D.C. students and parents continue to grumble over a school policy that transfers teachers midway through the school year, even as school system administrators defend the action as unpleasant but necessary.
“It is really disconcerting the way it happened it smacks of an attempt to hide something,” said Daniyel Bias, a Simon Elementary School parent whose daughter’s school had to transfer five teachers. “I really now just need to know who will be her teacher after Christmas break. But no one has told me anything.”
D.C. schools Chief of Staff Steven Seleznow said he deplored the midsemester transfers, but added that the school system is required to transfer teachers from schools whose enrollments have dropped after the students are counted in the fall.
“We have no choice,” he said after a school board meeting last week.
The issue first surfaced about two weeks ago, after students at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts protested the transfer of four teachers from their Northwest school’s faculty with one day’s notice.
Two days later, the school principal appealed the decision as to which four teachers must leave, school officials said. Already, one teacher has been reinstated, school board members said.
“This is not a child-friendly policy,” said Ellington PTSA President Susan Gushue, who has two children who attend the high school.
So far, more than 100 teachers from more than 60 schools have been transferred to accommodate enrollment changes in a process called “equalization.”
The moves occur in December following an enrollment audit in October that counts the number of children in schools. Subsequently, schools that grew larger than their projected enrollments gain teachers from schools whose enrollments were smaller than projected.
D.C. school officials said more teachers were transferred this year than last and some that should have been transferred or fired were not.
Currently, there are about 67,000 students attending D.C. schools. That is almost 1,000 students fewer than last year.
School activists such as Mary Levy of Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools say that the school system is mistaken about the city law that requires the transfers.
“The city has no ‘equalization’ requirement,” says Mrs. Levy, a lawyer. “The city does not even have the authority to impose such a requirement.”
She says that the only legal requirement is that the city provide “uniform” per-student funding. She adds that only Congress or the school board can allocate funds in the school system’s budget.
A city ordinance requires an October enrollment count that affects the budget for the following fiscal year. But neither the school board nor Congress has required the “equalization” during the school year after the count is done.
The October equalization began under former D.C. schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. According to Mrs. Levy, the school board or schools Superintendent Paul Vance can change the process, should he desire to.
If that is true, school board officials say, the board must make a policy change to perform “equalization” in a less-disruptive manner.
“It was just awful,” said District 3 school board member Tommy Wells of the midsemester transfers. “It is extremely disruptive and I expect the board to consider a policy change to prevent that kind of thing from happening again.”