Courtney Mabeus of the DC Examiner reports on the recent sparks flying at Alice Deal Jr. High:
WASHINGTON - Supporters of Alice Deal Junior High School Principal Melissa Kim Thursday called her a steady-handed leader who demands respect and order, disputing claims made by parents who have accused her of creating a cultural divide in the school.
Kim has been the subject of protests outside the school this week by a core group of three parents calling themselves “Save Alice Deal.” The parents have accused the principal of abusive behavior, unfairly doling out suspensions and acting disrespectfully toward parents and children.
Sarah Whitener, chair of Deal’s Local School Restructuring Team, a policy-making body made up of parents, teachers and administrators mandated for every school in the District, said all of Deal’s 740 students are educated in a “respectful” environment.
SAD organizers said they would not end their protest until Kim is removed from duty and have refused requests by the principal to meet. Their lawyer, E. Faye Williams, has said she thinks Kim has cultural problems relating to her black students, a claim Whitener disputed.
“It’s just preposterous for any parent to say, ‘My child got suspended because the principal’s racist,’ ” Whitener said.
About 40 percent of Deal’s students come from out-of-boundary areas, meaning they live outside the community where the school is located off Reno Road in Northwest. Deal is also among the District’s most diverse schools, with a population that is about 50 percent black, 28 percent white and 14 percent Latino, Whitener said.
Kim has not responded to several requests for comment this week. She has served as Deal’s principal since 2005 and is a graduate of Teach For America, a competitive program founded to train young teachers to work in low-income communities, according to the organization’s Web site.
Supporters of Kim, including the Parents and Teachers Association, have said they did not learn about the protesters’ complaints until this week. “These parents are not parents that we know or that we’ve heard of,” Whitener said.
Council Member Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, has said she thinks an independent investigation of disciplinary actions taken against students at the school is needed.
A Washington Teacher’s Union internal document dated March 12 obtained by The Examiner details teachers’ complaints about Kim. The union document charges that Kim issued “inconsistent and confusing local school policies to staff” and frequently “admonished” and “disrespected” teachers and school staff “in front of other staff, faculty and students in most unprofessional tones of voice.”
WTU field representative Henry Collins said the grievances were discussed during a March 28 meeting that about 30 Deal teachers attended. He said the complaints were “not uncommon” and represented a “lack of consistency from school to school in leadership.”