D.C. Public Schools under fire after suddenly letting go of a principal

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WASHINGTON (WDVM) — D.C. Public Schools is under fire after letting go of one of their principals, Richard Trogisch. Parents and students are now demanding he be reinstated, and have held protests on the front steps of the two schools he oversaw, The School Without Walls of Washington D.C. and The School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens.

Trogisch was the longtime principal of both the elementary/middle school and the high school, leading them to become some of the highest performing schools in the District of Columbia. DCPS fired Trogish on Wednesday, October 7, and emailed a letter to parents informing them of the decision.

A copy of the letter DCPS emailed parents telling them that Richard Trogisch had been let go.

Catherine Bernard, a concerned parent, said, “There was no explanation why, and there was no explanation of anyone we could talk to about this, and frankly it was shocking.”

Cedric Hendricks is the Chairman for Francis-Steven’s Local School Advisory Team. He said, “It just doesn’t make sense. It’s hogwash.” Hendricks said as a local school leader, he has not been contacted by anyone with DCPS to explain what happened. DCPS and sent this letter out to parents.

The school system held a virtual question and answer session on Thursday, October 8, but that left parents feeling worse about the situation. Bernard explained, “All comments were screened. You couldn’t actually ask questions live, and a lot of questions weren’t answered.”

The school system did give a reason behind the firing during the Q&A session. Hendricks explained, “Chancellor Ferebee said that Trogisch was dismissed for an enrollment anomaly. A personnel matter he could not say anymore about.” Bernard added, “I don’t, can’t imagine any enrollment anomaly that is worth introducing this level of disruption and anxiety into our children’s lives.”

The parents believe the “enrollment anomaly” refers to a situation that happened over a year ago, and is being used as an excuse to fire Trogisch after he questioned the planned reopening of the elementary school. “His record as a principal is an outstanding one, so how do you come up with something that happened a couple of years ago and use it as a justification of firing someone who certainly was contesting your decision making, your leadership,” Hendricks said.

Trogisch was concerned that the 93-year-old School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens building is not up to safety standards for bringing students back during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bernard explained, “It’s a 93-year-old building, and would require a lot of work to ensure the air quality is really safe.”

Currently, the classrooms are kept cool with window units, and a furnace heats the building during the winter. Hendricks said Trogisch’s concern was valid, and one that many parents are wondering as well. He said, “All we know is the building is supposed to open on the 9th. You may get a notice that your kid can come back, but we’re sitting back saying is it safe.”

In addition to getting answers and action regarding Trogisch’s sudden firing, Hendricks said he wants to know his student will be safe if he goes back to school in November. “While we’re going to continue to fight for him, we need to get information from the school system about their plan to prepare our schools to receive our students. We have heard schools are supposed to open November 9th. The question is, are they ready? Our Principal questioned the readiness of our facility to open, and as a result of that we believe he was dismissed.”

Bernard added, “I find the whole thing really objectionable, and I don’t want it to go away and I hope there is a way we can work together and reinstate Principal Trogisch, because he’s done a great job.”

Reinstatement. Transparency. Safety and consideration of students. These are all things plainly written in sidewalk chalk at the school building. It’s a hope that DCPS will bring clarity, and soon.

“The fact that a principal was fired for asking for specifics on how DCPS is going to ensure the air quality in the school is safe, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” said Bernard.

“It was a bad decision at the wrong time involving the wrong principal, one who is an outstanding leader at a combination of schools. He was fighting for information that we as parents need to make informed decisions about the appropriateness of sending our children back to school.”

Cedric Hendricks, Local School Advisory Team Chairman

DCPS did not respond to WDVMs question for comment.
We will continue following this story and bring updates here and online.

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