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Hardy School Parents Take Protest to D.C. Council

Over 100 Hardy Middle School students and parents streamed into a D.C. Council hearing Monday to protest plans to "reform" the high-performing Georgetown school. Students and parents crowded into council chambers to oppose plans by Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee that they called disruptive and destabilizing.

They're “tearing the heart and soul out of the school,” said sixth grader Anglea Marsh. Listening intently, Council Chairman Vincent Gray said he could not understand why Rhee would radically alter one of the leading schools in the city.

Fenty administration plans include transferring out wildly popular principal Patrick Pope, imposing a lottery system for out-of-boundary students, and revising Hardy’s curriculum from one based on arts and music to more “traditional” academic offerings.

Witnesses said that parents aren’t certain where they will enroll their kids this late in the year. Enrollment is down because of the turmoil, which reduces Hardy’s budget. The continued uproar over Hardy’s future is bringing into question what say parents have in decisions impacting their schools. DCPS is now an agency under the direct control of the Mayor. The local board of education – the traditional avenue for parental input – has been dismantled, leaving parents such as Nayada Cowherd nowhere to go, in their view.

“If Rhee decided to close all DCPS schools, there would be no way anyone could stop it,” she said. Gray attempted to fill that void when he urged Fenty in February to meet with Hardy parents, stating that “the school’s current leadership represents the best of the District of Columbia Public schools and should be continued in its current state.” Not debating whether the D.C. Council has authority to reverse personnel or curriculum decisions at Hardy, Gray pledged to the Hardy parents Monday that he would be “their champion,” a role other councilmembers may not be eager to play. Gray has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Mayor Fenty.

Hardy parent William Lewis testified that Hardy had taken its case to each D.C. councilmember, with the exception of Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, whose staff said that he was not able to meet, according to Lewis. Evans, whose district is home to Hardy, declined to attend the hearing.

Photo by bluepicasso.