WASHINGTON — The sudden firing of a popular D.C. principal one month before the District’s schools are planning to reopen has galvanized not just the principal's own community, but schools across the District. From Northwest to Southeast, parents and teachers are citing their concerns for the reason behind his termination.
Supporters of longtime principal Richard Trogisch gathered outside School Without Walls at Francis Stevens Thursday morning holding signs and chanting "Bring Trogisch back." Several parents, teachers and students interviewed said regardless of the official reason for his termination, the timing is suspect.
The protestors tried to block the car of an administrator trying to get to the Northwest school as a parent yelled, “you don’t care about me, you can’t even look at me!”
“Reinstate Principal Trogisch NOW,” another parent demanded.
The group behind the protest said they want a public meeting with the DC Public Schools team to explain the departure of the principal before Oct. 13.
“In the spirit of trust and transparency," a parent leader said. "I’m using the words they gave us yesterday."
According to both the teachers’ and principals’ unions, as well as a staffer who was with Trogisch, the dismissal came just hours after a safety walk-through where the principal questioned the safety of the building’s aging HVAC system.
A DCPS spokesperson released a statement saying Trogisch was dismissed because of an “enrollment anomaly” and that his “departure is unrelated to any issues associated with school reopening, health, or safety."
“They've shared that they believe he had a violation of the lottery almost two years ago,” Richard Jackson, president of the Council for School Officers, said. “But that's what they're claiming as a justification, even though, during this time, we're talking about the health and safety of schools and communities, he pretty much has been at the forefront of saying to school leaders, ‘hey, we can't open these schools until they're safe for our students and our staff.'"
Jackson said Trogisch is "one of the few principals who's willing to ask hard questions of upper leadership.”
DCPS said Instructional Superintendent Shawn Stover will serve as interim principal for School Without Walls High School and School Without Walls at Francis Stevens while they determine who will lead the schools for the remainder of the year.
“DCPS has to address this for that school community and for the impacts that will have across the city,” Councilmember At-Large Robert White said.
White said the timing of the termination raises questions for him. He has pressed DCPS and the mayor for details on the District's reopening plan, which he said he hasn’t received.
“What HVAC systems are they going to use? What is going to make the circulation sufficient? What are we going to do about schools with windows that don't open?” he asked. “What the city is doing now is asking people to go back into schools without telling us the information we need to evaluate it for ourselves. So there has to be an opportunity for parents and staff to ask questions.”