- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

More than 100 Duke Ellington School of the Arts students and their parents yesterday protested the transfer of four faculty members who had been given one day's notice.
The English, math and arts teachers and one guidance counselor were told late Thursday that they were being replaced by four teachers who had been forced out of the Northwest school in 2000 but successfully fought the action and were being reinstated.
The students, parents and several teachers carried signs, yelled, hugged and grumbled as they marched around the school in a downpour. Parents arriving in cars to pick up their children honked their horns in support of the protesters.
"It is four weeks before the end of the second quarter," said PTSA President Susan Gushue, who has two children attending the school. "The timing is about as bad as it could be. It is so child-unfriendly and taints the rest of the year."
School officials said one of the four incoming teachers may remain on leave and be replaced by a substitute.
Officials in the school system's Human Resources Department could not be reached for comment.
"They are making a big mistake," said Emmanuel Lasso, 17, a senior. "This is leaving all of us counting on them for our graduation and college careers to be let down."
Emmanuel said one of the transferred staff members guidance counselor Yvonne Washington is essential in gathering transcripts and letters of recommendation for prospective college students, a process that begins next month.
The departure of another teacher Cathy Conn, who has taught visual arts at the school for 25 years has devastated her students because she knows them, their projects and their progress, he said.
"She knows how to talk to these students, how to get us to progress," Emmanuel said. "She is a very good teacher, the one that gets you there."
Ms. Conn said she would fight the transfer. "I am devastated and insulted," she said. "I can't even imagine this happening. Why would they want to transfer me to a middle school when they can keep me where I am the most effective?"
The school, which has about 500 students in grades nine through 12, is considered one of the top-performing public schools in the District. It has among the highest standardized test scores in the city and a dropout rate below 1 percent.
The school is run as a partnership between the city's public schools system and the nonprofit Duke Ellington Fund, which raises money for the school through contributions from individuals and businesses.
Students said yesterday they intend to strike from Jan. 3 until the teachers return.
Meanwhile, parents vowed to swamp school system officials with complaints.
"This is extremely inappropriate," said Dayna Mora, whose son is a sophomore. "These teachers are extremely important to my son and they need to finish out the school year and beyond. And we want them to know that."

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