Marlon Ray (WI photo)
Marlon Ray (WI photo)

As the Boone Elementary School community continues to embark on the search for a new principal, an employee critical of what’s been described as militaristic classroom management practices has taken steps to further highlight the nature of the D.C. government’s relationship with the entity promoting methods deemed indicative of the school-to-prison pipeline.

Marlon Ray, a Boone staff member of more than a decade, told The Informer that he has utilized local whistleblower protections to highlight, and inquire further about, what he described as inconsistencies in payments doled out by D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), the Executive Office of the Mayor, and the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) to the Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE) over the past three years.

In his endeavor, Ray said he has also implicated Mary Ann Stinson, the DCPS Cluster II instructional superintendent to whom administrators at Boone and eight other schools east of the Anacostia River report, as a double agent for DCPS and RGSE who defended the classroom management practices and punished those who challenged its implementation — including former Boone Principal Carolyn Jackson-King.

“I’m a mandated reporter, so I’m expected to report abuse and harm placed upon any child. I am to also report abuse and harm in operations, policies, procedures, and programs,” said Ray, Boone’s director of strategy and logistics. “When it comes to DCPS’ abuse toward children, [the central office] is slow to act against procedures that are harmful to children. My hand has been slapped and officials didn’t want me to get the D.C. Council involved.”

On March 23, Jackson-King revealed DCPS’ decision to not reinstate her for the 2020-2021 academic year, despite her rapport with the school community and gains made under her stewardship in the STAR rating system, ANET, Insight Survey, Affirm, OSSE and other assessments. Her announcement marked the end of a battle that started months prior when she initially expressed reservations about what was called the Relay Strong Start Program.

Instead of acquiescing to RGSE’s demands, Jackson-King often encouraged teachers to reject elements she thought controlled the movements of a socio-emotionally diverse student body and turned the campus into a prison. Ray said that mindset often clashed with Stinson’s, ultimately leading to the poor IMPACT ratings that fomented Jackson-King’s ouster.

DCPS officials didn’t respond to The Informer’s inquiry about the nature of Stinson’s relationship with RGSE and whether she had ideological differences with Jackson-King or any other administrator under her supervision. They did, however, as had been previously reported, confirm the continuation of their partnership with RGSE for the 2020-2021 academic year.

This past school year, Cluster II and III teachers who’ve attended Relay professional development sessions recounted learning to address students in a strong formal tone while standing tall and squaring their shoulders. The model also required students to pick up their writing utensils within three seconds of starting an assignment, and walk silently, with their hands behind their back and in a straight line as they exit the classroom.

In order to confirm the model’s implementation, RGSE representatives often conducted classroom observations at Cluster II and II schools.

As former Wheatley Education Campus teacher Shannon Brown explained to The Informer, teachers who didn’t carry out commands to the liking of their visitors would often have to, at their request, stop the lesson and directly address the matter.

Brown, a fifth-grade teacher with years of experience in Southeast schools, said that she learned from other teachers across the city that RGSE and DCPS singled out majority-Black schools in the eastern part of the city as sites for the Relay Strong Start Program.

Wheatley Education Campus, a Cluster II school where Brown taught for nearly seven years, counted among those sites. Relay’s implementation, and the school’s campus culture, would eventually compel Brown to resign at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year.

Eventually, Brown worked at Boone Elementary where she saw what she described as Jackson-King’s commitment to fostering genuine relationships with students. She said that leadership model, and Jackson-King’s willingness to stand up against RGSE, significantly differed from what she thought was possible.

“As a teacher, the choice isn’t up to you to participate,” Brown said. “It’s part of your job, and not [following the Relay model] could get your score marked down, which affects your money.

“I left Wheatley because I needed to see what leadership looked like at another school,” she said. “[The classroom management strategy] was even more upsetting for the older students. They understand you can get to your destination without walking like you’re in jail.”

Sam P.K. Collins photo

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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  1. We must stand up collectively as a force of show to let DCPS know together we speak one voice – one loud voice to stop these injustices and to demand the power and voice of the student and family be involved and heard again. Not standing up simply gives them more power and less care for what parents and families think, say or want

  2. Keep up the fight! DCPS won’t admit they were wrong until they get too embarrassed to stick to the lie!

  3. We stand with Mr. Ray and applaud his dedication to kids East of the River, noting the continued disparate treatment in educational resources for our kids.

    Speaking one voice and the voice for our kids.

    The Backpack Project, Inc.

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