a social goal, and a behavioral goal. It is our aim to use the bi-weekly advisory period to help our students strategically reach these goals.

- We held grade level assemblies on Friday, January 7. These were an opportunity for us to clearly communicate our expectations of our students and remind them that every adult in the building is committed to their success.

- In addition to the classroom and grade level tally system, we are layering in a series of administrative consequences. This will help hold our students accountable for the choices they make in and out of the classroom.

- We are working with DCPS’ Office of Human Resources to identify designated
substitutes to be on site at Hardy, diminishing the need for our teachers to provide
coverage for their colleagues.

- We have launched the School Climate Task Force and School Scheduling Task Force. Both of these entities will be supported by DCPS-based professionals with expertise in these specific areas. Each task force will analyze what is working well at Hardy while helping us dream big as we plan for the 2011-2012 school year. These groups will visit other schools and learn best practices.

- We have invited educators from the Office of Youth Engagement as well as other middle schools to come and spend time at Hardy, helping us identify areas where we can improve school climate.

- Mr. Eric Redwine, Cluster Superintendent for Hardy Middle School, is establishing an office at Hardy and plans to be on-site at least once a week.

- Our PTA is hosting a parent meeting tomorrow night to discuss concerns; we hope you will join us at 6:30 PM.

In addition, please know we are available to you to address your child’s individual needs and concerns. The best way for us to solve problems, is through regular and on-going communication.

--- Nerenberg/Henderson Letter continued next post ---

Posted by: AGAAIA | January 11, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

--- Nerenberg/Henderson Letter continued from previous post ---

The culture at Hardy is all of our responsibility, and we look forward to working together to ensure the positive environment we all desire. Please feel free to share your questions and feedback with both of us in the coming weeks and months, as we implement these strategies. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to supporting our students and our school.


Dana Nerenberg, Principal

Kaya Henderson, Interim Chancellor

Posted by: AGAAIA | January 11, 2011 7:57 PM | Report abuse

I hope Hardy parents and students are fluent in eduspeak, otherwise they may have difficulty understanding what it is that the administration is doing for them.

Perhaps the Broad institute could offer a special course to school communities whose administrators who are products of its principal training.

Posted by: efavorite | January 11, 2011 9:10 PM | Report abuse

to helluvateacher: It's not just the morale of the students and teachers at Hardy; the morale of students and teachers all across DCPS is at its lowest ever thanks to Rhee and now Henderson.

I think we'll see a big change over the summer. I would bet a month's salary Henderson will NOT stay and will resign at the end of the school year.

In addition, and unfortunately, we will see a mass exodus of veteran AND new teachers over the summer. Those who can retire and going to do just that and the new teachers have also had it and will go elsewhere. We will see chaos and turmoil like we have never seen come August. There will be teaching and central office positions which cannot be filled. Believe me, NO ONE wants to come work in DCPS now.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 11, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

So much for Rheeform, see the following rankings of state and the District of Columbia in Education Week which was posted January 5, 2011, DC Public Schools rated D+:

Nation Earns a C for Education Policy and Performance

The nation receives a C when graded across the six distinct areas of policy and performance tracked by Quality Counts. For the third year in a row, Maryland ranks first in the nation, earning a B-plus, and posting a total score of 87.6 points. New York ranks second and Massachusetts third, each earning a grade of B. Most states fall between a C-plus and a C-minus in the grading. Two states and the District of Columbia received a D-plus, the lowest grades awarded.

