Answers Sought in Phelps Principal's Ouster

Dorothy Rowley | 6/20/2012, 10:25 a.m.

Ward 5 activist Kathy Henderson, 58, concurred. She said when leaders like Johnson are appointed, that's "supposed to be" an indication all is well and the city is moving in the right direction.

Echoing Jones' sentiments, she said Phelps' students were reaching AYP. They appeared engaged, eager to learn and well-behaved. Henderson said parents have been involved and that Johnson was "shepherding" an environment that was conducive to learning.

"I'm very concerned about his ouster. I tried to call to ask Chancellor Henderson about what was going on, and why we are getting rid of people who are obviously doing their job," said Henderson. "I can't find any sense in Michael Johnson's ouster. The parents are upset, students are upset. We had a school that was working, and we need to replicate that, not punish the principal."

But Nathan Saunders, Washington Teachers' Union president, said Johnson should have been aware that he could be terminated at the chancellor's will.

"The chancellor can exercise her right within [their] agreement," said Saunders, 47. "Johnson [counted among] one of 17 school administrators who [were let go]."

Saunders went on to say that the concerns he has are the same as his 4,000-member organization. "They are from both sides of the spectrum with some being for or against the termination," he said.

"However, the reality is that the process allows the parents, teachers and community to be involved in the selection of the principal and that process is ongoing," said Saunders, who added that interviews to replace Johnson will begin soon.

While on the council, Brown's Committee of the Whole had oversight of education. Now, with his departure from the governing body, newly-elected D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson will be handling matters until the general election is held in November.

Nevertheless, Melissa Salmanowitz the chancellor's spokesperson, remains closed-mouth.

"This is a personnel matter," said Salmanowitz, "and because of that, we're not able to comment on the specifics of personnel decisions. We are not responding."