The entrance to Boone Elementary School in southeast D.C. is shown here. (Courtesy photo)
The entrance to Boone Elementary School in southeast D.C. is shown here. (Courtesy photo)

Over the past two years, The Informer has detailed the events following the decision of D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) in the early days of the pandemic to not renew Principal Dr. Carolyn Jackson-King’s contract for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Articles have focused on Jackson-King’s success as Boone’s principal, the polarizing classroom management curriculum alleged to have sparked DCPS’ decision, a whistleblower complaint by now-former Boone employee Marlon Ray and Ray and Jackson-King’s lawsuit against DCPS

In the latest episode of this ongoing controversy, Boone Principal Kimberly Douglas, who replaced Jackson-King in the fall of 2021, has taken a leave of absence for reasons DCPS central office has not divulged. 

Since Douglas took the helm of Boone Elementary, teachers and staff members have accused her of berating employees, spurring divisiveness, ignoring parents and disregarding the cries of teachers who have complained about the lack of accountability for students who have disrupted the learning process and harmed their peers. 

A Boone teacher who requested anonymity said Douglas has been inconsistent in hosting meetings for teachers or maintaining fidelity to the uniform policy and other facets of the Boone experience. 

“Teachers are walking away with a feeling of anxiety,” the teacher said. “There’s no school culture. Anything can happen on any given day. You don’t know if a fight will break out, if someone is going to be shooting or if a parent will show up disgruntled. One day, you’ll find yourself written up or there’s going to be a [random] observation.” 

DCPS central office did not provide a response to an Informer inquiry about the circumstances of Douglas’ leave of absence and a transition plan. 

According to a letter signed by Cluster II Instructional Superintendent Mary Ann Stinson, Douglas’ leave of absence, effective April 27, expires July 5. Leslie Edwards, DCPS director of educational leadership development, recently assumed the role as interim principal. 

In a letter Edwards sent to staff members on May 4, she said she will start hosting weekly “chat and chews” during which teachers and staff can talk with her for 10 minutes at a time. Edwards will also collaborate with Assistant Principal Linda McMillan during the second cycle of IMPACT evaluations.

Douglas, an education professional of more than 20 years, garnered a rating of highly effective during four out of the five school years she spent at Brightwood Education Campus in Northwest. In addition to her role as principal, Douglas has served as a conflict resolution program developer, teacher and assistant principal within the District public school system.  

In her online profile, Douglas said she hoped to spark hope for a brighter future within students, schools and surrounding communities. However, some Boone staff members, including one who requested anonymity, questioned whether she had been able to do that since being assigned to the school. 

The employee, who had worked their way up the ranks at Boone, recently learned their job might be in jeopardy. In the months leading up to this revelation, the staff member recalled being berated and even threatened by employees allegedly sympathetic to Douglas. 

The staff member also recounted instances when Douglas sanctioned them for ignoring phone calls on days when they called in sick. 

“Principal Douglas created a culture where people turned against each other. She brought bad vibes to the building,” the staff member said. “In the beginning, it was like she was trying to sell herself to us but I saw things [within her] change. When she was [acting as] principal, she wasn’t there a lot. When she was at school, she just stayed in the office. I know parents who to this day tell me they don’t know the principal.” 

Douglas counts among the latest of DCPS principals who have stepped down this academic year. 

Last spring, staff members at Johnson Middle School in Southeast learned that Dwan Jordon, a principal who clashed with subordinates, would move on to another role within the public school system. In January, Dr. M. Louise Jones, then the principal at McKinley Technology Middle School and McKinley Technology High School, announced her retirement out of frustration with having to run two separate schools. In March, Dr. Joshua Emmett resigned from Phelps ACE High School in Northeast after students and teachers complained about the lack of administrative transparency and Emmett’s decision to weaken admissions requirements at the application-based high school. 

A teacher at Boone who requested anonymity out of concern about their job said Douglas often upheld standard operating procedures that endangered students’ lives and placed additional pressure on teachers. The teacher criticized a system that allowed people not of the Boone community to congregate in the play areas immediately after school. 

Another point of criticism focused on an environment where students could threaten their peers without consequence. 

“I’m calling parents every day. The school’s sending in the behavior team but they’re not dealing with the children,” the teacher said. “A young man flipped over a desk and they put him in another class. There’s nothing to stop him from doing that again. I feel like they’re waiting for another student to bleed out before they give that child a suspension.” 

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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