1. Maryland B+ (87.6)
2. New York B (84.7)
3. Massachusetts B (82.6)
4. Virginia B- (81.8)
5. Florida B- (81.5)
6. Arkansas B- (81.4)
7. New Jersey B- (80.7)
8. Georgia B- (80.5)
9. Pennsylvania B- (80.1)
10. West Virginia B- (79.9)
11. Ohio B- (79.8)
12. Vermont B- (79.7)
13. Texas C+ (78.8)
14. Indiana C+ (78.6)
15. South Carolina C+ (78.3)
16. Connecticut C+ (78.3)
17. Oklahoma C+ (78.1)
18. Wisconsin C+ (77.8)
19. North Carolina C+ (77.8)
20. Hawaii C+ (77.6)
21. Louisiana C+ (77.6)
22. Delaware C+ (77.5)
23. Tennessee C+ (77.4)
24. Michigan C+ (77.2)
25. Alabama C+ (76.8)
26. Iowa C+ (76.7)
27. Maine C+ (76.6)
28. New Hampshire C (76.3)
29. Wyoming C (76.3)
30. California C (76.2)
31. Rhode Island C (75.7)
32. New Mexico C (75.7)
33. Washington C (75.4)
34. Kentucky C (75.2)
35. North Dakota C (74.9)
36. Minnesota C (74.6)
37. Kansas C (74.4)
38. Missouri C (73.9)
39. Colorado C (73.7)
40. Illinois C (73.0)
41. Utah C- (72.4)
42. Arizona C- (71.5)
43. Oregon C- (71.5)
44. Idaho C- (71.2)
45. Nevada C- (70.7)
46. Alaska C- (70.7)
47. Montana C- (70.4)
48. Mississippi C- (70.0)
49. South Dakota D+ (69.2)
50. District of Columbia D+ (69.1)
51. Nebraska D+ (68.6)
Note: States are ranked based on unrounded scores.
SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2011

A sad omen to say the least and it may be time to bring in a new chancellor.

Posted by: bill121 | January 11, 2011 10:02 PM | Report abuse

To UrbanDweller:

You said it correctly! The entire DCPS MORALE is at an all time low! I am in that number. I have a double whammy, I work in DCPS and my child attends Hardy. I am waiting for Henderson to jump ship. Look at how many lives the Rhee-Henderson administration has a will continue to destroy because they don't know what NCLB really means.

Posted by: helluvateacher | January 11, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse

I can only assume why DCPS would seek out
the Office of Youth of Engagement, which services students who are at risk, over age and Chapter 25 violaters, to assist in a gifted and talented school. Why not seek out the Kennendy Center or any musical institution to bring the music back alive at Hardy. But since the population is black,
Office of Youth Engagement is the way to go!
It is also ironic that the Office of the Youth Engagement came to Choice Academy at the begining of their inception, to shadow and study Choice Academy Master Management Educators, are now the ones who are being called upon for guidance.
Wow, color wins again.

Posted by: DCFINEST1 | January 11, 2011 11:33 PM | Report abuse

to helluvateacher:

I'm right there with you! I, too, teach in DCPS on the other side of the city from you in southeast. Morale is the lowest I've ever seen it in DCPS. Schools are chaotic. Students, principals, teachers, custodians, etc., are stressed and anxious. IMPACT has effectively stolen the "joy" out of teaching. It's no wonder many are leaving when this school year is over. I don't blame them and I hope to be one of them if I can find something else. Sorry for my students but it's just not worth it any longer.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 12, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Wow, I'd hate to be Nerenberg, having to sign my name to a letter basically admitting I can't do my job.

Posted by: kelly5612 | January 12, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

How does Bill Turque have the minutes from this meeting? Does he have a child at Hardy? Is he part of this secret parent group? And, finally, what is it exactly that this group of parents wants the principal to do that the Pope did in the past?

Posted by: horacemann | January 12, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

horacemann is on the defensive, trying to attack the messanger.

"How does Bill Turque have the minutes from this meeting? "

Um, he's a reporter.
Maybe he met someone in a parking garage in Virginia.

Posted by: edlharris | January 12, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

And what was the purpose of that person showing up at the parking garage in Virginia? What benefit is there to anyone of the minutes of this private meeting showing up in the Post except to air Hardy's dirty laundry out for all to see? How does that help the school environment? How does that help morale? How does that make the kids feel better about their school and learn respect for their teachers and administrators? The only people that feel better about themselves this morning are the few parents who got Bill Turque to enable them further to undercut the Hardy leadership by posting their notes in the paper. It's childish and they should be ashamed. They have legitimate issues and concerns, but seem blinded by a desire to do anything they can to bring Pope back. The result is they are doing nothing more that perpetuating the discord, that the same people accused DCPS of causing in the first place.

