- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2007

Diplomatic appeal

Parents of students at the famed Rock Creek International School are appealing to Arab diplomats as part of a desperate campaign to raise at least $300,000 by next week to keep the Washington institution from closing and save one of the few schools in the United States with an Arabic language program for children.

“The school went through some financial horrors,” said Peter R. Greer, the headmaster who took over earlier this year and resigned recently to save the school from having to pay his salary.

Mr. Greer, a former deputy undersecretary of education in the first Bush administration, is working with a group of dedicated parents to raise the money to prevent losing the lease on the Foxhall Road building that has housed the school since it was established in 1988.

“This school is going to fail unless we raise the money,” he said, speaking from the Georgetown home of diplomatic writer Gail Scott, who held a strategy session with school parents yesterday. “The group here is trying to save the school because it is worth saving.”

Mr. Greer, the past headmaster of the prestigious Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, N.J., came out of retirement to try to save the school from past financial mismanagement. He urged potential donors to call 202/360-8087, if they want to help.

“He’s our knight who rode in on a white horse,” said Karen Volker of the State Department policy planning staff who has two daughters at Rock Creek.

Patrice Pisinski of the school’s Parent Advisory Committee sent letters to ambassadors on April 30, alerting them to the problems. The school must meet a May 24 deadline to keep its lease but will remain open until the end of the school year on June 6.

“If we were to raise enough money to keep the school going, then we could continue to grow our language program and continue to educate young students and have them grow into good international ‘ambassadors,’ ” she wrote.

Inspired by the Arabic language program, the Embassy of Bahrain donated $50,000 earlier this year.

The school also features extensive programs in Spanish and French, which prompted French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte to raise $70,000.

“I’m distressed to learn that you must close this wonderful school,” he told 60 guests at a fundraising dinner.

Diplomatic front

A former U.S. ambassador to Austria is the latest voice in the campaign to free an Iranian-American scholar from the grip of Iran’s brutal theocracy, which is accusing her of vague national security crimes.

Swanee Hunt, ambassador from 1993 to 1997, announced an online petition this week (www.freehaleh.org) that has so far collected more than 2,000 signers to demand the release of Haleh Esfandiari, a Middle East specialist at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The petition is jointly sponsored by Egypt’s Ibn Khaldun Center and the Kuwaiti Economic Society.

Mrs. Hunt noted that the regime is persecuting a scholar who was criticized in Washington for hosting lecturers at the Wilson Center who were sympathetic to Iranian government.

“By detaining her, Iran has silenced a proponent of diplomacy and unwittingly supported those in Washington who argue that we should not engage with Iran diplomatically,” she said.

Mrs. Esfandiari was detained Dec. 30 while she was visiting her 93-year-old mother in Tehran, subjected to months of interrogation and last week thrown into the notorious Evin Prison, where dissidents have been tortured and killed.

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights advocate, this week agreed to represent Mrs. Esfandiari. Also this week Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, introduced a resolution, calling for her release.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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