EducationLocal

Controversial Principal Not Returning to Johnson Middle School Next Year

Teachers and staff members at Johnson Middle School spent much of the 2020-2021 academic year attempting to oust Dwan Jordon, the principal they said lowered staff members’ morale with incendiary language, unilateral decision making and punitive teacher evaluations.

In late June, following months of organizing and meetings with elected officials, staff members’ demands came to fruition. The controversial principal will not return to Johnson Middle School in the fall. He instead accepted a new role as principal of the D.C. Public Schools virtual instructional program.

“Serving as principal of Johnson Middle School this past year has been an honor. Together, we navigated a school year unlike any other, and we accomplished a great deal in the process,” Jordan said in a June 24 letter to the Johnson Middle School community.

“We developed an exciting new vision and mission statement to guide our work and created strong systems for data-driven instruction with multi-tiered student interventions. We also reestablished key relationships with our alumni ensuring that we can build and sustain support for years to come!”

Since last August, when they first took their complaints to the DCPS higher-ups, staff members met with DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, D.C. Councilmembers Trayon White (D-Ward 8) and Robert White (D-At large) and the Washington Teachers’ Union.

Staff members also elicited the support of the NAACP’s D.C. chapter and Jordon’s former subordinates in the Prince George’s County public school system.

Even so, concerns arose that Jordon had support among DCPS officials, despite strong opposition at Johnson Middle School and similar incidents that had taken place at other schools. By June staff members contacted D.C. Auditor Kathleen Patterson to acquire documentation about the circumstances of Jordon’s transfer to Johnson Middle School.

Jordon, a native Washingtonian, served as head of schools and school support leader and project advisor at KIPP DC. Before then, he served on the D.C. State Board of Education High School Graduation Requirements Task Force. He also ran Friendship Collegiate Academy Public Charter School and the Parkside campus of Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy. During his time at Chavez, the school received a Tier 1 designation.

Under D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, Jordon served as principal at John Philip Sousa Middle School. While standardized test scores increased by more than 20 percentage points, dozens of teachers and staff members either left on their own accord or were fired.

Later, Sousa failed to adequately meet the metrics of yearly progress, which critics said, spoke to the shortcomings of assessing teacher effectiveness solely on student progress.

Johnson Middle School, a Title 1 institution receiving federal funds to assist low-income families, received a STAR rating of two, with five points being the maximum. Nearly one out of four children at the majority-Black school, located on Burke Street in Southeast, also identify as special needs, while 1 out of 10 young people who attend the school are either in foster care or homeless.

Since Jordon announced his transfer, Johnson Middle School staff in the process of resigning or transferring to another school have attempted to reverse such processes. There however has been a question of whether they would be able to secure their jobs for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Toward the latter part of last month, David Pinder, instructional superintendent for DCPS’ ninth cluster, which includes Johnson Middle School, announced Latisha Coleman as the school’s interim principal. Coleman, a 21-year veteran, most recently served as director of redesign and assistant principal at Anacostia High School where she coordinated the launch of project-based learning, career academies, and the dream team.

She has also been credited with Anacostia’s increased scores in the English portion of the PARCC.

“I am confident that Principal Coleman will expertly lead the next phase of excellence at Johnson Middle School and our scholars’ continued development and success,” Pinder said. “I look forward to supporting her and the entire Johnson family in preparation for the next school year.”

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