Parents Protest PTSA President's Ouster

Sam P.K. Collins | 6/9/2014, 3 p.m.
A group of disgruntled parents converged on the front steps of a Northeast high school last week to protest proposed ...
Shannon Smith expressed her displeasure about D.C. school closures during a rally on the steps of McKinley Education Campus in Northeast on June 2. The pleas of Smith and other parents didn't prevent the shuttering of Ferebee-Hope Elementary School in Southeast and other District schools in 2013. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

A group of disgruntled parents converged on the front steps of a Northeast school last week to protest proposed boundary changes, school closures, and attempts by administrators to abolish parent associations.

A rally at McKinley Technology Education Campus attracted more than 30 parents, students, and community members who chanted and hoisted signs that read “Parent Power!” and “Stop Disrespecting Black and Brown Parents,” in a show of support for Donna Glover, the former president of McKinley’s parent teacher student association (PTSA) who said school officials ousted her and banned organized parent activities from the school. Glover served as president from September 2013 until February.

“We want to raise awareness about these schools pushing out the black and brown parents,” said Glover, 40.

“We live here and our taxes pay for the buildings and teachers’ salaries. Under my leadership, our membership rose from 25 to 100 parents. We had fundraisers and increased involvement. We just wanted to have a voice and have found opposition,” said Glover, who lives in Northwest.

The rally, a result of meetings between McKinley PTSA members and local advocacy group Empower DC, took place as the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) and the 23-member Advisory Committee on Student Assignment drafted recommendations for school boundary and student assignment policy changes.

In April, parents across the District railed against three proposals that DME announced, including one for a lottery system at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. After DME distributes the first draft recommendations this week, parents will have an opportunity to weigh in during meetings at Savoy Elementary School in Southeast on Monday, June 16, Dunbar Senior High School in Northwest on Tuesday, June 17, and Takoma Education Campus in Northwest on Thursday, June 19.

Many parents that attended the June 2 rally, however, said that Glover’s removal convinced them that school officials don’t want to include them in policy discussions. Despite opposition from McKinley PTSA members, Louise Jones, principal at McKinley, said she followed protocol.

“[Donna Glover] worked hard and brought leadership,” Jones said in an email. “However, there were issues and differences of opinion between the former PTSA president and a number of parents and staff. She was voted out of office at an earlier general body PTSA meeting with voting from staff, parents and some of her executive board. The matter was investigated by members of the D.C. Parent Teacher Association and the removal was validated.”

The Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior pastor at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Northeast, led protestors in prayer before the evening rally got underway. Passersby on T Street stopped to listen as parents with mics in hand recounted instances where school officials didn’t support their efforts to advocate on behalf of their children. And teenagers wearing black Empower DC T-shirts collected contact information and passed out fliers to those who showed interest.

“We want to have a strong group of organized parents,” said Daniel del Pielago, Empower DC’s education organizer. He said he hopes the rally and subsequent meetings will encourage more parents to address their concerns about boundary changes and school choice.