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DCPS Describes Process for Hiring Wilson’s Next Principal


Yesterday a meeting was held at Wilson for parents and community members to meet with Superintendent Dan Shea and Mark Donnelly, the two in charge of the search committee for a new principal.

It seems that Wilson is not the only school currently going through a change, as Anacostia, Coolidge, and Ellington are all currently searching for new principals as well.

One point that was stressed during the meeting was that Cahall did resign on his own accord, and although his contract was not being renewed, DCPS would have been happy to let him stay through the year.

Shea and Donnelly took turns walking parents through the recruitment process. At the moment a new principal has not been selected, nor will they until the end of May, when Chancellor Kaya Henderson will make the final decision.

A nationwide search will be conducted. Donnelly stressed that they were looking for the very best principals, and that their search will include advertising with a variety of principal associations around the country.

Those who choose will then send in applications, and also a written performance task that will be judged by other DCPS principals.

A phone interview is conducted next, followed by an in-person meeting with someone from DCPS, perhaps Shea himself. Another in-person interview is conducted with the chancellor, and from those that pass each stage, a pool of final candidates is picked.

Donnelly said that because of how strenuous the vetting will be, each stage will reduce the candidates numbers by about half, and those who are picked for the final pool will have been judged as extremely qualified by the DCPS office members.

A community board will be chosen, made out of the PTSO head, the LSAT head, three Wilson parents chosen by the community, three parents with children in one of each of the feeder schools, teachers chosen by the school staff, and up to three students.

This panel will spend a large amount of time with each candidate, being able to ask them around eight to 10 thoughtful questions to analyze their abilities. The panel will then make a recommendation to the chancellor, although she does have final say and can ignore it.

After explaining the process, Shea went on to show what exactly DCPS looks for in a principal. There are six areas that principals are assessed on: instruction, talent, school culture, operations, family/community, personal leadership. Instruction is the one most highly valued by DCPS, and is has more points assigned to it than the others.

Shea implied that Cahall had been lacking in one area in particular, although when pressed to comment, said he could not reveal that information.

Parents were then allowed to ask questions, such as why exactly Cahall’s contract would not have been renewed at the end of the year. This question and a variety of forms of it were constantly pressed by parents who voiced their dissatisfaction at the whole event.

Shea said he could not discuss the exact details, nor would he if he were able to out of respect for the former principal. He did however sight the achievement gap and the fact that while more minorities had been signing up for AP classes, there had actually been a drop in minority students taking multiple APs, specifically stating “certain groups are not achieving or excelling as well as other groups.”

Many parents voiced disbelief in this achievement gap, but Shea said that statistics of the scores of students could be released to the public through the PTSO head, Kim Bayliss.

The meeting concluded with parents writing down what they looked for in an effective principal, for DCPS to use in their search.