Posted by: horacemann | January 12, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Poor Kaya. She will most likely get blamed for the mess that's currently taking place within DCPS, but it's not her fault. All of these failures (the administration at Hardy, the Friends of Bedford, etc.) are failures that MICHELLE RHEE put in place. Now that she's gone, Kaya Henderson is having to play clean up.

Posted by: thebandit | January 12, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

What is wrong in stating that a mistake has been made in appointing or removing a principal? C'mon Kaya if Michelle is a true friend and confidante she'll understand the need to correct these issues regarding, Dunbar, Coolidge, Eastern, Woodson, Kramer, Kelly Miller, Brown and Hardy. Let's be honest and use the analogy of this "if this was involving a football team" and all of the mistakes were having a losing season for the team, then the first one to lose their job would be the coach. So Coach Henderson, your team is on a losing-streak and the previous Coach [Rhee] has benched many players (principals) well it is time huddle and make a move. Also Gray (Snyder in sheep's clothing) is watching and plotting you better make DCPS a superbowl team quickly. Because soon Robert Bobb will be a free-agent and talking about YEAR of readjusting. Well, I don't need to say anything else.

Posted by: PowerandPride | January 12, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Relax, horace - the minutes aren't a classified document. Maybe the parent who wrote them, or another parent who received them, sent them to Turque. Happens all the time.

Edlharris was kidding about meeting in a garage. That's right out "deep throat" during Watergate.

What "dirty laundry" do you know about at Hardy that is in those minutes?

I can hardly wait to see the full minutes now!

Posted by: efavorite | January 12, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this right. Poof Pope is gone based on a dinner conversation with “potential neighborhood” parents.

Now Hardy parents, those who actually send their kids to the school, have to darn near embarrass the administration about actually serious problems (i.e. fights, tardiness, low-moral, etc.) and the response is a letter of “We got to better”?


Is this what school reform looks like?

Posted by: thelildiva4u | January 12, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse


There is nothing wrong with acknowledging challenges that a school is facing. Major problems arise when a school administration and the central office want to hide and ignore the problems. This only makes it worse as situations fester because people are more concerned about keeping things under wraps.

On another note, I was really surprised reading the letter from Nerenberg and Henderson. To read the list of interventions that they are putting in place reveals that things are really really bad.

The letter states, "Mr. Eric Redwine, Cluster Superintendent for Hardy Middle School, is establishing an office at Hardy and plans to be on-site at least once a week." WOW a Cluster Superintendent having an office at a school??????

Posted by: letsbereal2 | January 12, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

" What benefit is there to anyone of the minutes of this private meeting showing up in the Post except to air Hardy's dirty laundry out for all to see?"

Didn't Rhee fire a principal on public television?

Posted by: edlharris | January 12, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

To Horaceman

Lol, Lol...are you a friend, spouse, or even one of the NON EFFECTIVE administrators at Hardy? We are tax paying citizens and its public knowledge. Thats why the printing press was invented to help spread knowledge during the Renaissance. Thanks Mr. Turque. According to the Rhee-Henderson Administration this is suppose to be a time of re-birth in DCPS so spread the word! The Administrative team at Hardy is the WORST!

To My Hardy Hawk Family:

You have lost the battle Henderson bring Mr. Pope back. Then you will be able to send all those people to schools where they are really needed. Honestly, they are not needed any where if they can't manage a high performing school they can't possibly do anything for a low performing school. So FIRE ALL THEM! On TV like Rhee did!

Posted by: helluvateacher | January 12, 2011 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Hardy MS as nothing but outstanding? Well in the last stakeholder survey, 28% of the student respondents disagreed that the school was orderly and in control, and 20% would not agree that they felt safe outside around the school. Well under half the teachers cooperated with the survey, and only 9 parents responded to the survey. It seems, like Rhee's, Pope's administration "didn't always communicate well."

Posted by: incredulous | January 13, 2011 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Moving an instructional superintendent doesn't do ONE DARN THING. Case in point, the high-school instructional superintendent (John Davis) is located at Woodson @ Fletcher-Johnson and the top high-schools with serious incidents are Ballou, Dunbar and Woodson. Like my grandmomma would say "isn't this like the wolf watching the hen house?"

Posted by: PowerandPride | January 13, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I hope someone enlightens Kaya Henderson on behavioral intervention.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 13, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse

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